Give A Cheer! Cheerleader Regains Ability To Walk

Published: November 26, 2004  |  Source: nbc10.com
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Recovery From Spinal Cord Injury Is 6 To 12 Percent

A young New Jersey woman paralyzed in a cheerleading accident fought to get back on her feet and NBC 10 News medical reporter Cherie Bank has her story of determination and hope.

Bridget Sheridan was a bright, beautiful 17-year-old girl with her whole life in front of her when a tragic accident happened and her life took a drastic detour.

Bridget’s parents calmed themselves by just being happy that their daughter was alive. But Bridget was determined she was going to get better.

Bridget was practicing a routine with cheerleading team members from the Hamilton Stars when a flip went wrong and she landed on her back.

“Immediately, everything started tingling — my arms and everything went numb, and I yelled, I’m paralyzed. I can’t move,'” Bridget remembered. “It was probably the scariest moment of my life.”

The impact of Bridget’s fall dislocated one of her discs. It sent it forward and then backward — right into her spinal cord. That is what crushed her spinal cord.

“In an operating room, just touching the spinal cord and moving it one millimeter can cause a weakness. So, when she fell and landed on the ground after doing her back flip, she was completely paralyzed,” said Dr. Alex Vaccaro

Her mother and father didn’t know if Bridget would ever walk again.

Bridget was quickly transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital — one of the country’s top spinal cord injury centers.

“The chances of someone getting function back after complete paralysis from a spinal cord injury is about six to 12 percent. It is very, very low,” Vacarro said.

Vaccaro did not believe Bridget would ever walk again. But then he and his team began rebuilding her spine using two rods to keep her spine in place, securing it with small screws and filling in the space with a bone graft.

Bridget is walking again.

“She’s walking, which is a miracle,” Vacarro said. “Every year we have five to 10 patients who clearly should not have walked, that walk out of the university, Thomas Jefferson or walked out of our rehab centers,” Vacarro said.

Bridget worked hard. She pushed herself through five hours a day of Physical Therapy.

She is even optimistic about returning to her favorite activity — cheerleading.

“Yeah, why not? I don’t know how (my parents) feel about that, they may have another opinion on that,” Bridget said.