VMC’s surgeons help a man breathe on his own

The following story appeared Friday on NBC 11 News, and reminds us why spinal cord injury care at Valley Medical Center is above and beyond…and why we must protect Silicon Valley’s largest hospital. Read on!

San Jose Surgeons Help Paralyzed Man Breathe on His Own
Procedure could allow thousands of people to regain critical functions

By Jane Ann Furer

Doctors at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center performed a first of its kind surgery to help a paralyzed man breathe on his own.

Four months ago, 59-year-old Kevin Brady fell at his home in Tucson, Arizona. He broke his neck, fractured his skull and until last week, relied on a ventilator to help him breathe.
Oct. 15, a team of surgeons at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) in San Jose implanted electrodes in the muscles of his diaphragm.

They stimulate the diaphragm’s muscles to expand and contract, which pulls air in and out of the lungs.

Those electrodes are connected to a pacemaker that’s worn outside the body.

The procedure is significant because it’s the first time it’s been performed on a recently injured patient.

Doctors say it works because the muscles can still regain function as opposed to someone with an old injury.

“When Kevin’s diaphragm muscles recover their strength, he will be able to breathe without a ventilator for longer and longer periods of time,” said Dr. Akshat Shah, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at SCVMC. “Even though he came to us with severe pulmonary problems, his progress so far has been remarkable.”

SCVMC is one of the first hospitals in the nation to perform such a procedure.

Doctors say it could open the door for hundreds or even thousands of paralyzed Californians to breathe, taste, smell and talk normally for the first time since their injuries.