Wesley Palmer, Sr., Spinal Trauma Patient

Learn how our spine surgeons helped Wesley back on his feet after a debilitating 12-story fall.


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Thirty-one years ago, at the age of 19, Wesley Palmer fell from a 12-story water tower in Olney, IL while working from the top. The fall not only left an impression on the ground – there were two six-inch imprints where he fell, feet first – but also on how Wesley approaches every day activities.

The fall broke his legs and also caused a compression fracture to his spine. He was helicoptered to a St. Louis area hospital, and in the months that followed he underwent three surgeries and, as could be imagined, extensive rehabilitation to work through the pain and paralyzing effects of the accident.

Additional surgeries took place on his feet, ankles and knees to help him eventually regain the ability to walk and have feeling in his lower extremities. Since moving to Southern California he was back to golfing and regular activities again – something no one thought possible just a few months earlier.

As time passed however, Wesley became stiff. His feet would ‘give out’ as he walked and his spine caused him to hunch forward.

In 2016, Wesley came to St. Louis to visit family when suddenly, while standing at the base of the St. Louis Arch, his legs buckled and he experienced tremendous pain and numbness throughout the lower half of his body. He was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and seen by Munish Gupta, MD, a Washington University orthopedic surgeon he had met while working in Southern California.

During the unexpected reunion, Dr. Gupta and his team took x-rays, MRIs and CTs and found that Wesley’s lumbar vertebrae had become worn out and as the spinal cord broke down it pinched, causing the numbness in his legs and feet.

Forty-eight hours later Wesley was in surgery with Dr. Gupta. The procedure to reconstruct and decompress his spine took 10 hours.

“Sitting straight and feeling great,” is how Wesley explains how he feels now. He is excited about what the future holds as he stands on his own two feet.

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