Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis |

Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis

Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Regina Crockett of Steubenville, Ohio, takes tentative steps into the hallway at Allegheny General Hospital as registered nurse Jennifer Seitzinger keeps a close watch on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

When Regina Crockett fell on icy steps Saturday, she was paralyzed from the waist down. Two days later, Crockett, who had a rare type of herniated disc, was walking.

“I am so thankful to God and my surgeons. I had lost hope. I really thought this was the end of it for me,” said Crockett, 43, who fell on ice that covered the four steps in front of her home in Steubenville, Ohio.

A fragment of the herniated disc wedged in front of her spinal cord, paralyzing Crockett. The unusual condition was difficult for staff at Allegheny General Hospital to detect.

“This type of thoracic disc herniation is very rare. We might see it four times a year,” said Nestor Tomycz, a neurosurgeon and one of two doctors who performed Crockett’s surgery Monday.

Crockett began to walk around the hospital’s hallways within a day. She is expected to leave Allegheny General on Thursday for a week or two of rehabilitation.

The injury at first caused Crockett to despair.

“She stood up at first, but was in bad shape. Then she couldn’t walk at all,” said LeRoy Bray, Crockett’s pastor and neighbor, who helped her when he heard her cries for help.

Crockett’s fall occurred at an inopportune time.

Sudden icing Saturday morning overwhelmed police, emergency responders and hospitals in the tri-state region. Allegheny County reported 77 vehicle accidents; Butler, 45; Washington, 60; and Westmoreland, nearly 30.

Bray drove her to two Ohio hospitals that proved to be too busy and without adequate resources. At Weirton Medical Center, he had to carry her in and then back out of the emergency room. She arrived at Allegheny General on Sunday.

The North Side hospital was one of many that called in extra staff, Tomycz said.

“We were working all day. Hospitals were just overwhelmed with many trauma patients,” he said.

Crockett’s prognosis at first did not look good. Surgeons treated her with steroids for several days to reduce swelling and inflammation.

The hospital’s sophisticated MRI equipment revealed Crockett’s rare injury, and she underwent 90 minutes of surgery.

“We were able to remove the large disc fragment. It was risky. It’s always risky to work around the spinal cord,” Tomycz said.

If Crockett’s condition had not been properly diagnosed, she would not have walked again. Instead, she will be home in a week or two.

“She is showing rapid signs of recovery,” said Tomycz, who performs about 400 surgeries each year and says he almost never sees such fast results.

Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or [email protected].

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