Resident's Serious Spinal Injury Successfully Treated By WCHN Specialist

Published: January 20, 2019 at 07:00 am


Newtown resident and avid bow hunter Kevin Shepard does not remember the fall or impact when his tree stand failed during a 2015 outing in neighboring Brookfield and he fell 35 feet into a rocky stream bed, fracturing his spine and dislocating his mid-back.

He just remembers waking up cold and almost fully submerged except for his face, and not being able to feel anything below his waist.

“At first I asked ‘why me?’ and felt nervous that I might not be able to walk again. Then I thought about my wife and my two daughters, and that gave me strength. I started to call out for help,” the local resident recalled.

Three and a half years later, Mr Shepard told The Newtown Bee he also recalled a measured sense of relief when the physician and spinal trauma specialist who came to his aid — David Kramer, MD, chief of spine surgery for Danbury Hospital — bent over his partially paralyzed patient and identified himself as a fellow bow hunting enthusiast whose aim was to see Mr Shepard walk again.

That endeavor, which also involved Danbury spinal physician David Bomback, MD, and countless medical professionals, technicians, therapists, and support staff, was not only successful, it steered Mr Shepard down a long road to recovery that eventually resulted him getting his wish to walk his daughters down the aisle at their respective weddings last summer.

Flashing back to the moments after his tragic tumble, Mr Shepard said he remembered falling in and out of consciousness for quite a while before someone found him and called 911. Brookfield Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from Brookfield Fire Department quickly arrived on the scene, stabilized him on a backboard, safely carried him out of the woods, and transported him to the Danbury Hospital Emergency Department (ED).


Into The ER

The Danbury Hospital ED staff was ready for Mr Shepard’s arrival.

Assessing him right away, they determined he had sustained a fracture and dislocation of his mid-back, which had resulted in paraplegia — he was paralyzed from the waist down. It was clear that Mr Shepard would need emergency spine surgery to have any chance of regaining sensation and movement below his waist.

“I kept telling the ED staff that I was focusing on the future, and I saw myself walking each of my daughters down the aisle at their weddings. I felt calm going into surgery and just hoped for the best,” Mr Shepard said.

At around 2 am, hours after Mr Shepard was discovered by fellow hunters lying in the stream bed, the ED paged Dr Kramer, who immediately headed to the hospital. Soon after, Dr Kramer was joined by his partner Dr Bomback, to assist in performing the surgery to repair Mr Shepard’s spinal cord injury.

“Timing is of the essence when a patient sustains a spinal cord injury of this magnitude,” said Dr Kramer explained. “To give Mr Shepard a chance of walking again, we knew we needed to get him to surgery, decompress his spinal cord, and realign and stabilize his spinal column within eight hours from the time of his injury.”

The Danbury Hospital ED and Operating Room (OR) is well-prepared for this type of serious, emergent spinal cord injury and quickly coordinated between the ED physicians, the radiologists, the anesthesiologists, the OR nurses, the spinal cord monitoring team, and the team that prepared Mr Shepard’s spinal implants.

This level of swift coordination is critical so the patient can transition into surgery as quickly as possible.

“After the surgery, Dr Kramer came to my room. The first thing he said was that he heard my story from the ED staff about my daughters. He has three daughters himself, and he could relate to my concerns,” said Mr Shepard. “He explained that because he quickly got me into the OR and then performed surgery to decompress and stabilize my spine, he was optimistic I would fulfill my wish.”

To learn more about Dr Kramer or Dr Bomback, click here.

Read the full feature in this week's print edition of The Newtown Bee - on local newsstands or subscribe by calling 203-426-3141 or by clicking HERE.

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