Jim Halpin

Jim Halpin
Procedure: Posterior decompressive laminoplasty

Jim Halpin and his wife Annie were snowmobiling on Cottonwood Pass playing on the side of the mountain when he took a fall off his snowmobile. It wasn’t a bad fall, he remembers rotating a bit and hitting his head on the snow. Briefly paralyzed,  he couldn’t move at all. Finally after about a minute, the strong, athletic EMT started getting a tingling sensation in his hands, then finally some feeling back in his legs. His hands hurt badly with a fiery burning feeling that wouldn’t go away.
A paramedic herself, Annie knew something was wrong. “The terrifying moments of quadriplegia were out of proportion to the mechanism of injury.” So, she took him to the hospital right away where she says they discovered a “time bomb ticking in Jim's neck: there was a narrowing shaped like an hour glass that was crimping down on his spinal cord at C-5 and C-6. The narrowing was the product of both genetics and years of hard work.  

The ER doc recommended Jim see Dr. Poulter, a spine surgeon with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics who provides complete spine care for both children and adults and offers the most current minimally-invasive and fusion-sparing techniques.

After reviewing Jim’s case, Dr. Poulter told him he was a candidate for laminoplasty, a surgical procedure for treating spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal cord. Jim and Annie went home and did some research on the procedure. “We found out that laminoplasty is a sophisticated way of relieving stenosis without a fusion that may compromise adjacent discs and range of motion.”

During the long, delicate operation, Dr. Poulter cut the lamina, two broad plates, on both sides of Jim’s affected vertebrae - cutting through on one side and merely cutting a groove on the other - and then opened the freed flap of bone in order to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. The bone flap was then permanently propped open using small wedges.

Recalling the experience, Annie writes “Dr. Poulter used state-of-the-art precautions and extra techniques that prevented all of the scary complications that sometimes follow laminoplasty. Jim has no deficits and can play again with vigor.”

Following the surgery, Jim’s neck was sore and it would tire easily. He followed Dr. Poulter’s advice and took it easy for the next six months. “I am so lucky Dr. Poulter was available to do the surgery. He gave me a new lease on life.”

Jim is back to doing everything he did before the accident - riding his horses, snowmobiling, skiing, hiking, climbing, staying fit. “I don’t feel the least bit slowed down,” says Jim. “If anything, it’s refreshing to know my neck is normal now.”

Prior to the accident, Jim recalls having occasionally reoccurring numbness in his left arm - apparently being caused by the narrowing in his spine - but he never thought much about it. As Annie says, “Dr. Poulter’s timely intervention prevented a potentially disastrous outcome. We think he walks on water!”