When he was finally able to return home, a few weeks after the accident, Robert still couldn’t breathe normally. Any exertion left him struggling for air. He couldn’t bend over to lace up his boots and wasn’t able to lie flat, so he slept in a reclining chair. Working was also a challenge, and he had to scale back his practice. At first he thought his shortness of breath would fade as he healed more fully, but when three months had passed since the accident and his condition was no better, he visited his family doctor. Robert was overweight and had diabetes—his doctor told him it was likely his poor general health that was making it difficult to breathe.
Robert, who had been carrying extra weight for a long time, wasn’t convinced that was the problem. Many months after returning home, he was still sleeping in a chair, so he sought a second opinion. After being given the same diagnosis, he tried at least one more doctor and still had no answer. Finally, in the spring of 2016, he convinced a physician to take an X-ray. The test showed that Robert’s diaphragm was elevated and not working properly. When he broke his neck, the nerve roots supplying his phrenic nerve were severed or compromised, causing paralysis of the diaphragm. Doctors told him there was nothing they could do to fix it.
It was Robert’s wife who took to the Internet in search of a better answer. She discovered Dr. Thomas Bauer and his colleague Dr. Matthew Kaufman, a plastic surgeon, who had teamed up to develop a diaphragmatic regeneration program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. In November 2016, the two doctors reviewed Robert’s medical records and consulted with him remotely.
Every patient should know these 33 hospital secrets.