May 26, 2021

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Two days after he turned 18, Aaron Assiter was sitting in his car in Lubbock, TX, when he was struck in the neck by a bullet.

“It ended up going in and destroying my brachial plexus and my spinal cord,” Assister said.

The high school senior was paralyzed from the chest down, and surgeons in Texas told him he would likely never be able to use his left arm or hand. But then he met Dr. Ryan Endress at the Burn and Reconstructive Centers at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood. Endress thought he could help.

“Unfortunately, the bullet fragmented into multiple pieces and went into his spinal column, and also into his brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that control his arm on his left side,” Endress said.

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Endress performed surgery to remove the bullet and the scar tissue and release the compressed nerves. The hospital says the repair procedure can range from decompressing the nerves to grafting disrupted nerves or transferring other nerves to restore muscle function.

Assiter became the first patient at Swedish Medical Center to have brachial plexus repair, and the surgery was a success.

“Movement is coming back every day more and more and more,” said Assiter as he moved his hand around.

Assiter says Endress changed his life, and he hopes his story will bring hope to others. Only a handful of facilities across the country offer the brachial plexus repair. Endress hopes to help more patients soon.

Watch the full story on KDVR.