LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A breakthrough surgery at the UCLA Spine Center in Santa Monica helped a man survive a rare and critical injury.
“I was just thinking if I was going to be alive, if I was going make through it,” 32-year-old Vamsi Polisetty, a software engineer, said.
His near-death experience happened while heading to Las Vegas nearly three weeks ago for the weekend.
The Costa Mesa man was about to board a bus outside a Westchester hotel when a woman jumping to her death from the 11th floor landed on him.
“Can’t even imagine writing a story like that,” he said. “I don’t remember the impact, anything. That’s good in a way because I don’t have the trauma of the accident.”
Polisetty does remember waking up at the UCLA Spine Center with two lumbar vertebra dislocated. The damage was so severe doctors have only heard of about eight cases nationwide.
“He had no strength at all in his legs or sensation so he was completely paralyzed in his legs,” Sina Pourtaheri, orthopedic surgeon with the UCLA Spine Center, said.
Pourtaheri said historically doctors let a spine injury settle before surgery which could leave patients paralyzed.
“The literature now showing that you should do these hyper acutely in a sense. Do them right away almost like similar to a heart attack because time is tissue and you want to get them reduced right away to take the pressure off the spinal cord,” he said.
Pourtaheri and his team used screws and rods to realign the spine giving some movement and sensation back after about a week.
Doctors said if the impact had been on Polisetty’s head rather than shoulder, he may not be here. They’re confident though he’ll walk again.
The woman died on scene.
“It’s like having a second chance so I feel good about it,” said Polisetty who had been transferred to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for recovery and monitoring.
He left the hospital on Wednesday night and has since been taken to a physical therapy center in Orange County.
Polisetty is expected to return to UCLA for another surgery in about six weeks.