Man who suffered severe spinal cord injury after life-threatening fall walks again with help from Lynn Rehabilitation Center

By: Krysten Brenlla

Originally from Colombia, Carlos Pardo, 57, and his wife, Adrianna Paramo, have spent more than 20 years in South Florida, where they each became avid tennis players.

“My wife and I are empty nesters, and I told her to try tennis with me, which is how we both got into the sport,” Pardo said. “We even moved to our current apartment because of it.”

On March 11, 2020, Pardo received a call to play a game of tennis doubles with friends in his apartment complex. While he played that afternoon, his life changed instantaneously when he accidentally fell.

“When I tried to turn myself on the ground, I was unable to. I hit the top of my head first, and then I heard my neck crack when I fell,” Pardo said. ”When I tried to move my hands and fingers to clean the sand off of my face, I was unable to move.”

The fall resulted in a spinal cord injury, causing a loss of sensation from the neck down, and ultimately, paralysis in his upper and lower extremities.

“The moment I realized I could not move, I yelled to everyone nearby to call 911,” Pardo said. “I couldn’t feel any pain or sensation. I couldn’t move anything.”

Within 10 minutes, paramedics arrived to the scene and rushed him to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial.

While Pardo was playing, his wife witnessed the moments he was on the floor from their apartment upstairs.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Paramo said. “I ran downstairs and rushed to the hospital with the paramedics – it was a complete shock to hear that he was left paralyzed from that fall.”

Upon arrival to Ryder Trauma, a team of trauma surgeons and neurosurgeons stabilized Pardo and prepped him for emergency surgery, which involved fusing his spine to prevent further paralysis.

After the procedure, Pardo spent 17 days at Jackson Memorial Hospital recovering. Once he was discharged, he was transferred to Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial – one of the first patients to be treated at Lynn Rehabilitation Center when it opened in 2020 – and participated in research for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

When Pardo first arrived to Lynn Rehabilitation Center, he had minimal upper extremity movement in his shoulders and biceps, and no leg movement – except for a flicker in his left ankle.

“At the beginning, it was really hard to understand what was going on with my body,” he said. “I had no balance; my therapists had to use supports to keep me standing and prevent me from falling – it was really hard to reach any goals.”

However, as months passed, Pardo made progress with physical therapy when his toes started to twitch. Soon after, he started to move his lower extremities.

“When Carlos was seen in outpatient therapy, he was still dependent with all of his mobility,” said Jill Caldwell, a physical therapist at Lynn Rehabilitation Center. “However, due to his improving leg strength, he was able to start gait training using body weight support devices, specifically the Zero G gait and balance system, which provided Carlos with support as he practiced walking and balancing.”

In addition to gaining movement in his lower extremities, Pardo worked extensively with his therapists on a mat, which helped him with his bed mobility and transfer skills.

After a year of rehabilitation care, Pardo was able to transfer from a power wheelchair to a manual wheelchair, providing him the independence to do things like shower and get in and out of a car.

In just 18 months, he reached a major milestone – Pardo stood and took his first steps on his own.

“The Zero G machine really helped me. I started with no support to only using 10 percent support,” Pardo said. “It was exciting every month to see all the changes, ultimately seeing myself stand with my own feet.”

After finishing the outpatient program at Lynn Rehabilitation Center, Pardo exceeded his goals. Upon graduation, he was standing and walking with a walker, and was able to transfer out of bed with minimal assistance.

Through his Instagram platform, Pardo motivates other disabled individuals by sharing his rehabilitation exercises and journey with more than 13,000 followers. He has also written a book that discusses his life and recovery, and through both platforms, he hopes that others will know and understand it is possible to recover after a serious spinal cord injury.

Today, Pardo continues to practice physical, speech, and occupational therapy at home, pushing for a full recovery. After years of hard work and dedication, he is able to enjoy activities he loves with his wife and family.

He continues to push and challenge himself, in hopes of gaining most of his movements back, and he’s grateful to the teams at Jackson Memorial and Lynn Rehabilitation Center for providing him with the motivation to keep going – despite the odds against him.

“The whole team was amazing since day one,” Pardo said. “They helped me visualize what I needed to do, like move my fingers or my legs, which really helped me.”

“I don’t have anything else other than gratitude for everyone at Jackson.”