Bisbee teen may regain use of arm left paralyzed

Francis Wright of Bisbee, Ariz., helps her stepson, Jerry "J.J." Wright, with his shirt. Jerry Wright survived a horrific accident when he was 6 years old, and his arm has been immobilized for 10 years. But after surgery on June 29, Jerry is expected to regain up to 90 percent use of his arm.

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — With more than 100 stitches and a scar about two feet long stretching from the middle of his back to near his left elbow, nobody would know that Jerry Wright of Bisbee was having a good time.

"I was pretty much excited," Jerry, 16, said as he described the events leading up to his present condition.

Although stuck in a shoulder cast for the past two weeks, and looking at six more weeks of being immobilized, Jerry wouldn't have it any other way.

That is because Jerry has had his arm "immobilized" for the past 10 years after he survived a horrific drunken driving accident when he was 6 years old.

The accident left Jerry's left arm paralyzed, but on June 29 Jerry underwent a surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester that is projected to provide him with up to a 90 percent recovery of the use of his arm.


"It is beyond what we expected," said Jerry's step-mother, Frances Wright.

Already able to feel the scar and with sensation seeping back into his fingertips, Jerry is recovering well from the surgery and is expected to have his cast removed on Aug. 26 during a return trip to Saint Mary's Hospital in Rochester.

"It hurts," Jerry said with a smile.

"I always tell him, 'I'm sorry that you're feeling pain, but I'm glad you are feeling pain,'" Frances said, adding that even pain was something Jerry hadn't felt in his arm since the accident.

"He hit the side of the airbag," Frances said in a pre-surgery interview back in June, describing how Jerry was ejected through the windshield of a vehicle, driven by a drunken driver who had rear-ended a trailer more than a decade ago.

Since then, Jerry has had to make do with only one arm, playing football and basketball, swimming, riding his bike and even learning to play video games while only using one hand.

"He is used to it," Frances said.

Dr. Bassen Ehassan, a Lebanese doctor who speaks five languages and according to Jerry's stepmother is the only doctor in the world currently performing the type of operation Jerry received, took a slice of the muscle on the left side of Jerry's lower back and flipped it up.


"It was from all those sit-ups he does," Frances said, describing how the doctor saw no need to leave both arms immobilized when Jerry had such strong muscles in his lower back. Even months before the surgery, Jerry had begun a workout routine to help him strengthen the muscles surrounding his parlayed arm.

When asked about the experience of going for surgery, Jerry recalled the last thing he remembered prior to being put under anesthesia.

"I was talking with the nurses about football," he said, adding that he plans to cap off his freshman football season at Bisbee High School by trying out as a two-fisted sophomore this coming year.

And when he woke up, his first words were to ask for a candy bar his father, also Jerry, had bought for him prior to the operation.

"He said, 'I want my candy bar,' " his father, who accompanied Jerry on the trip, said.

"I was very, very impressed," his dad said, describing the facility and staff at St. Mary's.

"It was incredible the way they treated us, the doctors and the nurses" he said. "It was a fantastic, grand place."

When asked what the family wanted to gain from Jerry's surgery aside from his full recovery, they all agreed that Jerry would have never even needed it had it not been for drinking and driving.


"I just hope everyone stops drinking, getting smashed," before they get behind the wheel, Jerry said. His parents both adamantly agreed.

"And we want people to know not to give up," his step-mother said, his father adding that when he was younger, a doctor recommended Jerry's arm be amputated.

"There is always hope," he said.

And if all goes well, Frances said, Jerry will soon be able to "applaud" himself for the first time in 10 years, when he can finally clap his hands in victory.

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