“Jamie has a 1% chance of ever walking again.”
This news was delivered to Jamie Alamillo’s family in the fall of 2013. Leading up to this, Alamillo was feeling some lower back pain, something he attributed to exercising.
“It felt like just a little kink in my back,” said Jamie. “Ever since that point, my back felt like it was thrown out. I was 43 then, so I thought it would take a little longer to heal as I was a little bit older. It would come back, and then go away. “
Then, a month later, the pain came back “with a vengeance,” Jamie said.
“I was feeling really sore. I had to come home early from work and lie down in a relaxed position hoping it would heal itself. One Saturday night in November, I told my wife that something didn’t feel right, and then a few minutes later I was paralyzed from the waist down. We called our doctor and told him the severity of the paralysis, and then I was taken to the emergency department at Henry Mayo.”
Henry Mayo emergency physicians discovered a number of lesions on Jamie’s spine, and then further discovered that the lesions had fractured his spine in two places. Shortly after, Jamie went into an emergency surgery performed by Mark Liker M.D.
After the surgery, Jamie’s family was informed that he an advanced case of multiple myeloma, a rare disease that causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. They were also told he had a 1% chance of walking again.
“This was all told to my wife as she was by herself in the courtyard at Henry Mayo. The nursing staff was very kind to her, wanted to make her feel comfortable, and wanted to help.”
After being informed of his advanced case, Jamie’s oncologist wanted to get him in to physical therapy as soon as possible.
“Henry Mayo physician Dr. Alexander Black wanted to get me into therapy as soon as I could. I wanted to do chemotherapy immediately, but I was told I had to wait and heal first. I have two little kids and didn’t want to wait…I was like, ‘let’s do it now!’”
Before Jamie began his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he went through an extensive physical therapy rehabilitation program at Henry Mayo.
One of Alamillo’s first steps in physical therapy was setting goals.
“I was in Henry Mayo’s physical therapy department for at least a month when they asked me one question: ‘What do you want to get out of this?’ My response? ‘I want to walk!’ From that point on, I knew the Henry Mayo staff was on my side and I knew they believed in me.”
After undergoing a year of physical therapy two to three times a week, Jamie was showing progress which then led to him establishing even more goals.
“I was able to regain some movement in my toes and in my legs. I started thinking, ‘If I can move my legs, I’m definitely going to walk again, and once I’m able to walk, I’m doing a marathon.’”
Two years after receiving news that he would never walk again, Alamillo overcame the odds and started walking, which led to him competing in a half marathon in the fall of 2015.
Around this time, Alamillo started raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, a blood cancer charity that’s been around since 1949. To date, Alamillo has had two teams that have raised about a half a million dollars for cancer research, charity, and awareness. Alamillo estimates that he personally has raised $35,000 for the society.
“I never cheated myself through my therapy. I’ve heard horror stories that some therapists go through the motions when they receive patients like me, but that did not happen with the Henry Mayo therapists. They never gave up. I owe Henry Mayo my life.”
Since July of 2014, Jamie has been in remission and treats the cancer with a chemo pill and also receives quarterly infusions. However, this has not slowed him down in the slightest.
“I still hear the staff encouraging me and guiding me. It still sticks with me.”
To date, Jamie has logged over 1,400 miles of activity highlighted by nine half marathons, five century rides, three marathons, a triathlon, a ½ iron man race, a ½ iron duathlon, and most-recently, a 558 mile bicycle ride to Lake Tahoe from Santa Clarita.
“Henry Mayo felt my passion and knew that I wanted to walk. I just can’t thank them enough. ”
For more information on Henry Mayo’s physical therapy department, please visit herymayo.com or call 661.200.2000.