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A Long Walk Home

By Cameron Vernali '20

Published Jul 31, 2018 11:08 AM

Surgery at UCLA enabled young Yadira Perdomo, who was paralyzed from a fall, to walk again.


Yadira Perdomo and Dr. Shlomo Raz, professor of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. By Ryan Hatoum at UCLA Health.

A traumatic bullying experience in her youth left Yadira Perdomo of Bogotá, Colombia with paralyzed legs, but the attack didn’t break her spirit. Now, thanks to a life-changing surgical implant by UCLA urologist Dr. Shromo Raz, her body has caught up to the same resilience.

“I’m very happy every day because my body is getting stronger and stronger,” Perdomo says. “My life is changing. It feels like a miracle.”

Perdomo’s story began in 2009, when she was 16 and bullies at her school started to harass her. Instead of switching schools as her mother had suggested, Perdomo wanted to finish out the school year there. Soon, thought, the bullies cornered her and pushed her out of a three-story window. The resulting fractured vertebra in her lower back caused her to lose all sensation in her legs and required her to use a wheelchair and a catheter.

The following year she was referred to Raz, while he was a visiting professor at a hospital in Bogotá called Clínica El Bosque. He performed a bilateral sacral nerve stimulation, during which he implanted in Perdomo’s lower spine a device that sends electrical signals to the nerves of her pelvic floor muscles. As a result, she began to feel restored sensation in her legs.

But when a follow-up procedure caused an infection, the implant had to be removed. Again, the young woman had no sensation in her lower body. Determined not to give up, she took the next big step, traveling thousands of miles to UCLA to see Raz, who re-installed the implant plus a pacemaker in 2017. He found stunning results when Perdomo not only no longer needed a catheter, but could also walk with the aid of leg braces.

Today, Perdomo does five hours of physical therapy each day to strengthen her muscles. While the physical therapy aids in her endurance, the 25 year-old has found other ways of remaining active in life. She joined the music conservatory at the University of Sergio Arboleda in 2014 and served as assistant to the director. Additionally, Perdomo competes in national-level archery. Since she mainly lives in the U.S. because of her medical needs, she’s training in hopes of competing on the U.S. Paralympic team.

And she is fierce about combatting bullying. She runs an anti-bullying foundation called Unidos Seremos Escuchados (“Together We Will Be Heard”) through which she has worked with lawmakers in Colombia to enact legislation that helps victims of bullying. She has also shared her story at more than 800 schools in the United States and Colombia. By sharing her story, Perdomo can combat bullying while giving inspiration to other people with disabilities.

Raz doesn’t expect Perdomo to require further surgical intervention and anticipates that she will eventually walk freely without leg braces or support.

“I don’t feel confined like I used to,” Perdomo says. “I feel like I have my real life again.”

To view the original article from the UCLA Newsroom, visit https://ucla.in/2zvBpO.