Jeremiah Harrell was nearly left this father of six and grandfather of 11, completely paralyzed.


Forty-eight-year-old Jeremiah Harrell is a walking miracle this Father’s Day. Complications from a genetic heart condition nearly left this father of six and grandfather of 11, completely paralyzed.
It was around Easter when Harrell started to experience rapid onset of weakness in both of his arms and legs. “It was frightening,” he remembers. “I didn’t know what was happening to my body – or why.”
Harrell had lived with heart issues his entire life. His heart finally deteriorated to the point that he needed a left ventricular assist device, known as an LVAD, last Christmas. But the numbness and inability to move was new and worrisome. “He kept complaining of a burning sensation in his neck,” says his wife Katrina Harrell. “He said it felt like sharp stabbing pains.”
The Harrells came to INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, because that is where his heart failure team is located. There, they met Pal Randhawa, M.D., with INTEGRIS Spine and Neurological Surgery. “It was a pleasure and an honor to help take care of Jeremiah, and through the power of multidisciplinary teamwork, we were able to help keep him from becoming paralyzed that night,” concludes Randhawa. “He had a severe infection that had eroded and destabilized his spine causing it to start to collapse and injure his spinal cord. Had he not come to the hospital that very day, he would have been permanently paralyzed.”
A picture containing person, wearing Description automatically generatedHarrell underwent emergent surgery. Because of his pre-existing and complicated heart problems, extra precautions had to be taken and specialized teams needed to be involved. Very few centers in the country can provide complex and diverse specialized care to patients with left ventricular assist devices. To be able to perform his surgery, a multidisciplinary team including cardiothoracic experts, left ventricular assist device experts, anesthesia experts and neurosurgical experts were all in the room to care for this fragile patient in case they needed to quickly respond to any complications that could arise. INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center is the only facility in the state capable of offering all these teams together in one place.
“Despite the high risk and complexity of Jeremiah’s case we were successfully able to decompress the spinal cord and restore its architecture,” states Randhawa.
“Cases like Jeremiah’s are intense, and the stakes could not be higher. On one hand, we all are trying to keep a young man from becoming paralyzed and trying to give him a chance to recover the function of his arms and legs, but on the other hand we had to be careful not to stress his heart and risk losing him while doing so. There was absolutely no room for error or mistakes.“
Randhawa adds, “He was in the right place at the right time. Had he gone anywhere else in the state, he would not have benefitted from such a diverse multidisciplinary team that is unique to INTEGRIS Health. I think his case is a testament to the team that took care of him, as well as Jeremiah’s resilience. It’s our privilege to be of service to him.”
A person holding a baby Description automatically generatedHarrell would require additional surgeries in a staged fashion to further stabilize his neck. Each time, a wide assortment of physicians and specialists would assist. “They knew he was in a delicate state,” admits Katrina. “In my opinion, INTEGRIS Health has the best doctors in the nation. Dr. Randhawa, Dr. Horstmanshof, Dr. Cunningham, Dr. Lentz. They saved my husband’s life and stopped him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.”
Harrell was able to move his arms and legs after the first surgery, and his condition has continued to improve ever since. “I still have a way to go and I am in physical and occupational therapy for that,” he says. “But I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m able to walk and move, and I can still pick up my 10-month-old grand-daughter, Darriana, and that is what matters most to me.”