Paralyzed Surgeon Overcomes The Odds And Pushes Through Tragedy

Dr. Ted Rummel is living a life that seems to be right out of Grey's Anatomy. The orthopedic surgeon works at Progress West Healthcare in O'Fallon, Missouri. Dr. Rummel prided himself on his ability to perform about 1,000 surgeries every year, helping people get their lives back.

However, in 2010, Dr. Rummel's life changed forever.

A blood-filled cyst sitting on Dr. Rummerl's spine burst, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Walking, standing, and anything else that came along with daily life was suddenly a challenge.

“One of my first thoughts was, ‘Oh my gosh, my life as I know it was erased,’” he told the Make Medicine Better blog.

For many people, a setback like this would derail their life. Becoming a paraplegic means having to re-learn how to achieve daily activities. But Dr. Rummel refused to let this challenge take his life away from him.

Dr. Ted Rummel spent a year in rehab after a burst blood-filled cyst left him paralyzed.St. Louis Today

It took a year of rehabilitation, but Dr. Rummel worked to regain his surgical techniques. After his treatment, something amazing happened.

He stood up in the operating room one more time.

So how did he do it? And how is his paralysis affecting his career?

“I’m back. I’m back,” Dr. Rummel told his team, after the long break.

With the help of a standing wheelchair, which allowed the surgeon to move up, down, back, and forth, Dr. Rummel was able to return to the operating room to continue doing what he loves: helping people. His favorite surgery to perform involves patients in a sitting position to operate on their shoulder, and in a sitting wheelchair that wasn't possible. With this standing one, he can operate as normal.

“When you’re disabled, so much of who you were is taken away from you,” Rummel said. “When I’m able to do this and I love to do this and I can get that piece of my life back, it’s huge. It’s huge. It’s so special.”

“I relate 100 percent differently to patients now. After going through something like this, you’re going to listen better and be more empathetic. I really feel for their condition and how it’s affecting their life, such as not being able to use your hand,” he said.

But this is not all to say that Dr. Rummel didn't struggle with his paralysis at first.

He admits to having suicidal thoughts after his injury. He found himself on the back deck with a gun in his hand, ready to end it all. But then Dr. Rummel thought of his wife, his kids, and his grandkids and he knew he had to keep living.

“I wouldn’t have made it through any of this if it wasn’t for my wonderful wife,” he said. “I am so grateful for her and my family, who I’ve gotten to know all over again.”

Dr. Rummel hugs his wife, Kathy, before heading into his first shoulder surgery in two years. St. Louis Today

“When this happened to me, I had a profession, was well-educated, had resources, family and colleagues to support me,” Dr. Rummel said. “I know so many don’t have any of this, and I wrestle with how I can help others. One day I will.”

Dr. Rummel's perseverance and dedication shows us that no matter what life gives to you, there is always a way to overcome it...you just have to work for it.

Share this if you think we could all be a little more like Dr. Ted Rummel!