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Miracle! Paralyzed woman walks again after traffic accident

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 11th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Two years ago, 27-year-old Monique van der Vorst was paralyzed. Unable to walk since the ago of 13, Van der Vorst was mowed down by a speeding bicyclist. she suddenly developed a tingling in her legs -- and within a year she was walking again!

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Without seeing actual medical records, many doctors agree that it's unlikely anyone who had lost all feeling in their lower extremities could be healed by being hit hard in an accident.   

Van der Vorst's story is not a typical one. Van der Vorst had turned to hand-cycling after losing feeling in her legs as a teen, becoming so proficient that she won two silver medals in the Paralympics. It was while she was on the road training for the 2012 Paralympics that she was struck by a speeding bicyclist.

Van der Vorst recently announced that she'd joined a pro-cycling team and was looking forward to competing at the Olympics as an able-bodied athlete.

Doctors haven't been able to come up with an explanation for her miraculous recovery.

"I have never heard of a case of damage to the spinal cord where someone lost feeling and strength in their legs and then had a second accident that gave them feeling back," Dr. Michael Boninger, professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "The fundamental truth is that accidents don't cause damaged nerve cells to regenerate."

Boninger added, "I would have to also say that there's a lot in medicine that we don't know and a lot we have yet to learn."

Dr. Bruce Dobkin, professor of neurology and director of the Neurologic Rehabilitation and Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles says that "If some sensation and movement is retained after such an injury (as in most of the athletes injured on a football field), recovery of walking is likely in 90 percent of cases," he added.

"The process of improvement after such an injury can take up to a year after the incomplete cord injury."

Van der Vorst says she initially lost feeling in her legs after suffering nerve damage from an ankle operation when she was 13. That problem was compounded by a later car accident in which her spine was injured.

If a person's peripheral nerves, the ones that run from the spinal cord to the extremities are damaged, they can at least partially regenerate, Dobkin said.

"The longest nerves, the ones that move the toes and ankles, may take 18 months to partially regrow, but do not always extend far enough to improve voluntary movement," he explained.

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