August 18, 2021
McKinney — A skydiving accident has briefly curtailed Michael Vasquez’s adventures. Vasquez, a veteran, lost the use of his legs when he was wounded by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in the Middle East in 2009. Since returning home, he has focused on becoming a licensed skydiver and jumping from airplanes across the U.S.
On Friday, during Vasquez’s last jump of the day in Whitewright, a town in Grayson County, his parachute got caught in the tire of his wheelchair, spinning him out of control. He tried releasing the tangled parachute so he could pull his reserve parachute. The main parachute was partially detached and the reserve parachute did not release. Vasquez relied on the semi-inflated, partially attached main parachute to soften his landing.
“The tangled parachute slowed me down and I landed at about 12 miles per hour. It saved my life,” Vasquez said. “I hit the ground and I could feel the impact. I knew not to move from the position that I landed and waited for emergency help to arrive.”
Brought to Medical City McKinney’s Level III Trauma Center, Vasquez was diagnosed with a femur fracture and multiple spinal fractures. As an advanced Level III Trauma Center, Medical City McKinney has specialized, dedicated resources available to manage major injuries. Highly skilled orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons focused on treating his injuries and preserving Vasquez’s previous mobility.
“While Vasquez’s war injuries paralyzed his legs, he maintained some function of his hip flexors. This movement gave him a good amount of function to live a quality life and it was our goal to preserve that function,” says Shashank Gandhi, MD, a neurosurgeon on staff at Medical City McKinney. “Using minimally invasive surgical techniques, we were able to stabilize his spine, so there is no further risk of injury to his spinal cord. These techniques reduce damage to his back muscles, allowing for reduced pain and faster recovery.”
“The incisions will heal within weeks and once the fractures heal, we can potentially remove the screws and rods out so Michael will not have to live with spinal implants in his back,” says Dr. Gandhi. “Following rehab to help strengthen his back, Michael should be back to his normal quality of life within three months.”
In addition to skydiving, Vasquez is a competitive hand cyclist and competes nationally and internationally, hoping to win a spot on a future U.S.A. Paralympics team.
“I’m grateful for the surgeons at Medical City McKinney,” says Vasquez. “I am ready to get back to where I was before this accident with strength training, core exercises and cycling several hours a day.”