Medical Marvels: College basketball star gets a life-saving surgery

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Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Medical Marvels: College basketball star gets a life-saving surgery
WABC-TV is proud to take you inside NewYork-Presbyterian, for a look at some extraordinary stories that we call Medical Marvels. It's WABC's Emmy-nominated digital series exclusive to abc7NY.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Maranda Nyborg, a senior at Fordham University, has been playing basketball her entire life. She's a standout player on the Fordham Rams women's basketball team.

However, her playing days nearly ended last year when she was diagnosed with a serious medical condition that could have led to paralysis.

In October of 2022, Maranda began feeling sick and was diagnosed with a case of strep throat. After several days, she wasn't feeling any better and her symptoms were growing. When she started having pain down her left arm, along with tingling and numbness, one of Maranda's coaches took her to the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital.

Doctors immediately recognized that Maranda's symptoms were not a normal case of strep throat. An MRI of her cervical spine and thoracic spine revealed she was suffering a spinal epidural abscess, which was pushing on her spinal cord, causing her symptoms.

A spinal epidural abscess is a serious infection that, if left untreated, could cause a patient to deteriorate rapidly and end up paralyzed.

Dr. Andrew Chan, Co-Director of Minimally Invasive Scoliosis Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian, told Maranda she would need surgery immediately.

"It was important that someone identify this quickly, which our team did, and that I was able to take her to the operating room urgently to be able to decompress this and drain the fluid from her spine," Dr. Chan said. "The surgery itself is not very complicated. What it takes is very meticulous exposure. You want to leave as much of the native musculature intact so that we leave Maranda as much support structure for the rest of her life."

"It was really scary," Maranda said. "But honestly, I'd never been in so much pain in my life, so I was just like, whatever you need to do, I trust you guys. Just get it done so I can start to feel better."

Maranda's surgery went well.

She woke up feeling immediate relief of her symptoms. However, she ended up spending nearly two weeks in the hospital while regaining her strength through physical therapy.

"I definitely had a lot of doubts about how my strength was going to return and if I was ever going to be the same kind of athlete I was again," Maranda said. "So, that was definitely pretty scary for me."

Although Maranda had to sit last season out but, she worked with an athletic trainer at Fordham during that time. They developed a workout regime that helped Maranda regain strength and a full range of motion. Recently, she was cleared to play for the Fordham Rams during her senior year of college.

"We prevented something devastating happening to a young healthy college student," Dr. Chan said. "We were able to catch this early, get her the care she needed and get her back to playing basketball."

After all of this, Maranda is grateful to the staff at NewYork-Presbyterian for giving her the best care to be able to continue to play basketball.

"I can't express how thankful I am to NewYork-Presbyterian for all the help they've given me and all the support throughout this process," Maranda said. "Obviously, without them and without them catching this abscess in my spine, I wouldn't be where I am today, and I wouldn't be able to play today. So, I'm very thankful. It feels great to be back!"