Scottsdale man hopes to walk again after groundbreaking surgery

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Doctors in Phoenix performed a groundbreaking surgery on a young man, and hope it will allow him to walk again.

Jordan Fallis, a 25-year-old from Scottsdale, severed his spine in a dirt bike accident in October.  He lost all feeling below his waist.

"My friends and I built a bunch of big jumps for trips, and I under-rotated a back flip," he told 3TV from his hospital bed at St. Joseph's Medical Center.

Doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute saw Jordan, who had no head injury and was otherwise in good shape, as the perfect candidate for an experimental new procedure. They asked his permission to implant a tiny "scaffold" in the hole in his spine, which they hope will allow cells to regrow.

"I told them to go for it," he said.

"The scaffolding acts as a conduit along which cells can grow and healing can occur.  So it's like an internal band-aid," Dr. Nicholas Theodore told 3TV.

Dr. Theodore performed the surgery in mid-October.  He says it's too soon to predict if Fallis will walk again.

The "scaffold" has been in development for years, but until now, only used on rats and monkeys.

"The results are outstanding, and show healing in the spinal cord [in the animals],'' Dr. Theodore said.

"[The scaffold] gives something for cells to stick on, and gives them a track to grow along," he added.

"I've already started getting feeling back lower and it's coming through," Fallis said.

He has begun physical therapy, and is cautiously optimistic about being able to walk again one day.

"There's no saying where I'll be a year from now. I could be walking and riding again. But if I don't get my motor skills back with my legs, that's fine. I could still do plenty of other stuff, and I've accepted that," he said.

The scaffold is made of a complex sugar, not plastic, and will dissolve on its own.

Medical teams around the world are watching Fallis' progress.