WAXAHACHIE — In an accident that left a 62-year-old resident paralyzed from his chest down, is now defying the odds by taking a step forward in an extraordinary recovery.
Meet Skip Redd, a cherished friend, minister, teacher – and a real-life walking miracle.
“What happened was a freak accident,” expressed Skip Redd, Life Waxahachie High School band and choir director about his trampoline accident. “I’m in the middle of my recovery, but it’s coming along really good, and I’ve had some wonderful reports from the doctor.”
On April 6, Redd broke his neck and injured his spinal cord while hosting an end-of-the-year party with his students at Urban Air Trampoline Park in Waxahachie.
“We were doing a party for the choir and band. I had invited the eighth graders and wanted to connect with them to get them interested in the program, and I told them, ‘At five o’clock I’ll do my front flip and my back flip,’” recalled Redd of the moment.
Because Redd has been an avid acrobat on the trampoline since he was 15 years old, he said he wanted to impress his students with a few “old man tricks.”
“So I did my front flip, and I didn’t go all the way over, and didn’t land on my feet. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get more height.’ And they said, ‘Well, where’s your back flip?’ And I was like, ‘Okay, give me a second,’” Redd recollected. “So I was trying to do it, and I didn’t go up high enough on my backflip, and I came down on my head and broke my neck."
Fracturing his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, the lowest level of the cervical spine, Redd's backflip affected the muscle control over his forearms, wrists, and triceps — ultimately leading to the paralyzation of his legs.
“When it happened, it was tough for all of us," expressed John Harvell, principal of Life Waxahachie High School. "Particularly our students who were in the choir and band program. Skip is a very big part of our school culture, and he’s done a really good job of building positive relationships with those kids.
“This type of accident, unfortunately, can happen,” added Bartley Mitchell, Methodist Brain and Spine Institute’s Medical Director of Endovascular Surgery and one of Redd's surgeons. “We see a number of these accidents with people who live active lifestyles. Even with people who don’t; some people will be walking in their homes, and they fall and break their neck and have an injury like this.”
“In [Redd's] case he was jumping on a trampoline and had a pretty high degree of impact that caused it to fracture,” he clarified.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the leading cause of spinal cord injuries is caused by vehicle crashes (38 percent), whereas, sports and recreational activities are found at the bottom of the scale at 8.9 percent.
“Safety is our number one priority, so when an occurrence like this happens, which is an absolute anomaly, we want to help them through the process to get the help that they need expeditiously,” expressed Cody Herndon, owner of Urban Air.
“We don’t want anyone to get hurt, and we’ve been pulling and praying for Dr. Redd and following his progress on Facebook,” he added. “I have spoken to the family, and we’ve been watching with hope and admiration at his progress, and we’re pulling for him for a full recovery ever since it happened.”
Thanks to the park’s quick action to alert medical personnel, Redd was immediately transported via air ambulance to Methodist Medical Center in Dallas where he was later put into surgery that night.
“Mr. Redd could only use his arms partially when he first came in,” Mitchell recalled Redd’s symptoms. “He could lift his arms, but he didn’t have full control of them, and he couldn’t move his legs at all because he damaged the spinal cord so far up where all the fibers run to his legs and part of his arms where they run through.”
As time was of the essence to save Redd’s functionality in his right hand and legs, Mitchell and his team operated for more than eight and a half hours, finishing around six the next morning.
To realign Redd’s spinal cord, Mitchell explained that the first half of the surgery consisted of going between Redd's C-6 and C-7 through the front and removing the disc that was in between, inserting titanium hardware to secure proper position.
“Once we were done with that part of the surgery, we turned him over and went from the backside and removed all the bony covering over the spinal cord from the back, which decompressed everything even more,” Mitchell simplified.
“And then we had to support his newly realigned spine by putting in titanium screws and rods on both sides, and that’s what helps realign his spinal column after he had dislocated his cervical spine,” he included.
“I had so many people from all over the world praying for me,” Redd chimed in. “Because I went to a college where a lot of my classmates were from different parts of the world, so it’s been kind of fun to see all of them praying for me.”
“And I had a lot of the community praying for me as well,” he recognized.
And as every patient differs in the healing progress, Redd’s community support only strengthened his hope as local churches, neighbors, and overseas missionaries prayed for their adored friend.
“We did several things here at school for him,” Harvell articulated. “We made signs, posters, and cards for him, and it was a big healing process for the kids to be able to talk about their feelings since a lot of our kids were there when this took place. And it helped our kids grieve and heal.”
“The community and those praying for me have been a wonderful support system,” Redd added. “Anytime I saw somebody they always said that they were praying for me. I’d go to local restaurants and it’s amazing how people help, whether it was opening doors and being patient when I slowly came in – they were so willing to help.”
Though surgery had gone well, Redd soon found out that recovery would be an uphill battle.
“After the surgery and after my rehab, my surgeon said, ‘Our best scenario, we’re hoping to have some function in one arm,’ and they were saying ’You’re going to be a quadriplegic the rest of your life,’” Redd remembered.
“After the surgery, I thought, ‘Okay, just give me two weeks, and I’ll be fine.’ But it didn’t work that way,” he chuckled.
Through four months of reconditioning his body to respond, Redd has gone from a paralyzed prognosis to typing, playing piano and walking once again.
“They say it takes a year for a spinal chord injury to fully turn, but mine has healed way ahead of the curve, and it’s a miracle” Redd recognized.
“I’m having to relearn how to walk and having to think heel-to-toe, and I was watching my one-year-old grandson, and he has to do exactly what I have to think through,” he laughed.
“Fortunately for Mr. Redd, he has such a great spirit, and he’s a very good patient,” Mitchell complimented. “His family was all excellent with him as well, and he stuck with it, and I think he’s making an excellent recovery because of that.”
As Redd now writes with his left hand and is strengthening his musicianship, he mentioned that he won’t shy away from trampolines in the future, but will exercise caution when it comes to impressing his students.
As for returning to work, Redd is looking forward to seeing his students in about six months, after he completes rehab.
“I’m hoping to go back and see my students and continue building the music program because music has been my life,” Redd said. “What happened was a freak accident, but God has a plan for me, and I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to stay positive.”
“And to the community, I just want everybody to know how grateful I am for their prayers, how they’ve shown compassion and concern, to not just me and my wife but to my whole family. I am grateful for their support and love,” he finished.
To keep up with Skip Redd’s progress, follow his Facebook group at “Pray for Dr Redd.”
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer