Home alone on the evening of January 6, 29-year-old Andrew Cho suddenly collapsed and noticed that he was paralyzed from the neck down. Horrified, the Korean-Canadian summoned all of his willpower to crawl to his phone using only his chin and then dial 911 with his tongue.
“It was horrifying. You’re trapped in your own body,” Cho told the South China Morning Post in an interview at Vancouver General Hospital where he is now recovering.
Cho, a former professional mountain biker, had just spent time with some friends in downtown Vancouver when he felt dizzy so he decided to walk to his home at around 8 p.m.
Doctors would later tell him that a blood vessel had burst in his spine during the harrowing episode and he had very little time before things got worse.
When he got home, he was able to talk to a nurse friend who advised him to have his doors unlocked in case he would need help, and then lie down. Unfortunately, as he was about to reach in for the door, the blood that was trapped in his spine had caused it to swell, paralyzing him instantly. That was when he fell.
According to Cho, he was lucky that when he collapsed, his iPhone fell just about 25 cm away from his face. The way he collapsed also favored him as his body ended up crumpled to the floor, with him facing the phone.
“You know in those crime-scene shows when they show the body outline on the ground? One arm up, one arm down on the side? That’s kinda the position I landed in,” Cho was quoted as saying.
Having lost control of his limbs, he then inched his way towards the phone using his chin for approximately five minutes. A large patch of his skin from his chin was scraped off in the process.
Upon reaching his phone, he used his tongue to activate its Siri voice-control function and was able to call 911.
After he told the operator of his predicament, he finally felt relieved. The rescuers who arrived in about ten minutes immediately rushed him to a hospital where he underwent a four-hour procedure to remove the pressure from his spinal cord.
Cho, a digital marketing manager for GT Bicycles, is now stable and under careful monitoring. His doctors have noticed progress but noted that better improvements may take six to nine months. Full recovery, however, may take two years or more.
“I have a little bit of movement in my right foot, I can lift my right leg a little bit,” Cho shared. “My spatial awareness isn’t there though. I don’t know where my hands are: I’ll wake up with my hands by my side but I’ll think they are resting on my chest. I’m getting movement in my right arm and wrist. But it’s only day nine.”
Although Cho’s immediate care costs are covered, he will need more money for his long-term medical support and rehabilitation.
To donate to Cho’s medical expenses, you may visit his GoFundMe campaign, set up by his best friend Danny Brody. It has so far raised more than $90,000 in less than three days.