LIMA — Life took an unexpected turn for Branden Ruiz on Feb. 22.
Branden, 17, of Swanton, was spending the morning wrestling with a relative after school had been canceled because of snow. In a freak accident, he fractured his cervical spine, an injury that left him unable to move.
“I was laying on the floor and on my belly,” Branden said. “I could move my head and that was about it. It felt like someone was lifting my legs but they were flat on the ground.”
After being transferred to the University of Toledo Medical Center, an MRI confirmed the injury and was rushed into surgery.
“I thought he was faking it,” said Branden’s mother, Cheryl Ruiz. “I told him to get up because I had to go to work.”
The injury caused serious respiratory problems and Branden was unable to breath on his own at first. He was taken for a short time to a facility in Columbus and is now recovering at Baton Rouge Senior Services Community in Lima.
“It set in pretty quick that I wasn’t going to be a normal 17-year-old,” Branden said. “I just had to try and focus my mind on something else.”
The prognosis for Branden was gloom, and many doctors said he would possibly never be able to walk again. However, he has recovered remarkably since the accident. He now carries on normal conversations, breathes on his own, and has gained much of the movement back in his left hand and arm.
Ruiz still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of someday walking again. However, just in case, he has learned to accept his position for what it is.
“A lot of people take their legs for granted,” Branden said. “I want to walk again, but I realize I do not have to have what other people would call a normal life. I can do almost as much in a chair as I can walking. I feel like I beat life, and now I have to make something of it.”
Branden said he would like to attend college and major in a science. He would like to eventually move to California and start his own business.
Angela Miller, a registered nurse and transition coordinator at Baton Rouge, said Branden has served as a ray of hope for everyone in the facility.
“Seeing him move his arm like he can now makes me emotional,” Miller said. “He couldn’t do that when he first got here. You just don’t know how much more progress he can make. He keeps doing well. The patients and staff here really like him. They see him and they want to get up and do something. He is inspiring.”
Branden plans to simply take it one day at a time.
“Nothing will ever be as easy,” Branden said. “I will miss sports and riding my bike.”
Branden was aided by the Elida school district in receiving his materials so he can finish his classes at Swanton and graduate from his own high school in Swanton through online courses.