Jeff Sandefer, an avid paraglider, was enjoying a beautiful day in the Rocky mountains outside Aspen when the unthinkable happened. During what he called a typical take-off from the mountainside, his equipment malfunctioned, resulting in a 100-foot fall to the rocky surface below.
He knew immediately he was in trouble. There is “effectively no survival rate from a fall from that high,” he says. “I had this incredible feeling of calm. As a Christian, I thought I’m about to meet God.”
But God, a team of emergency rescue workers, and a trauma team headed by Neurosurgery One’s Dr. Jason McGowan had other plans.
It took more than an hour to get Jeff off the mountain. He had sustained a shattered back and broken neck, injuries that made walking again unlikely. But in the ambulance, he could wiggle his toes, a positive sign. Jeff was taken to St. Anthony Hospital, a level I trauma center in Lakewood, CO. There, Dr. McGowan performed emergency spine surgery.
Physical and occupational therapists at the hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation center jumped into action quickly after Jeff’s surgery. Within days, Jeff was walking with assistance. And just over a week later, Jeff flew to his home in Texas to continue his rehabilitation. Today, just a few months since his accident, Jeff is running 4-5 miles a day, flying planes, and lifting weights.
“He is extremely fortunate to be walking again,” Dr. McGowan says.