The Chinese gymnast paralyzed from a fall at the Goodwill Games was able to sit up after successful spinal surgery, but she probably will never walk again.
Her physician said Sunday that 17-year-old Sang Lan regained some strength in her shoulders and biceps from the seven-hour operation the day before but mobility has not improved in her hands and wrists.Dr. Vincent Leone, director of spinal surgery at Nassau County Medical Center, added it was too soon to give a final prognosis but she is unlikely to walk again.
Sang, the 1997 Chinese national vault champion, fell on her head Tuesday night during a routine warmup move, injuring her spine and leaving her unable to move her legs.
Surgeons placed three titanium plates with screws in her neck to stabilize a section of the spine. They also used bone fragments from her left hip to rebuild the broken vertebrae.
"The implants basically prevent her head from falling off her shoulders," Leone said.
With the implants, Sang was able to sit up in bed, something impossible before the operation.
Sang is also being treated with an experimental drug designed to regenerate damaged spinal nerves. It was too early to say how effective the treatment has been, Leone said.
"There are just so many different nerve connections that have to heal," he said.
Sang will stay at the hospital for at least a week and begins rehabilitation Monday. Her parents, who arrived Saturday from China, have not decided whether to move her to another hospital or return home.
Physicians and others who have visited Sang said she was upbeat Sunday.
"This young lady did not stop talking," Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta said. "Her spirit was uplifting, you had to be encouraged to be in her presence."
Goodwill Games spokesman Michael Lewellen reiterated a pledge by the event's sponsor, Turner Sports, and its parent company Time Warner Inc., to assist Sang's family.
"The family has only been here for a few hours," he said. "They haven't had the opportunity to state their wishes."