Saturday, July 07, 2001

He's lost mobility but regained his faith

        It's rush-hour traffic outside. From his first-floor room in the 6700 block of Highland Avenue in Silverton, Gregory Perry can hear it humming down Montgomery Road.

        He would like to be a part of the rush, heading for a job, or just outside driving around.

        But he can't. He has a bigger job with his mind, body and spirit.

        Mr. Perry, 28, is paralyzed from his chest down because of a spinal-cord injury from a gunshot wound five years ago.

        He was attacked on the way to work Feb. 8, 1996. He doesn't remember much about the attack, except that he was shot twice, once in the chest, an inch from his heart, and another bullet entered his abdomen, damaging his spinal cord. He still has use of his arms.

        “I have blotted it out of my mind,” he said. “I am 10 steps ahead of that incident.”

        Six days a week for 10 hours, Mr. Perry puts himself through grueling physical therapy. It's like a full-time job for him, because he is determined to walk again.

        “I work on my entire body, mind and spirit,” he said. “I refuse to live my life confined to a wheelchair.”

        He is also working against a deadline to raise $30,000 by July 20 to pay for an operation he believes will help him walk again. He is scheduled to fly to Quito, Ecuador, on Aug. 13, where Dr. Carl C. Kao, a neurosurgeon who directs a spinal cord clinic in Washington, D.C., will perform reconstructive surgery through nerve implantation. This surgery has not been approved by the U.S. government.

        But it is one piece of hope Mr. Perry holds on to.

        Dr. Kao came to Cincinnati in May to meet Mr. Perry. He explained by telephone last week that the bullet through Mr. Perry's abdomen did not damage his spine, but the heat and vibration from the bullet caused a 2-inch collapse in his spinal cord.

        He said inside the collapsed spinal cord is an empty space which expands and causes nerve fibers of the spinal cord to be disrupted causing the paralysis.

        “The surgery is to implant sural nerve and schwann cells into this empty space and wrap the spinal cord,” he said.

        Dr. Kao said after the implantation, the nerve fibers of the spinal cord can be reconnected and blood supply restored.

        He thinks Mr. Perry can regain sensation to the mid-thigh area, gain control of bowel and bladder functions, and walk with a pair of orthopedic boots and a walker.

        “We have done about 500 of this type of surgery and about 70 percent have been able to walk with the special boots and walker,” Dr. Kao said.

        Mr. Perry is confident that he will walk again.

        “I had faith from day one,” he said. “I know God would see me through.”

        Before his injury, Mr. Perry was a car detailer and a perfume salesman.

        “I think this whole incident has made him strong, spiritually,” said Linda Edwards, his mother. “He went back to church and was baptized in his wheelchair.”

        The Mount Zion Baptist Church of Woodlawn, where Mr. Perry is a member, has set up a special fund to help pay for the procedure. Church members have raised $3,000.

        Donations can be made to: Mount Zion Baptist Church of Woodlawn Benevolence Fund, 10180 Woodlawn Blvd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45215.


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