From Paralysis To Promise
Patient Dean Otto (pictured center) and his neurosurgeon Matthew Mcgirt, MD (right) for completed the Napa Half Marathon on Sept. 24! Just one year ago, Dean was paralyzed when he was hit by a truck driven by Will Huffman (left). After advanced spine surgery and a long road of recovery, all three ran and finished the half marathon together.

Quick response, neurosurgical expertise and the promise from a doctor to a patient helped Dean Otto recover from paralysis. He's now raising money for others with spinal cord injuries and just ran a half marathon with his neurosurgeon.

Once Dean Otto sets a goal, he's determined to reach it. This was true in business and in his hobby as an avid runner and biker. Dean's commitment to training was evident when he awoke at 6:00 am on September 24, 2016, to begin his bike ride.

"I looked like the typical geeky bike dad with all of the reflectors and safety gear on," said Dean.

Dean was approaching 23 miles per hour on his bike when three cars suddenly flew past him.

"That"s when I heard screeching brakes, and felt an impact," said Dean. He was hit by a 4000-pound Ford F-150 pickup truck, thrown from his mangled bike and knocked unconscious. When he came to, Dean remembered hearing sirens and realizing he could not move his legs.

At the hospital, he was assessed by Jonathan Parish, MD. Dean had no movement below his waist, and imaging revealed fracture dislocation and significant spinal cord compression. Dr. Parish immediately contacted neurosurgeon Matthew McGirt, MD, of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates to assess the severity of injury.

"There were some firing neurons in Dean"s spinal cord, and a little sensation, but he still couldn't move. The first priority was to get him to the operating room immediately," said Dr. McGirt. "Our goal was to see how quickly we could decompress the spinal cord."

Over the course of two hours, Dr. McGirt performed a T11-L3 laminectomy and fusion, and reduction of the fracture/dislocation to decompress Dean"s spinal cord.

"When I woke up after surgery, I could feel my legs again," said Dean. "Dr. McGirt was standing over me, smiling. He said the surgery went absolutely perfectly and I had a chance at making a full recovery. I told him that I would run again, and I made Dr. McGirt promise he would run a half marathon with me!"

Forty-eight hours after undergoing complex spine surgery, Dean was on his feet, using a walker. He stayed in the hospital for one week, followed by months of intensive physical therapy.

Click below to watch the story from WCNC. 

Read the story in the Charlotte Observer:

Dean"s commitment was key to his recovery. Dr. McGirt also credits a trauma system that worked as it should.

"So many people played a huge role in making sure that Dean had a great outcome," said Dr. McGirt. "EMTs arrived quickly. Dean's triage and imaging at the hospital took less than an hour, and neurosurgery was contacted immediately. Dean was in surgery less than five and a half hours after the accident. Decompressing his spinal cord so quickly gave Dean the best possible opportunity to recover."

Today, Dean is so grateful for his miraculous recovery and wants to make a difference by raising money to assist others who suffer spinal cord injuries. He is also helping advance spinal cord injury research by raising funds for the Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates Education & Research Foundation. (You can learn more about Dean's story and his new mission at

It was important to Dean to get back to running as soon as possible since the sport played such an integral part in his life prior to his accident. He also wants to hold his neurosurgeon to the promise he made of running a half marathon together.

"I've never done anything like that before," said Dr. McGirt. "But Dean is putting in the work to get back to full speed, and I"m committed to running with him as promised."

Dean and Dr. McGirt ran the Napa Half Marathon in September, on the one-year anniversary of Dean's accident.

To learn more about the spine services at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, call 704-376-1605 or click here.


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