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From spinal cord injury to walking again: How a doctor changed a man's life

Updated: November 29, 2019 05:42 PM

Imagine a situation where you're active your entire life and then suddenly unable to move a single part of your body.

It's a familiar story for anyone living with a spinal cord injury. 

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On Wednesday, new research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester is giving new hope.

In 2017, Chris Barr suffered a major spinal cord injury while surfing in California. Doctors gave him a 95% chance he would never be able to feel anything below his neck. 

Chris felt hopeless, ultimately wanting to end his life. He even asked his wife for permission to in his exact words: "pull the plug."

"There's a doctor zooming in, and he's saying, 'Mr. Barr, you've had a catastrophic neck injury, you're paralyzed from the neck down you can't move because you're intubated,'" said Debbie Carr, Chris' wife. "When I got there, the first words he mouthed to me were 'pull the plug,' which was shocking."

That is until Chris met Dr. Mohamad Bydon, a spinal cord researcher at the Mayo Clinic. 

Dr. Bydon told Chris and his family about a potentially historic trial. The procedure uses stem cells from Chris' stomach fat. And in just a short amount of time, Chris said he saw dramatic improvements.

Dr. Bydon says not every patient will have the same response as Chris. In fact, up to a third of patients may see no impact from this type of treatment.

While there is still no cure for a spinal cord injury, Chris and his family are taking it one step at a time.

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