A Southern Oregon woman is walking again, following a harrowing dirt bike accident on the Fourth of July that initially left her paralyzed.
Marin Metz, 22, of Winston, underwent emergency spinal surgery at Oregon Health & Science University on July 5. Within a few weeks, she regained motion in her lower extremities and is improving fast. She’s now looking forward to walking down the aisle for her wedding next year.
“When they told me my diagnosis, I thought I would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life,” she said. “I could not be where I am without the amazing doctors, nurses, ICU and rehabilitation staff. I feel really grateful to be where I am today.”
Her surgeon called it an exceptionally good outcome considering the severity of the injury. W.H. Andrew Ryu, M.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine, estimates that only 5% to 10% of patients walk again after this type of injury.
“It’s a remarkable recovery,” Ryu said.
Metz spent the Independence Day holiday as she often did – riding the dunes on the Oregon Coast with her fiancé and friends. Cresting a “razorback” ridge, the momentum carried her over the motorcycle’s handlebars and flung her onto the ground.
“The bike rolled down the hill and hit me just right,” she said. “I remember laying there and instantly realized I couldn’t move my legs.”
Her fiancé, Dalton Scheer, was close by with a larger group of friends. After a call to 911, an ambulance arrived quickly.
Ryu said Metz benefited from first responders and critical care providers at Bay Area Hospital in nearby Coos Bay who stabilized her back before she was flown to OHSU by Life Flight the evening of July 4.
The next day, she was in an operating room at OHSU Hospital.
In a 3 ½-hour surgery, Ryu and his team decompressed the spinal cord by removing pieces of broken bone pushing on the spinal cord. They then stabilized her spine using a dozen titanium screws and two rods.
Following the surgery, she spent the next week and a half recovering at OHSU Hospital. Ryu noted that OHSU’s trauma intensive care unit provided excellent care in stabilizing Metz after surgery and augmenting her blood pressure, which is thought to enhance blood flow and recovery following a spinal cord injury.
When she regained consciousness a few days after the surgery, she first noticed being able to slightly move her left leg. By the time she was discharged to Legacy Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon on July 15, she was slowly but steadily progressing with additional movement in both legs and feet.
Since returning home to Winston on July 31, she has continued to make steady progress with the help of her fiancé, family and regular physical therapy. Ryu also credits Metz’s remarkable recovery to the fact that she’s young and healthy.
“I think she has a good chance of continuing to improve,” Ryu said. “There’s very little residual deficit anymore.”
Metz, who works as a dental assistant in Roseburg, said she can’t wait to get on with her life.
“It feels good to be home now with my fiancé and family,” she said. “I look forward to getting stronger and knowing that I will get to walk down the aisle next year at my wedding.”