A U.S. Navy officer, paralyzed from the chest down after a motorcycle crash, paid off on his promise to the ICU nurse who cared for him by walking more than a year after his injury.
“Remember me?” Chief Petty Officer Jesus Fernando Ruiz asked as he rounded a corner in the hall of Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego Wednesday.
Ruiz slowly but deliberately walked straight up to Intensive Care Unit surgical nurse Alison Harmon who was shocked to see her former patient on his feet.
“I promised her that I was going to come back and show her that I could, you know, I could walk when I got better,” Ruiz said.
Not an easy task when doctors told Ruiz he had six fractured vertebrae, two fractured ribs, a damaged spinal cord and was suffering from paralysis from the chest down.
His injuries stemmed from a New Year's Eve motorcycle crash on a mountainous road in eastern San Diego. He left the hospital in January 2014 and has been recovering from his injuries since.
The path has been demanding, the naval officer said.
However, he credited Harmon for keeping him focused. She urged Ruiz that he could bounce back from his injuries.
“She helped me see that I still had a life ahead of me and that I could accomplish many things that at the time I didn’t think I could,” Ruiz said.
Right now, Ruiz can walk 50 steps with a walker. He says his long-term goal is to run a marathon with his new wife, Jessica.
Ruiz told his former nurse that the next time they met, it would be for a bicycle ride.