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Paralyzed Athlete Walks Again, Takes New Path in Life

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Roopnarine Ramlall, 25, a professional cricket player, was paralyzed from the chest down in a car crash last December in his native country of Guyana. When his car was rear-ended, Mr. Ramlall was thrown from the vehicle, leaving him unconscious and with a fractured spine.

At Guyana Hospital, he was evaluated for a spinal cord injury; however, there are no neurosurgeons in the country. Mr. Ramlall remained unconscious in the hospital for 15 days. When his doctors predicted that he had a 50 percent chance of survival, his uncle in Queens arranged to have him transported to North Shore University Hospital  (NSUH).

To prepare Mr. Ramlall for the seven-hour flight to New York City, Guyana doctors immobilized his head, neck and chest in a cast. The athlete’s family brought him to the Emergency Department at NSUH, where orthopedic surgeons cut away his cast and trauma surgeons and neurosurgeons evaluated him.

A specialist in spinal cord injury medicine, Adam Stein, MD, assessed Mr. Ramlall’s neurological function. “Although Mr. Ramlall was partially paralyzed in his hands and completely paralyzed in his trunk and legs, he could correctly discriminate between sharp and dull sensation in his lower body,” said Dr. Stein, chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation for the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “This indicated a good prognosis because the nerve fibers that carry sharp/dull sensations are adjacent to nerves that control movement.”

Soon after Dr. Stein’s evaluation, Peter Hollis, MD, a specialist in neurosurgery and the spine, performed spinal fusion surgery on Mr. Ramlall at NSUH. Dr. Hollis stabilized the C-6 and C-7 vertebrae in Mr. Ramlall’s lower cervical spine. “If he did not have this surgery, he wouldn’t have been able to recover,” said Dr. Hollis. “Mr. Ramlall is a young, accomplished athlete and that’s in his favor, but his situation is unique in that his family went to extraordinary lengths to bring him to us.”

After surgery, Mr. Ramlall could move his feet and toes and had sensation in his hands. “These new abilities gave me confidence that I would improve and eventually learn to walk again,” he said.

Upon discharge from NSUH, Mr. Ramlall was transferred to Glen Cove Hospital’s Wunsch Center for Rehabilitative Therapies for intensive rehabilitation. Mr. Ramlall had worked out at a gym regularly, lifting weights and performing cardiovascular exercise. “At first, therapists were surprised to see how well I did, given my injury. I couldn’t wait to get to rehab; every minute, every second, I was working for improvement,” said Mr. Ramlall.

After 28 days in rehab at Glen Cove Hospital, Mr. Ramlall used a walker at his time of discharge. Three months after the car accident, he no longer needed a walker at home and aimed to take a two-block walk every afternoon with his wife, Padmini. “I hope my husband will soon be chasing after our little girl, Mia,” said Ms. Ramlall.

In addition to rehab at Glen Cove, Mr. Ramlall received physical therapy at home and is now an outpatient at Transitions® of Long Island  in Manhasset. “For now, the main thing is to keep doing exercise, keep my body and muscles moving and stay focused on my recovery,” said Mr. Ramlall. Looking forward to starting a position as a computer technician, he added, “I can’t thank the doctors and nurses at North Shore and the therapists at Glen Cove enough for helping me start my new life.”

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+Get expert care with one of the specialists at the Harvey Cushing Institutes of Neuroscience.

For information, call (516) 562-3822.

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