Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine, one of the largest and most trusted neurosurgery practices in the country, has teamed with NeuroHope in the 2017 Brackets For Good fundraising tournament!
Their endorsement of our mission is especially important to me personally. Their practice has treated thousands of patients at 16 locations across Indiana, and each has placed total trust in Goodman Campbell’s standard of care during the most frightening time in their life. One of those patients was me.
Hours earlier, a man inadvertently landed on my head as we jumped into a river near Edinburgh, Indiana. Four vertebrae in my neck were fractured and my spinal cord was crushed. I never lost consciousness. I never even felt a twinge of pain. I was clear-headed as my body was dragged to the beach, and completely lucid during the wait for paramedics and for the helicopter flight to downtown Indianapolis. I remember being wheeled through the hospital and into my MRI scan as if it happened yesterday.
When the whirlwind of the first few hours was over, I found myself staring at the ceiling tiles of Methodist Hospital trying process what had happened. I knew nothing about spinal cord injury and I had no way to comprehend the lengthy rehabilitation process that was in front of me. At the time, I only wanted to know what was supposed to happen next.
Dr. Saad Khairi, a top neurosurgeon at Goodman Campbell, dropped what he was doing that night and rushed to Methodist Hospital when he received the call. My mother was in the ICU with me when he walked through the door. He told us that my neck had to be stabilized and that my C2 through C6 vertebrae had to be fused immediately. Receiving news like that is a lot to handle.
How long until I go under? Do I ask for a second opinion? Am I even at the right hospital? Who is this surgeon that will have my life in his hands?
In a matter of minutes we were on the phone asking three separate people in the healthcare world for advice. Each said the same thing. We were in the right place and Dr. Khairi was the surgeon to have. Within an hour the fusion was underway.
The next several days were the most challenging – physically and mentally – of my life. Immediately after surgery, I needed a ventilator to breath. My lungs were filled with secretions and I had to learn how to breathe again before I could even think about the rest of my paralyzed body. As the days passed, I began to experience what life as a quadriplegic would entail. Therapists ranged my limbs, nurses re-positioned my body every two hours, and a team of people attended to everything I needed from feeding, to shaving, to bathing. As reality set in, I needed to know every detail about my injury, and my chance of recovery.
I flagged down Dr. Khairi whenever I could, and he stood at my side to answer every question I had. He empathized with me and I could tell he wanted to educate me on my injury. Two days after surgery, I could flex a single muscle in my thigh and I had spotty sensation in my extremities. Dr. Khairi said that meant signals from my brain were making their way (in some capacity) down my injured spinal cord. It was my first lesson in neurorecovery, and my first glimmer of hope.
A week later he came to my bed as I was being discharged to the rehabilitation hospital. Once again, I wanted to know what to expect. Every spinal cord injured individual asks the same question when they are hurt: “Will I walk again?” In the immediate aftermath of the injury, we’re naive to the complexities of the injury and the magnitude of the struggle ahead. We don’t understand normalized blood pressure, a neurogenic bladder, or muscle spasticity. Our minds jump right to the big picture – walking.
Dr. Khairi calmly said that he couldn’t give me an answer. My injury was severe and the odds were against it, but he told me, “Kick your tail in rehab, and we’ll see where you are in a year”.
It was the most exhausting year of my life. I spent two months at a rehab hospital, four months at a nursing home, and six more months at an outpatient clinic across the country. Finally, in August of 2011, I wheeled into Goodman Campbell for a one-year check-up. With my wheelchair parked in the lobby, I rose to my feet and walked into Dr. Khairi’s office to let him know I took his advice.
“Every once in awhile, I have a rock-star patient that blows the doors off the statistics,” he said.
The appointment didn’t need to be long. It was a check-up to make sure that my spinal fusion had healed properly. But, I had learned a lot about spinal cord injury and the recovery process, and I had a laundry list of new questions to ask. Once again, he took the time to answer every one. He pulled out a tablet and showed me detailed images of the fusion, and even took the time to dig up my original MRI and X-ray from the day of the accident.
In 2011, my rehab was far from over. I continued aggressive therapy for another year. Even today, my daily routine revolves around combating my disability. But, Dr. Khairi and Goodman Campbell played an integral role in my recovery and my early education after a life-altering event. They supported me, and I’m honored that they support the “rock-star” patients at NeuroHope as well.