Asbury Park Press by Bonnie Delaney
Neptune, New Jersey, March 22, 2011

“David Lacour’s life changed forever one morning in November 2009, just days before Thanksgiving. The construction worker was working at a dog food plant when he went through a ceiling grid and fell 22 feet to the ground, breaking his C-2 vertebrae.

‘I used to love fishing and hunting — for elk, white-tail deer and quail,’ he said during a February interview from a hospital bed at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, one day before Dr. Matthew Kaufman, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, performed a phrenic nerve graft and implanted a diaphragm pacemaker that will eventually allow Lacour to breathe on his own.
‘I just wish for any little help and relief I can get. You’re just flat and can’t move and can’t breathe,’ said Lacour, who also has a tracheostomy so he can speak and eat more easily. ‘I hope I can become more mobile.’

‘In addition to improving the quality of life for patients, the procedure also is intended to significantly reduce the risk of lung infection, a leading cause of death among quadriplegics’, the doctor said. ‘The cost of care for someone that requires a ventilator is very expensive. You can reduce the cost of care by two-thirds if you can get the patient off the ventilator,’ he said.

‘Lacour had a prior procedure that attempted to implant a diaphragm pacemaker at another hospital, but it failed’, Kaufman said. ‘But we are combining it with phrenic nerve transplanting to give him a better shot at success,’ Kaufman said.

Following the surgery and a period of recovery at Jersey Shore, Lacour was moved to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in East Orange to begin the months-long process of strengthening his diaphragm muscle, starting up the pacemaker and weaning him off the ventilator. ‘David…is recovering nicely’, Kaufman said March 17. ‘We will be turning on the device in approximately two weeks and initiating the rehabilitation process required for successful ventilator weaning.’

Further information about Dr. Kaufman can be found at the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction.