Doctors help boy recover after disastrous neck injury in swimming pool

Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) saved a school-kid after he had a disastrous fall at the swimming pool about 6 months ago, leaving him immobile.

As summers are around, enjoying a dive into the pool is all well, but one must not be ignorant of safety measures. Diving towards shallow end head-first may cause severe injuries because the head may hit the bottom/ floor. These injuries may be life-crippling or may prove to be fatal.

In one such tragic incident, pool fun turned ruinous for a 17-year-old Swapnil Gupta last summer, when he suffered an acute neck injury after diving into the shallow end of the pool head down.

The injury was so crippling that downwards from his neck; all the 4 limbs were paralysed, with no mobility and loss of control over urine and stool. The boy became immobile and was rushed to Kota Hospital where he was stabilized. Later, he was shifted to Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) for advanced treatment.

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After complete investigation, we conducted a conservative surgery on Swapnil where through lateral mass screw fixation posterior stabilization of cervical spine was performed. Our primary objective was cut-out, which was to ensure that the patient regains as much independence as possible considering the nature and severity of injury. In fact, injuries of such severity result in 9% to 13% mortality rate, said Dr HS Chhabra, Medical Director and Chief of Spine Services, at ISIC.

In a period of 2 months post-surgery, there was some neurological recovery visible in the lower limbs of the patient. However, after some more time further improvement stopped, with muscle power not being appropriate to have functionally useful recovery.

Read: What is paralysis?

Noting stagnancy and no further improvement, we decided to focus on aggressive rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy, treadmill therapy, and bodyweight suspension. There was much resistance from Swapnil initially for hydrotherapy because he had developed hydrophobia after his accident. So much so that noting no further improvement the family was contemplating to take the boy home, said Dr Chhabra.

Around 6 months down the line since the day he was admitted, Swapnil was discharged from the hospital this February. He had regained significant mobility to enable him perform activities of daily living such as writing, using laptop, brushing his teeth, and most importantly to walk with support of a walker.

Today, Swapnil is preparing to rejoin school, with his life changing twice in past 6 months. However, there remains a serious lesson for all of us to learn. Also read, 5 lesser known causes of paralysis.

Diving head first in shallow water can cause enough impact to break the neck and cause paralysis. Not that diving foot folded is a good idea because sometimes the depth of water is so low that the feet or a body parts end-up hitting the pool floor, especially for adults. This too can cause fracture. Therefore, it is important to know the water level as well as the dos and don ts around the pool area or water bodies and follow them well.

It is highly important that professionals play a key role in not only educating people and spreading awareness of safety measures but also seeing that these guidelines are implemented and are being followed. Professionals need to follow rules themselves at all times because otherwise it is a bad precedent. The healthcare providers should be taking a lead in reaching out to people with various awareness programs , Dr Chhabra explained.

Source: Press release

Image Source: Shutterstock

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