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Garden City teen amazes doctors with recovery from paralysis

Andrew Wykowski of Garden City, 17, relearns how

Andrew Wykowski of Garden City, 17, relearns how to walk as he undergoes physical therapy at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. Ten months earlier, Wykowski suffered a serious injury to his spinal cord which left him paralyzed. Credit: WNBC-TV

Ten months ago, Long Island teenager Andrew Wykowski fractured his neck jumping in the ocean and was completely paralyzed.

He couldn't even scratch his face then, but today he's walking and enjoying his junior year at Garden City High School, said his father, Paul Wykowski, a retired construction business owner.

"The outcome is pretty miraculous," the father said Tuesday.

In August, Andrew was vacationing with his parents on the Outer Banks of North Carolina when he dove into an ocean wave and landed badly, fracturing two vertebrae.

Since then, the 17-year-old and his progress have thrilled his medical team at the Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.

Dr. Joan Gold, the center's director of pediatric rehabilitation, said Andrew's will to recover was fueled in part by his efforts to overcome dyslexia. "He's so smart . . . and tries every strategy," she said.

The teenager said he never gave up his rehab, no matter how grueling, because he wanted to get better for family and friends. "It's scary at first, especially when you wake up the first day after surgery, and you're sitting in bed and you can't do anything," he said. "Then you come to a point where you realize you can get better or you can pity yourself, and have people pity you."

When Andrew's left hand was a little slow in gripping something, he had his right hand make the movement to show what needed to be done -- a "mirror" technique that has worked with stroke patients, his father said.

Andrew's parents have been ecstatic over his recovery.

"We take what we get," Paul Wykowski said, "and we keep pushing ahead."

Gold said Andrew must relearn fine motor skills and how to keep his balance, but his walking has become "sturdy."

"He's a gift for us," Gold said. "When you see something like this, you want to keep on trying harder and harder for the next patient."

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