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Cristin Van Driel
Running for a reason

Cristin Van Driel with Dr. Porter.
You can follow Cristin's journey on her blog or make a gift to support neurological research and treatment at Barrow in her honor.

Cristin Van Driel, formerly a competitive cyclist, was on a training ride in 2000 when she was hit by a car traveling between 45 and 55 mph. She was thrown nearly 50 feet, landing on her back and fracturing multiple vertebrae.

Her doctors initially thought she would be paralyzed. She didn’t regain complete feeling in her legs until days after the accident. Her road to recovery would prove anything but smooth.

Cristin went on to endure one and a half years of major physical therapy. For a decade after the accident, she suffered from constant, debilitating pain and profound neurological deficits. Her condition deteriorated until she had very limited use of her left leg.

“I lived on pain killers and had physical therapy three to four days per week during that time,” Cristin says. “Some of the best neurosurgeons in Milwaukee and Chicago said I was lucky to be walking, but that any surgery to repair the damage to my spine would be so intricate that complications would almost surely follow.”

A place of hope

Enter Randall Porter, MD, and Barrow Neurological Institute. Cristin, who lived in Phoenix from 2004 through 2006, had been in contact with Scott Kreiner, MD, of Ahwatukee Sport and Spine, and he recommended she travel from Wisconsin to the Valley to seek a consultation with Dr. Porter. 

“I trusted him right away,” Cristin says of her first encounter with Dr. Porter. “He said that he would do everything he could to get me back to living the life I love to live. He was the first neurosurgeon to give me any sense of hope.”

Cristin’s hopes were set on the road to realization with her first surgery at Barrow in January 2010. Dr. Porter used screws, rods and plates to stabilize and rebuild her spine. She has since had five additional surgeries to release nerve roots and alleviate pressure on the surrounding structures, because of the intial injuries sustained as a result of the accident in 2000 and years of spinal deterioration resulting from it. 

Her results have been spectacular, though.

Cristin has resumed her competitive running career and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2012. She hopes to continue to inspire all those she coaches and is writing a book. She has also started a charity called Ultimate Courage Overcoming Obstacles to raise money for neurological research and treatment at Barrow. 

“For me, it is a way that I can give back to Barrow, because they have pretty much given me back the life that I want to live.” 

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