Spine surgeon Paul W. McDonough, MD, in Abilene, Texas, specializes in lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spinal surgery.
When 32-year-old Mary Jones arrived at the hospital in Dr. Paul McDonough’s care, she was unable to move or control any part of her body. Assaulted by her husband, who twisted her neck in a brutal attack and then held her captive for four days afterward, Jones presented with dehydration, rhabdomyolysis (a dangerous breakdown of muscle tissue), and a C-fracture dislocation in her upper neck.
Dr. McDonough performed surgery to stabilize Jones’ spine and relieve pressure, but was not sure that she would regain mobility. In the 24-hour period following a spinal injury, it’s difficult to know what a patient’s ultimate prognosis will be, McDonough said. But four days after her initial injury, the surgeon knew that Jones would no longer be in the “spinal shock” that typically characterizes such an injury, he said.
With that grim realization, McDonough said he didn’t expect any significant recovery.
“Less than 1 percent of patients in that situation will see any meaningful improvement,” he said, though he performed surgery to stabilize and remove pressure from Jones’ spine.
Jones said McDonough was honest with her, telling her he couldn’t promise that she would recover.
She appreciated both his expertise, she said, as well as his honesty. But the thought of not being able to hold close her two children, Jared Jones, 8, and Chelsie Combs, 11, was just too much to bear, she said.”I just wanted to be strong,” she said. “Everyone told me how bad it was, but I just said, ‘I want to do this.'”
And she did. After her stay in the hospital, Jones went to the Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation, still unable to move. Physical therapists helped her to build her core strength, and she soon surprised everyone by regaining movement in her limbs as well. Within a month, Jones could move her right foot and text with her right hand. Though recovery continues, she recently has walked around the block unassisted.
Grateful, Jones commented, “I’m one out of a hundred. I shouldn’t be here. I should be gone. But God gave me another chance.”