John Miksa was paralyzed from the neck down.
How he got from where he was then to where he is today is a story of medicine, miracles and mending.
On a sunny San Diego afternoon, the 55-year-old fitness enthusiast was headed out for a 22-mile bike ride along the Pacific Coast. Struck head-on by a car turning into his lane, the impact hurled him into the air and then onto his back, causing considerable trauma to his C-5 and C-6 vertebrae. John remembers the feeling slowly leaving his body like “the lifting of a tarp.”
Five hours later, neurosurgeon Scott Leary had John in emergency surgery.
“The trauma to his spinal cord was devastating,” says Dr. Leary. “He was in spinal shock and he had a massive herniated disk. But when we pulled the disk off the spinal cord, you could immediately see normal pulsations, and I knew he might have a chance.”
Though John made it to the trauma center quickly, he was in critical condition and in spinal shock, with no feeling below his neck. Emergency surgery miraculously gave him another chance at life.
Two weeks after arriving in rehab on a stretcher, John walked out of the hospital on his own two feet. Though he still needs regular physical therapy, he’s back to his active and healthy lifestyle.
Within hours of surgery, John miraculously showed movement in his hands and feet. But regaining what he had lost would take intensive physical therapy.
“Whenever you have damage to the spinal cord, there are tissues that die and do not come back,” says physical therapist James Cope. “We do rehab to help traumatized tissues heal or to help other tissues compensate for those that are gone.”
“With John, we had to start at the beginning,” adds occupational therapist Avi Kouzi. “He couldn’t bend, twist, sit, stand, walk or do anything that requires that kind of movement.”
But John was determined and motivated to return to the active life he once had. Three hours or more of intense therapy a day and the right attitude meant quick progress.
“After only 14 days of in-patient rehab, and 21 days after my accident, I walked out of the hospital on my own,” says John. “Sometimes it takes a lot of people for miracles to happen. But I am living proof that they do happen.”
Through hours of rehab treatment each day, John and his muscles learned how to sit, stand and walk again. “Being a guy who was so independent, John wanted to walk out of here with no cane,no walker. He wanted to get back to the active lifestyle that he had always had.” Avi Kouzi, Occupational Therapist
Categories: Spine Surgery