Rashaad Gregory A serious car accident internally decapitated Army specialist Rashaad Gregory, 19, in the summer of 2013. While most people die from this type of injury, and a scant number of victims survive as quadriplegics on life support, Gregory was able to leave the hospital with the assistance of a walker in just four months. Gregory was riding in a car with a friend when another vehicle slammed into theirs. The impact caused Gregory’s skull to tear away from his spine, a condition known as occipitocervical dislocation. Gregory was rushed to Barrow Neurological Institute where neurosurgeons performed an occipitocervical fusion, an innovative surgery that was perfected at Barrow. During the procedure, neurosurgeons used a titanium rod, screws and a piece of Gregory’s own rib to reattach his skull to his spine. Barrow neurosurgeons have more experience with this deadly injury than surgeons at any other hospital in the world.
“When someone suffers this type of injury, the head and spine are so very unstable that even gentle movement of a patient can lead to death,” says Kumar Kakarla, MD. “At Barrow, we have one of the world’s largest groups of survivors with this injury. Thankfully, Rashaad is also a survivor … and his outcome has been exceptional.” After the neurosurgery and three additional surgeries to repair his internal organs, Gregory faced intensive rehabilitation, but his strength and determination drove him to achieve milestones in record time. When he left the hospital in November, he was walking, talking and making plans to attend college to become an elementary school teacher. “A positive attitude changes everything,” says Gregory. “I can’t turn back the clock and wish this injury didn’t happen to me. Instead, I choose to move forward and make every day a gift.”
Rashaad Gregory, shown in the top photo with his girlfriend, Deondra Gray, survived an injury that is nearly always fatal. This postsurgery image shows the hardware that Barrow neurosurgeon Dr. Kumar Kakarla used to reconnect his spine to his skull.