What would you do if you were home alone and simply collapsed getting out of bed, suddenly finding yourself paralyzed from the neck down?
30-year-old former professional mountain biker Andrew Cho faced that very situation in January 2017. While out for dinner with friends he began to feel dizzy, with numbness spreading from his neck.
He returned home, hoping rest would resolve his symptoms, but when he tried to stand up from his bed he collapsed.
He spotted his phone nearby and used his chin to drag himself close enough to activate voice assist with his tongue.
“It didn’t even occur to me that that was a crazy feat of strength until I started talking to people,” says Andrew. “And then all these people started trying to drag themselves at home. I can’t do it, they’d say. Well, you’re not about to die.”
Unbeknownst to Andrew, a blood vessel had burst in between his C3 and C4 vertebrae.
When he stood up, the trapped blood applied so much pressure to his spinal cord that it paralyzed him from the neck down.
The surgical team at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) was Andrew’s best chance of survival. Dr. Tamir Ailon performed a four-hour emergency laminectomy. This delicate surgery involves removing the bone covering the back of the spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
The surgery was a success, but Andrew and his doctors still feared that he may never walk again. Returning to mountain biking seemed impossible.
But Andrew was determined, and had an army of supportive friends and family by his side. Paired with world-class doctors and physiotherapists at VGH and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, Andrew slowly but surely regained his ability to walk, run, and yes – even bike.
Three months after he found himself collapsed on the floor, unable to move, Andrew walked out of GF Strong, ready to continue his recovery from home.
– Andrew Cho, Grateful Patient
In August 2017, only eight months after his surgery, Andrew successfully ran the Sea Wheeze half-marathon.
“This is honestly the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Andrew. “It’s crazy for me to say that, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given in my life, to have a new perspective. I feel like now I have new purpose as well.”
Andrew spent this summer mountain biking through trails local and abroad, even travelling to Europe. Opportunities that he knows would not have been possible without advances in spinal cord injury research and surgical equipment that we funded, in part, by VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
Andrew’s amazing recovery is a testament not only to his own hard work, but to the dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and rehabilitation specialists who apply their knowledge and experience to innovative health care right here in BC.
Like Andrew, you don’t want to wait or worry if you need emergency surgery. You need immediate, high quality care, with support during your recovery so you can get back to what you love.
Donate today and you can play a vital role in bringing the Future of Surgery to British Columbia. Your contribution can accelerate the implementation of new ideas and technologies, ensuring that BC residents have access to the best facilities and equipment when they need it.
Additional content provided by the Vancouver Sun.