Richi Gill is a renowned Canadian surgeon who hurt himself on a family vacation, but it wasn’t any old injury that befell him. It was a broken neck sustained while riding the waves.
Just as the Hawaiian islands are nothing like Western Canada — the place where Dr. Gill co-founded one of Alberta’s top bariatric surgery programs — his new life as a C6 spinal-cord patient is much different from his old one. But all hope is not lost.
Following the boogie-boarding injury that caused him to lose bodily sensation and the ability to make voluntary movements below shoulder level, Dr. Gill was determined to improve his condition right from the outset.
The first stage in his quest to regain sensation and movement was to engage in some serious rehabilitation at Calgary’s famous Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre. The next stage, which occurred last fall, was much more progressive.
In October of 2018, Unique Access Medical (UAM) brought Dr. Gill to Thailand for our breakthrough spinal-cord surgery called Epidural Stimulation and 100+ hours of specialized rehabilitation after the operation.
Just like the more than 50 spinal-cord injury patients who received the surgery prior to Dr. Gill, his was completed without complications. The electrical Epidural Stimulation device was implanted on his cervical spinal cord, his surgical wounds healed normally, and he began a daily regimen working with UAM’s physiotherapists.
For 35 days, he was led through extensive physical and occupational therapy, and a “mapping” technique whereby his device was optimized to aim electrical pulses at specific muscles throughout his body.
The Epidural Stimulation device now acts as a sort of bridge between Dr. Gill’s brain signals and the spinal cord beneath his injury level. And, with an external remote control no bigger than a smartphone, he can manage the intensity of the signals and the pathways they take, which were mapped out during therapy.
What effect has the device had so far?
Dr. Gill is in the early stages of what the Epidural Stimulation community believes is a highly promising recovery journey, so he’s putting in a lot of hard work with therapists back in Calgary.
This requires the use of a specialized harness and a machine with wheels to help him walk with assistance. He’s not yet able to make stepping movements by himself, but with lots of determination and the mapped device, he can already flex his hip muscles and make forward progress, however gingerly.
According to Dr. Gill, the assisted standing and stepping he’s able to do a mere 12 months after his injury is motivating, and while he’s hopeful that someday he’ll be able to walk on his own, right now he’s focused on day-to-day improvements.
Now that he’s come to terms with the likelihood that his career in medicine is over, he’s optimistic about the future and the next stage in his recovery. Namely, a second trip to Thailand to receive another Epidural Stimulation device on his spine, and the hope that he can regain some control in his hands and further improvement in his quality of life.
You can read more about Dr. Gill’s recovery here, or visit our website for the hard facts about his procedure and recovery, and the procedures and recoveries of many other Epidural Stimulation success stories delivered by UAM.
Source: The Canadian Press