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December 14, 2023

A Second Chance at Life: Randy Overcomes Paralysis After Jet Ski Accident 

by Brianna Rauchman

Randy’s life drastically changed after a jet ski accident left him with complete paralysis from the neck down. Join him on his remarkable path to recovery, guided by the expertise of Drs. Walavan Sivakumar and Jean-Philippe Langevin at Pacific Neuroscience Institute® (PNI®).

A Devastating Accident Leads to Paralysis

August 18, 2018. Southern California’s scenic coast was the unexpected scene of Randy’s life-changing jet ski accident. What started as a leisurely outing to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro transformed into a struggle for mobility and survival. 

Randy vividly remembers the life-altering incident. “I was thrown over by a wake wave,” he recounts, “and crashed into the jet ski’s steering column, snapping my neck back.”

Suddenly, Randy was paralyzed from the neck down. As he floated in the water, Randy relied on his friends’ quick thinking to survive. Fortunately, they wisely decided not to move him to avoid worsening his injuries. The coast guard arrived soon after, rescuing Randy from the water.

A Life-Altering Diagnosis

Admitted to Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance, Randy confronted a life-altering diagnosis – complete paralysis from the neck down. When his head hit the jet ski handlebars, three vertebrae in his upper neck buckled. This compression placed significant pressure on his spinal cord, resulting in the loss of sensation in his arms and legs. This news was devastating, especially considering his career as a general contractor, which demanded full mobility.

Understanding Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that acts as a highway for transmitting nerve signals from the brain to the extremities. It is a long, thin, tubular structure protected by a hollow tunnel called the spinal cavity. This tunnel has a hard outer shell and soft layers of tissue and ligaments that absorb shocks.

However, the space inside the tunnel is limited. If anything, like arthritis, a blood clot, a tumor, or in Randy’s case, crushed vertebrae, encroaches upon the spinal cavity, it can cut off the nerves’ blood supply, causing paralysis. Surgeries to relieve this pressure are complex and require a multidisciplinary approach.

Additionally, acting promptly in cases of severe spinal injuries significantly improves the likelihood of restoring mobility for patients. Studies indicate that early intervention following traumatic spinal cord injuries leads to improved neurological recovery. Additionally, post-surgery physical therapy and rehabilitation are crucial for a patient’s recovery.

Randy’s Long Journey to Recovery

Due to the complex nature of his paralysis, Randy received care from Walavan Sivakumar, MD and Jean-Philippe Langevin, MD, highly esteemed neurosurgeons at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. The Spine Institute at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance provides access to the expertise of a wide range of multidisciplinary specialists including PNI surgeons, a crucial lifeline in Randy’s journey.

Following a meticulous evaluation, Dr. Sivakumar recommended a cervical laminectomy and fusion to alleviate the pressure on Randy’s spine. To prepare for the operation, Dr. Sivakumar maintained open lines of communication with Randy and his family, providing the clarity and unwavering support they desperately needed.

Dr. Sivakumar laid out the entire procedure and what needed to take place, how it was going to take place, approximately how long it would take, and what I could expect afterwards. It made me and my family feel really comfortable.


One Successful Surgery Later

The day of Randy’s surgery, with Drs. Sivakumar and Langevin at the helm, marked a pivotal turning point. A key aspect of the laminectomy is the meticulous placement of screws within the bone. To ensure absolute precision, the medical team employed advanced technology, utilizing X-rays and computer guidance to direct the screwdriver to exact locations. Dr. Langevin likens this innovative approach to using a “GPS inside a car,” highlighting the blend of medical expertise and innovative technology

Soon after Randy awoke from the five-hour operation, he noticed a strange burning sensation. “I had regained sensation in my arms,” Randy shared, “which was something I hadn’t had for a few days.” It was a small but vital step toward recovery. Two days later, Randy arrived at the widely recognized Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro Acute Rehabilitation Center to begin occupational and physical therapy.

Rehabilitation played an essential role in Randy’s journey. He expressed gratitude for the support he received from Little Company of Mary and PNI. Randy’s unwavering determination, along with the help of medical professionals and his family, contributed to his recovery from paralysis. Following a two-month rehab program, Randy regained mobility in his limbs and returned home.

Randy went back to the accident site on Cabrillo Beach the day after leaving the facility. As he walked away from the beach, he felt a peaceful sense of closure, moving on from that part of his life.

A Triumph of Spirit and Medicine 

Randy’s journey underscores the profound impact of comprehensive, patient-centered medical attention. His recovery highlights the pivotal role of skilled healthcare professionals at Little Company of Mary and PNI, whose competence and compassion were instrumental in his healing.

Click here to watch Randy’s Journey.

About Dr. Walavan Sivakumar

Walavan Sivakumar MD

Walavan Sivakumar, MD, is a fellowship-trained and board-certified neurosurgeon with a focus on skull base and minimally invasive neurosurgery. A multiple Super Doctors award recipient, Dr. Sivakumar has a particular interest and expertise in brain tumors, skull base tumors, pituitary/parasellar tumors, and intraventricular brain tumors, and he applies the keyhole concept, utilizing advanced neuroimaging, endoscopes and microsurgical techniques to minimize collateral damage to the brain.

About Dr. Jean-Philippe Langevin

Jean-Philippe Langevin, MD

Jean-Philippe Langevin, MD, is a board-certified and fellowship-trained neurosurgeon specializing in the surgical treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy, and psychiatric conditions. He was selected as a 2016 Super Doctors Rising Star and achieved the Super Doctors designation again in 2017. He has extensive experience using neuromodulation to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Spine Health at Pacific Neuroscience Institute

PNI has a team of highly specialized and experienced spinal neurosurgeons. Our physicians provide comprehensive treatment options for various spine-related conditions, including degenerative spine disease, pinched nerves, chronic pain, disc displacement, spinal infections, spinal tumors, and vascular lesions.

We take pride in offering advanced and minimally invasive procedures. Our techniques include computer guidance, kyphoplasty, and cervical disc arthroplasty. We aim to minimize tissue disruption, speed up recovery, alleviate pain, and, whenever possible, maintain the natural motion of the spine.

To schedule a consultation, please contact PNI-South Bay clinics in Torrance at 424-212-5361 or click here.

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About the Author

Brianna Rauchman

Brianna Rauchman, BA, is the Communications Coordinator for the Lifestyle Program, where she helps develop outreach strategies to connect with an expanding audience. Her responsibilities include providing launch support, developing content, assisting with collateral design, and planning social media strategies.

Last updated: April 23rd, 2024