Spinal Cord Injury: Suy Baselais Story - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Suy Baselais' Story

Student, Age 29, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

RIC patient Suy BaselaisSuy Baselais was on his way to class at the University of Port-au-Prince when the ground started to rumble. He and several others headed down the stairs when the infamous earthquake shook Haiti, and the building he was in collapsed. He was trapped in the rubble for several hours before someone heard his cries for help and dug him out.

The impact of from the disaster crushed his spine, causing a spinal cord injury. He was unable to move or feel anything from his chest down. Family members moved him into the back of a truck and drove him through the ruins to a makeshift medical aid station a few miles away. There, he met a Chicago surgeon who had flown to Haiti to provide humanitarian services. The surgeon knew his injury was severe and the tools and talent did not exist in Haiti to help Suy, so he advocated for a spot for him on a return flight to Chicago. He arrived at RIC in January, never before seeing snow, and adapted to the modern urban environment outside his window.

Following a three-hour operation, surgeons had stabilized Suy's broken bones and he was moved to RIC to begin inpatient rehabilitation. Two of RIC’s spinal cord injury therapists were French-speaking and could communicate with Suy. He also used an interpreter to communicate with all of his care team members.

He was determined and committed to getting better; he participated in several hours of physical therapy and soon neurological function began to return. Steps came slow; he had to concentrate hard to move his leg forward, but soon he walked around the entire floor, then completed two laps, and his endurance and strength grew from there.

When spring arrived, therapists created obstacle courses outside using rough patches of street and obstacles for Suy to climb over in hopes of re-creating the rubble-ridden Haiti that Suy would someday return to. Soon, he was walking with two crutches.

In July, Suy returned to Haiti to help his family and friends rebuild their
homes. He has hopes of returning to college and becoming a computer engineer. He also dreams of returning to visit Chicago in the future.