Entries in Spinal Cord (2)


Woman Paralyzed While Helping Stranger Determined to Walk Aisle at Wedding

ABC(CANFIELD, Ohio) -- A 22-year-old Pennsylvania nursing student who was paralyzed after being struck by a truck last winter is now determined to walk down the aisle at her upcoming wedding.

Alissa Boyle, a nursing student at Waynesburg University, was weeks away from graduating when on Feb. 20 she headed to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W. Va. She and a few others stopped to assist 21-year-old Derek Hartzog, who had rolled his Jeep on Interstate 79.

Just as they managed to pull the man from the vehicle, they heard someone yelling that a truck was barreling down the road right at them.

“When I turned around, there was a semi right there and not stopping,” Boyle told Western Pennsylvania ABC affiliate WTAE.

Boyle, fellow nursing student Cami Abernethy and Hartzog were forced to leap over the railing over the edge of the overpass, which was 40 or 50 feet above the ground. Boyle was the most seriously injured of the three.

“When I did wake up, I just remember being in pain. I remember just being in pain, and it was the worst pain in my life,” Boyle said. “They told me I’d never walk again. The doctor told me right away that I had a one percent chance of walking,” she said.

As she began her lengthy recovery in western Pennsylvania after the accident, Boyle’s thoughts turned to her upcoming wedding to Nathan, who was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and had just proposed to her.

“At first, when it happened, I was worried that he was going to leave, and he never left my bedside. He told me, ‘You’re not going to walk. You’re going to run again,’” said Boyle.

A second look showed doctor’s that Boyle’s spinal cord was not completely severed, as the first doctor had told her. Suddenly she had hope that Nathan was right, and she would be able to walk.

A sense of determination now brings Boyle to physical therapy, and she is resolute in her decision to be able to walk down the aisle at her upcoming wedding at the Avion on the Water in Canfield, Ohio. She says she’s out to prove wrong the doctor who said she had a slim chance to walk again.

Boyle now works out her legs on a sit-down stationary bike, and with the support of her friends and family -- and a charity called Jamie’s Dream Team, who offer help to individuals who are handicapped, disabled or terminally ill -- she is preparing for her big day.

“Her wedding day when she walks down the aisle is going to be an amazing experience for everyone,” Jamie Holmes of Jamie’s Dream Team said.

Holmes and her team are rounding up vendors across the community to make donations, including Mike Jeswald of Avion on the Water.

“Everybody has to give back to the community, and this is such a great opportunity,” he said.

Boyle says that her wedding will have a Cinderella theme, complete with a horse-drawn carriage. She says that she hopes her story will inspire others.

“I think to be an inspiration; I think God wanted me to be on here to show people that you can do anything. Nothing’s impossible,” she said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rare Spinal Surgery Cuts Chronic Pain for Wounded Marine

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Mark Burleson awoke to unimaginable pain a month after the bomb he had been disarming detonated in his hands.

"My injuries were extensive, to say the least," said the 31-year-old Marine staff sergeant, who had severe burns, shattered bones and a brain injury from the December 2011 blast in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Burleson's right arm was gone below the elbow; his left arm spared but paralyzed.

"All the nerves were ripped from my spinal cord at the root," he said, describing the damage that drove waves of pain down the otherwise senseless and limp limb.  "It felt like someone was lighting my arm on fire with a cutting torch.  And, occasionally, they'd stop and tie anchors to the ends of my fingers to rip out the bones."

Powerful drugs were no match for Burleson's constant agony.  And despite coming home from a war zone, the married father of three felt world's away.

"It was to the point where the kids would just walk past him because they know he couldn't bear to interact with them," said Burleson's wife, Sara.  "He became like a ghost."

Willing to try anything for relief, Burleson was quick to sign up for risky surgery to slice open his spine and singe the offending nerves.

"The pain was ripping our lives apart," the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Marine said.  "This was our last-ditch effort at having a normal life."

On July 26, Burleson left Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where neurosurgeon Dr. Allan Belzberg agreed to try the high-stakes, high-risk surgery.

"It's a dangerous operation, so we only use it when we've exhausted all other options," said Belzberg, who performs the procedure three or four times a year.

Using a microscope and a tiny electrode, Belzberg made 140 burns in the damaged nerves dangling from Burleson's spinal cord; nerves intermixed with healthy connections to his lower limbs.

"If you get it just right, you get rid of the pain," Belzberg said of the stressful six-hour procedure.  "If you're the slightest bit off, you paralyze his leg."

But the surgery went smoothly.  And one week later, Burleson is a new man, although he expects to be at Walter Reed for at least a year.

"It was like instant clarity," Burleson said.

Sara Burleson, who spoke to her husband by phone before he returned to Walter Reed on Tuesday, said, "I could tell even before I saw him that it had worked.  His voice sounded lighter.  Even though he was groggy from the surgery, this huge weight had been lifted."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio