On June 3rd, 2010, the 2009 double gold ADCC champion, Braulio Estima, was paralyzed from the neck down after a training accident. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, the world champion took some time to discuss his life since the incident, and shared the inspirational story of his journey back to the winners circle.
“It was the worst ever sensation I ever had in all of my entire life, including my personal life or any kind of situation I’ve been through. When I fell on my neck, I was actually training. It was an accident. I went for a single leg, and I slipped on the mat and the guy went to do some movement that also wasn’t the best, and I ended up falling on my neck. I got completely paralyzed from the neck down, and for that few minutes it was like the worst feeling. It feels like you are taken out of your body and you can see your body from far away.”
“The first thing that came into my mind was that I wouldn’t be able to pick up my son, and this was very frustrating. After a few minutes, I felt this tingling in my toes, and I could feel it coming up in my legs, but my arms took a while to feel proper. It was very tough for me, the first thing I heard from the Doctors was that I wouldn’t be able to do any sport at all, especially contact sports. If I wanted to do any sports, I could be good in darts, you know?”
“I always had a very positive feeling, in terms of determination, to be able to achieve, and to overcome this injury. I started doing some research into different doctors and different techniques. I found this doctor, Peter Hamlyn of Princess Grace Hospital, and he had this technique that would be able to allow me to keep my flexibility in my neck, because that’s the worry I was having. I had two prolapsed discs in my neck ... my spinal cord looked like a ‘Z’ , like a zig-zag thing. Because it was touching on the discs, anything could happen where I could be paralyzed for life, or even die.
"I went to the normal hospitals and when they said I had to have plates that would be screwed on each vertebrae, which meant that I would lose flexibility ... I was really worried about that, and that’s why I did the research and I found this technique where they substitute the discs and put in a titanium disc that also fuses and has the flexibility at the same time. It was a lucky find, and after I did the surgery, I could already move my neck, three days after.”
“The training after that, it was pretty scary in the beginning, because you are very cautious about your neck. You don’t want to overreact on anything ... You start to get confidence through therapy, strength and conditioning and using a lot of strength to compensate for the power in the neck, until I was fully recovered.”
“In the two months of training prior to ADCC, I was able to fully use my neck. Now I can do anything with my neck. I still have some side effects, some feelings in my hand and some tingling on my left leg when I put it under pressure, but in terms of strength and power control, I’m as good as before.”
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