"It was just like somebody took a tarp from the bottom of my neck and just peeled it back and took all the feeling from me, " John Miksa, former paralysis sufferer told Ivanhoe.
John was wrapping up a 22 mile bike ride when tragedy struck.
"So I'm lying there, and I'm thinking of all the things I am not going to be able to do. I'm not going to be able to golf. I am not going to be able to make love. I am not going to be able to hug my grandchildren. I am not going to be able to do any of these things," John said.
A disk between C-5 and C-6 smashed into John's spinal cord.
"He had 100 percent, total paralysis from the neck down. He lost all function. He couldn't move a muscle, not his arm, not a toe, not a flicker, nothing at all," Scott Leary, M.D., a Scripps Health Neurosurgeon in La Jolla, CA said.
Instead of waiting, Dr. Leary rushed him into the operating room at Scripps Memorial Hospital. In a very delicate and tedious surgery, he removed the disc rupture from where it was pinching his spinal cord, all the fragments, and fused the bones together. With each step, no one knew if John would be able to walk again.
"I'm getting chills just thinking about it. The first day that I went to see him in the SICU was probably one of the single most rewarding days of my entire career as a neurosurgeon. Seeing him move his toes and wiggle his fingers…I just had the greatest feeling," Dr. Leary said.
Just hours after surgery, John had signs of movement in his hands and feet.
"I was given less than a one percent chance of a full recovery before surgery. Less than one percent chance of a full recovery, and I have already moved something," John said.
A few days after surgery, John could stand up. Twenty-one days later, he was walking.
"I had a neck brace on, and I walked out on my own," John stated.
Physically, he was healing. Mentally, the wounds were still raw.
"It took time for me to believe that I could ride in a bike lane, ride in a park, and not get hit by a car," John explained.
It was a test of courage for John, and his wife.
"It was a very tough day, but I knew he wanted to do it, and I also knew he had a new appreciation for cars." Sheri Miksa, John's wife said.
One year later, almost to the day he entered rehab, John and the people who helped him walk again took to the streets in celebration.
"Every day, I wake up and check to see if I'm paralyzed and I'm not. Every day I wake up, and I thank God, and I say, this is another bonus day for me," John concluded.
Doctor Leary says timing was everything. Traditionally, spinal surgery in the setting of spinal shock is extremely risky and is not done for days after an injury. He says if he would have waited to operate, John would not have walked again.