An Unlikely Recovery from Paralysis;

Kenneth’s Journey

I didn’t know if this was a temporary paralysis, or the rest of my life… so when I walked out of Bannasch on my own four weeks later, it was honestly a miracle.”

As Polk County’s only inpatient acute physical rehabilitation facility, The Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine is committed to providing patients, like Kenneth, a higher standard of care by always placing the patient’s well-being at the center of their efforts, encouraging them to regain their independence and become the hero of their own journey.

Over 98% of patients recommend the services at the Bannasch Institute to a loved one, due to their attentive and exceptional staff. Recently, the Bannasch Institute received the prestigious CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) International accreditation.

Overall, the CARF surveyors see the Bannasch Institute as “a community gem” that makes a strong impact on patients like Kenneth. To learn more about Kenneth’s journey with Lakeland Regional Health and the Bannasch Institute, please keep reading!

March 10th, 2022, 63-year-old Kenneth Rainey’s world changed. What started out as a normal workday, would turn into a fight for his life. But with the Lakeland Regional Health and Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine teams caring for him, Ken regained his strength and got his life back.

As an experienced truck driver, Ken is well-versed in maintaining and performing all aspects of his work routine and often wakes up at 2 AM to get to work. When he went to unhitch the trailer from the truck he was driving, like he had hundreds of times before, the pop he heard in his neck was as unexpected as what would follow. He hopped back in his truck, not in any pain, and continued his two-hour drive to Lake Wales. The closer he reached his destination, the more intense his pain became. 

With each passing day, Ken’s discomfort turned into unbearable pain, and he was ordered an MRI to see the cause. During any MRI, it is critical to stay still in a position that allows imaging to be clear and accurate for the doctors to interpret. “When I laid in the machine, they slowly leaned my head back into position and I started hollering. It was torture.”

When the MRI was complete, Ken knew something was wrong. He attempted to shake his leg, wiggle his hands, his fingers, anything—nothing moved. He was paralyzed.

“I didn’t know if this was a temporary thing, or the rest of my life. I was so scared because my body felt numb, almost dead.” They determined he needed emergency surgery, but they could not perform it at their facility. They reached out to Dr. Michael Campanelli at Lakeland Regional Health, an expert neurosurgeon working in partnership with the University of South Florida, who would be able to perform surgery on Ken.

When he arrived at Lakeland Regional Health in unbelievable pain, Ken went through blood work, CT scans, and tests to determine the root of the paralysis. Ken had an abscess on his spinal cord and an infection that had traveled to the bone. When Ken moved his head into position for the MRI, the abscess pushed on his spinal cord, becoming dangerously close to severing it. This caused his paralysis and could have caused his death had they not found it in time.

That night, Dr. Campanelli performed emergency surgery to remove the abscess on Ken’s spine. Dr. Campanelli specializes in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries and has been practicing for over 20 years at Lakeland Regional Health. Ken’s condition was so extreme, that the incredibly skilled team that performed his surgery was hopeful, but not fully convinced, that Ken would make a full recovery from his paralysis.

“The next morning when I woke up from surgery, I had been intubated and was awfully disoriented. When Dr. Campanelli and his physicians’ assistants walked in, he asked if I could move even an inch. I fully raised my right arm. Dr. Campanelli was so excited, he couldn’t believe it. He and I knew I had a long way to go, but with Dr. Campanelli, the man upstairs, the Bannasch team, and my mindset-I had come this far, and I was determined to walk.”

During Ken’s five weeks of rehabilitation at the Bannasch Institute, he relearned nearly every motor skill he would need in his daily life. Picking up pencils, brushing his teeth, eating, drinking, writing, and even sitting upright all became obstacles he’d need to overcome. “All the physical therapists knew me and knew my goal to leave walking. It takes a lot of heart and energy to get better. I could not have done it though without the Bannasch team. They had me on every machine, gadget, and tool to regain my strength-and I trusted them completely. And as each day went by, I began to forget about being paralyzed. I knew I could do this.”

And he did. After five weeks at the Bannasch Institute, one life-saving surgery, a team of experts there to guide him, and Ken’s incredible determination, he walked out of Bannasch.

Ken was even recently cleared to return to work. He continued his exercises at home, making sure his progress would continue. He even learned how to administer his own IV antibiotics at home. “When I tell you the Bannasch team believed and cared about me, it’s an understatement. They wanted me to reach my goals. They wanted me to walk again. And they helped me make it happen.”

Regaining the ability to walk after experiencing paralysis is no small feat. Ken’s experience was tiring and traumatic. If not for the kindness, expertise, and encouragement of the Bannasch staff, he knew his outcome would have been different.

“They had everything set up for me in case I couldn’t walk-an electric wheelchair, a hospital bed at home, my walker, you name it. But that didn’t stop us from pushing forward. The amazing and smart people at Lakeland Regional Health believed in my goal of walking out of Bannasch, even though it seemed impossible. And now, that walker is folded up in the corner and I won’t be needing it.”