Pushing Through The Swells

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy

Ron Ziebell owned a bodyboarding equipment shop in Seal Beach and was popular in the bodyboarding and surfing circles of Southern California. His life completely changed in 2008 when he sustained a burst fracture of his 12 vertebra at the Wedge, a popular surfing spot in Newport Beach.

This burst fracture caused bone to push into the spinal canal and resulted in damage to the nerve. As a body boarder, Ron's worst fear came true: he was a paraplegic. He couldn't walk, let alone surf. This debilitating injury landed him at the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute at Long Beach Memorial where he would begin a long process of recovery and healing.

While at Long Beach Memorial, Ron fell under the care of Ann Vasile, M.D., medical director, spinal cord injury rehabilitation program. Ron had to have surgery to decompress the fragments of his bone from the spinal cord and stabilize the fractured bone. After the surgery, Ron remembers his first few weeks in rehabilitation as being incredibly challenging, but the therapists and care team at the hospital were persistent in his recovery.

He attended recreational therapy five days a week, where he worked on swimming and rehab exercises in the gym. With the help of the care team at the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute, Ron slowly overcame rehab milestones: first he got himself out of a wheelchair, then overcame the walker and finally got back on his feet again and walking on his own.

"The team of occupational and physical therapists at Long Beach Memorial were great, every week I was improving and showing progress," says Ron.

Today the Seal Beach resident is able to walk, drive and live an independent life.

"I'm happy where I'm at right now. It's been a slow process, but I go to the beach all the time and am now able to ride a bike, which is a huge accomplishment," says Ron.

He has also taken up photography, a passion of his, which he didn't have time for before. He also plays a huge role in being a father.

Ron continues his outpatient care and sees Dr. Vasile every six months and continues his physical therapy by swimming and going to the gym.

"Ron always has a smile on his face," says Dr. Vasile. "I always say that the real rehab starts once you leave the hospital and it looks like Ron has been able to live out his passion for life in other ways."