‘It is a miracle’ - Surgeons save cyclist from permanent paralysis

Cherry Cubelo, Jack Gallifant; patient Jonathan Deane; Mike Pence; Am Rai Mihaela Pintea. Picture: N

Cherry Cubelo, Jack Gallifant; patient Jonathan Deane; Mike Pence; Am Rai Mihaela Pintea. Picture: NNUH - Credit: Archant

A 69-year-old cyclist has escaped permanent paralysis after suffering spinal damage when he came off his bike.

Jonathan Deane, from Ingham, broke his neck after he fell off his racing bike into a ditch on April 25.

The cyclist suffered spinal damage and was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

Mr Deane said: “They saved my life. There is no doubt in my mind. They carried out very important surgery. They are absolutely all heroes. I cannot thank them enough.”

The team from the spinal injury unit, were faced with complex surgery in full personal protective equipment, to insert a plate and screws into his neck vertebrae as scans showed a severe spinal fracture with injury to the spinal cord.

To avoid paralyis, the team has to stablise his spine by removing a tiny section of the bone, half a millimetre at a time, which was exerting pressure on a nerve near the spinal cord.

Mr Am Rai, NNUH consultant spinal surgery, called Mr Deane a “very lucky man”.

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Mr Rai said “Normally with an injury like this the patient does not recover and remains paralysed permanently. Luckily for Mr Deane this was a temporary situation and the cord regained some function.”

“It is indeed a miracle that Jonathan can move his limbs as the majority of patients who receive this type injury are paralysed and do not recover. The operation has aligned his spine using special titanium cages and screws.

“Many spinal operations require use of high speed burrs, which are power tools, to remove tiny sections of the bone. In this coronavirus pandemic this is very dangerous to the team as the procedure releases tiny aerosol particles into the air and they can endanger the operating team. This has led to increased number of deaths amongst surgeons.

He should be back on his bike in the fullness of time.”

Following the successful surgery, Mr Deane is current having rehabilitation at a centre in Sheffield before returning home, where he has been told by his family the brakes are firmly on his bike until he recovers.

The cyclist admitted he has used “five of his nine lives” up, with previous injuries including breaking his wrist, a serious car accident, cancer on the back of his head and accidentally shooting his foot off when his shotgun went off while getting out of his truck.

Mr Deane added: “I know there is a desire to have a unit here at the hospital so I am going to try to raise some money for the N&N.

“I am going to go home and be royally bossed about my wife and my children. The bike has gone. I am not allowed to do anything at all except sit in a chair and recover.”