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The 700 Club

Man Overcomes Paralysis to Run Half-Marathon

Caleb Wood - 700 Club Producer

September 24th 2016. Dean was taking an early morning bike ride through the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina.

At the same time, Will and a friend were heading out on a road trip.

“Lots of kind of condensation, the air was heavy,” Will remembered. “So it was difficult to see.”

“I heard brakes lock up and then I felt the impact,” said Dean.

911 call: Operator: “911 what’s the nature of your emergency?”

Man: “um there’s been a bicycle rider hit…”

“I woke up,” said Dean. “Will and his friend, you know, were trying to pull the bike off of me and I was like ‘stop! I think I’m paralyzed and you might do more damage than good, just leave it.’”

Dean was rushed to Carolina’s Medical Center with no feeling or mobility from the waist down. His wife Beth met him there.

Beth said, “When I walked in, immediately I’m like so, what is it — he goes ‘Beth, they hit my back, I think my back is broken.’”

X-rays and cat scans showed Dean’s spine was dislocated and there were several fractured vertebrae pinching his spinal cord. Doctor Matt McGirt was the neurosurgeon on duty.

“The spinal cord was almost taking a right angle turn, yet somehow wasn’t severed,” said Dr. McGirt, “But I knew that it was dying off and time was critical to restore blood flow, restore alignment and un-pinch the spinal cord.”

“I remember Dean specifically asking, ‘am I like not ever going to walk again?’ And the doctor said, ‘I don't know,’” said Beth solemnly. “And that’s when I just remember this wave of nausea came over me. God, please, don’t take his ability to walk away. Please.”

By the time Dean was in surgery, word had gotten out on social media and people around the world were praying. Working against the clock, Doctor McGirt removed the broken fragments, realigned the spine, and installed two metal rods to hold it in place. What should have been a four-hour surgery took only ninety minutes.

“It went so smoothly; it was so efficient,” recalled Dr. McGirt, “And I told Dean’s wife something in the consult room immediately after surgery. ‘There’s just maybe a 2% chance that he’s going to be able to walk and get around on his own. Those aren’t great chances, but I feel really good about the case.’”

“He (Dr. McGirt) said, ‘If I can see movement in his toe, then I know that, you know, that neuropathway was not completely damaged,’” said Beth.

The next morning, Dr. McGirt came into check on Dean’s progress.

“I was able to barely wiggle my right toe,” said Dean, “And I mean, we all just started crying. I mean, because we knew that I had a shot. And it felt, you know, like my prayer was answered.”

Three days later, Dean took his first steps.

“It was like the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Luckily it was a short trip to the bathroom,” Dean laughed. “Tomorrow I’m going to go to the door. The day after that, I’m going to go down the hall. The day after that I’m going to get out of here.”

During his stay, Dean had a lot of well-wishers stop by. One of them was Will, the young man who hit him.

“I apologized to him, and told him that I was sorry for what had happened,” said Will.

“I just said ‘Will, I forgive you,’” replied Dean, “‘I know that what you did was an accident and I don’t want you to carry this around for you the rest of your life. I want you to be able to you know, process this and move on.’”

“It was just—it was like this weight was lifted,” said Will with a smile.

The two stayed in contact as Dean kept making exceptional progress.  He set a goal for himself, which came with a challenge for Doctor McGirt.

“How about you and I go run a half marathon and go raise a bunch of money for spinal cord injury patients,” asked Dean.

Dr. McGirt responded, “My first thought was ‘I’m so inspired by your optimism. And I’m in and I’m hooked.’ But I walked away from that thinking I wouldn’t be running a half marathon with Dean because I didn’t think it would be possible.”

ONE YEAR LATER

“My goal, kind of a crazy goal, was to run it in under two hours, which was kind of insane,” nodded Dean.

On September 24th, 2017, Dean and Doctor McGirt ran – and finished the Napa Valley half marathon.

“I cross the finish line and stop my watch and I look down at my watch and it said ‘1:59:55,’” said Dean.

“The outcome he’s had,” remarked Dr. McGirt, “which is able to run a half marathon, live his day to day life without pain, 1 in 1,000.”

And they weren’t alone.  Will also ran in the race.

“At the end of it all, there we were,” recalled Will, “arm in arm, kind of crossing the line together, and that’s the way we’ve approached the whole healing process has been together.”

Dr. McGirt said, “I don’t believe that this was man’s doing. Human will. I just believe that, it’s God’s grace.”

“I am a true believer in prayer,” said Beth, “and I’m a true believer that, you know, in miracles, and there’s just no other explanation for this.”

“We can control basically a hula hoop around us,” remarked Dean with a smile, “God’s pretty much got the rest of it. So if I just do my end, God’s going to take care of his piece.”

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