Thursday, November 29, 2012
7 News Features: Remarkable recovery
He was a rising superstar in the world of gymnastics: a local boy whose dream of going to the Olympics was about to come true. That was until one acrobatic move left him facing life in a wheelchair. 7's Lynn Martinez brings us his Remarkable Recovery.
WSVN -- Jorge Valdes has always loved the sport of gymnastics.
For as long as he can remember, the 22-year-old craved the adrenaline rush.
Jorge Valdes: "I just liked anything that was crazy. I liked to jump around, have fun."
Edith Angulo Valdes, Jorge's mom: "Jorgie was always very hyperactive, he was always bouncing off the walls."
Jorge won countless medals as he competed in this grueling sport.
Edith Angulo Valdes: "He would never complain of the blisters and the broken bones."
He was well on his way to his ultimate goal.
Jorge Valdes: "I always wanted to go to the Olympics."
But, on Feb. 3, 2011, everything changed.
He was practicing a dangerous move: a double front flip with a full twist - when something went terribly wrong.
Jorge Valdes: "I went for it, and I got lost in the air."
A second later, he was on the mat, flat on his back.
Jorge Valdes: "I just remember feeling a shock through my whole body, the pain was like my whole body was on fire."
Paramedics rushed to the scene. He had to be airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center.
Edith Angulo Valdes: "I kept picturing Christopher Reeve's body and then Jorgie's head, and I would try and cancel that thought out."
Dr. Steven Vanni, UM Neurosurgeon: "You can see the joint has jumped forward."
Dr. Steven Vanni at the University of Miami says Jorge wasn't moving at all.
Dr. Steven Vanni: "He didn't have any feeling and we call that a complete injury."
As he prepared to do surgery on their son, he had to prepare Jorge's parents for the worst.
Dr. Steven Vanni: "That there was a possibility that their son may not walk again."
Every second seemed like torture for Edith as her son was wheeled into the o-r ...
Edith Angulo Valdes: "I was able to tell Dr. Vanni take care of my little boy ..."
Doctors took a risk, using an experimental procedure to try and save Jorge from permanent paralysis.
Dr. Steven Vanni: "If we could cool down his spinal cord, we could possibly minimize some of the secondary damage."
It's called hyperthermia: dropping his body temperature by cooling down his blood.
Dr. Steven Vanni: "And we know if we can cool down the blood, we have proven in studies, we can cool down the spinal cord."
Jorge was kept in a medically-induced coma for two tortuous days.
Edith Angulo Valdes: "He told us he could be in here for at least 48 hours ..."
When he finally woke up - he still couldn't move.
Jorge Valdes: "it was the worst feeling you could imagine."
He was ready to give up. But a nurse had the words that changed his life.
Jorge Valdes: "What's going to have to change is you, you are going to have to fight through this."
And, six days later he took those words to heart.
Jorge Valdes: "I'm like, I'm gonna stand up."
It's Feb. 9, 2011, and, as you can see in this home video ... Jorge started walking down the hallway - on his own, and came face to face with his mom.
"His mother is going to see him walking for the first time."
Edith Angulo Valdes: "It was incredible, it was a surreal experience ... people speak of winning the lottery. That's nothing."
Even Dr. Vanni admits there may have been other forces at work in this case.
Dr. Steven Vanni: "God was smiling down on him, that's for sure."
A year and a half after the accident, Jorge is back to doing some gymnastics, but his focus is now on coaching.
Jorge Valdes: "I would love to run my own gym."
Despite his injury and how close he came to never walking again, his love for this sport has never wavered.
Jorge Valdes: "No matter how much you get knocked down, you have to get back up."
Dr. Vanni says this treatment is not a cure for paralysis, but he is hopeful more studies can be done at other centers around the country.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis:
1095 NW 14th Terrace
Lois Pope LIFE Center
Miami, FL 33136 USA
Tel: (305) 243-6001 or 1 (800) STAND UP