On a November night in 2017 in the town of Achille, OK, a mother received news no parent could ever imagine hearing. Michelle Williams had received a phone call from her husband notifying her that her son, Braiden had flipped over his pickup truck and had been ejected from the vehicle. When Braiden’s parents arrived at the scene of the accident, Braiden was unable to move the left side of his body.
“He tried to get up,” Michelle recalls. “He knew at that time, he couldn’t move or feel his left side. At that point, we’re thinking, ‘Man, he might end up being paralyzed on his left side.”
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Braiden had sustained multiple injuries on his back and torso. He was immediately transported to Medical City of Plano, where he and his family would meet Dr. Rajesh Arakal of Texas Back Institute, who would perform his back surgery.
“Sure enough, by the time we got to the hospital, he couldn’t feel anything on either side,” Michelle says. “When we got to the hospital, everyone there said ‘You’re so fortunate Dr. Arakal is here,’ and ‘If anyone can fix him, Dr. Arakal can,’ So we felt good knowing that. One of the nurses told me that people come from all over to have him do their surgeries. When he and his team came in to meet us, I immediately saw why.”
Michelle describes Arakal as “quietly confident,” and she remembers feeling at peace knowing that he would take care of her son.
“Braiden had broken ribs, as well as several segments of the vertebrae,” Arakal recalls. “One was angulated enough to kink the spinal cord, resulting in a neurologic injury.”
Arakal remembers it being a challenge to properly diagnose the injuries Braiden had sustained.
“At the time, it was difficult to assess the grading of the injury, because he really had very little to no sensation in the lower extremities,” Arakal says. “Sometimes when the spinal cord has an injury, there’s a period of spinal shock, so it’s a little bit unclear sometimes how profound the injury is.”
Braiden’s surgery consisted of multiple components, including threading screws into areas of bone that were split open. Hours after Braiden’s surgery, both Arakal and Michelle were stunned at how quickly Braiden was able to get back on his feet.
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“Six hours after his surgery, he was moving his legs,” Michelle says. “By the next day, he was walking again.”
Currently, Braiden enjoys activities like roping, horseback riding and playing guitar, the latter of which, he taught himself to do while watching YouTube.
“In Braiden’s case, what was remarkable was that over time, given his age and given his grit, was his ability to bounce back,” Arakal says. “In his case, he’s performing at a high level of function. I don’t foresee any major catastrophic issues in the future.”
To this day, Braiden and his family remain grateful for the treatments Arakal and the Texas Back Institute team were able to provide.
“I knew in my heart that if it could be fixed, Dr. Arakal could fix it,” Michelle says. “We are grateful that all of these people were put in Braiden’s path to give him the best possible outcome.”