Thirty three-year-old software engineer Vamsi Polisetty was waiting for a bus outside the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles International Airport hotel in September when the unthinkable happened.
Polisetty had just exited the hotel lobby when Alesia Ann Duffy, 51, plummeted from the 11th story of the hotel and landed directly on Polisetty’s back, according to the Orange County Register.
The woman died at the scene; Polisetty was immediately knocked unconscious due to the force of the impact. He awoke later at the UCLA Spine Center, where doctors told him he had fractured two vertebra in his lower back and needed emergency spine realignment surgery.
That the man lived at all was something of a miracle; according to CBS Los Angeles, the damage to Poliestty’s back was so severe that doctors had only heard of eight similar cases nationwide.
It was once thought that delaying spine surgery for a few days would allow swelling to subside so as to relieve pressure and increase doctors’ chances of success. But in this case, they immediately sprang into action. After a two-hour surgery–performed by an orthopedic spine surgeon who had never before done the procedure–doctors said that not only will Polisetty be able to continue using his hands for his computer programming work, but there is a good chance he will be able to walk again.
According to the paper, Polisetty has already regained some feeling in his legs, and recently wiggled an ankle. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office reportedly ruled the woman’s death accidental.
“I did not see her coming from the top,” he told the Register. “That’s good, because there’s no trauma or anything.”