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WHAT HAPPENED? Chris is a coach for Keegan's mountain bike riding team. At practice at Duthie on Friday afternoon (May 31st), in a freak accident, Chris flipped over his handlebars, landed on his head, hyperextending and fracturing his neck.; Immediately he knew he couldn't move his arms or legs. 6 emergency vehicles later, he was transferred to Harborview where he went into immediate surgery. The surgery served two purposes: 1) to stabilize his neck by fusing C3-C6 and, 2) to "open" the spinal cord lid to allow swelling to occur (and thus healing) rather than compression.
They won't give him a "diagnosis" until rehab begins working with him but we know it is considered a severe "incomplete" spinal cord injury. Your spinal cord is the freeway for your brain to send signals to your body to do things.... like to move. We often think of stroke victims and that they can recover functionality, that is because the brain has lots of redundancies so the body finds new neural pathways. In a spinal cord injury, there is one superhighway with one lane being for sensation, another for movement, etc. There aren't redundancies so injury to one part doesn't find another path to take over.
The doctors have been quite direct about the severity of his injury. There is no easy way to gently say this... Chris is currently considered a quadriplegic. We know FULL recovery is not an option BUT IT IS STILL EARLY and we just don't know what functionality, sensation, and movement he will regain. There is still significant post-injury inflammation pressuring his spinal cord which affects his movement so we wait to see as inflammation subsides.
Good news - #1 - Chris did NOT have a brain injury/concussion so he's not only totally and completely fine mentally, he's already making smart ass remarks :-) #2 - Yesterday (Tuesday 6/4) they took him off the ventilator which was a huge initial hurdle. Fracturing the C3/C4 affects the diagram and ability to breathe on your own. His strong core muscles are helping him to breathe on his own. #3 - Chris DOES have sensation in his lower extremities and some ability to move his legs. How far this will go, we do not know but it IS a very good sign. #4 - Chris is not only incredibly healthy but has been the 'miracle patient' twice before. If someone is going to have a shot at miracles, it will be Chris!!!!
Surgeons have advised that support makes a huge difference to recovery potential in spinal cord injury patients. I know that we absolutely are going to need your support. We are quite overwhelmed as you can imagine and immediate family and neighbors have already covered us this week (and immediate) but this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. When the rest of us typically get on with normal life...is when Chris will be most frustrated and needing support... so please mark your calendars with times weeks out, months out, to check in!!
I cannot thank Keegan's friends' parents (and my family) for immediately providing support, distraction, etc to Keegan during this acute phase. His brother Obie came down early Saturday and is a godsend not only does Chris need him, it allows me to take turns at the hospital. He needs visitors but right now he also needs a lot of sleep to heal so waiting a bit would be great, looking at next week (immediate family is coming now).
Send messages, record little videos, funny things too, laughter is nice to have during this and provides a respite from the other stuff! Chris is already bored having to lay there, as you'd guess... he isn't one to lay around so mental stimulation is also already critical of all types!!!!!
As you can imagine, we are a bit overwhelmed with all the things to do so apologies in advance if you don't receive a reply. He's still in the ICU so no flowers.