July 16, 2007
U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton well on way to recovery thanks to expertise of spinal cord injury medical team
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—When U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton of Jackson stages a press conference about a hospital, it’s usually to talk about Medicaid fraud or a suspicious death.
But on Friday, Lampton sat in front of TV cameras to extol the capabilities of Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.
“This is an absolutely fantastic facility,” said Lampton, who suffered a bruised spinal cord in a June 27 Jeep accident. “I did not know Methodist Rehab existed until I needed it. Then I was pleased to find it was chosen one of the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report. They are doing great things for people that no one else can do.”
When he arrived at Methodist Rehab on June 29, Lampton couldn’t even touch his finger to his nose. Now he’s walking with assistance, and anticipating a return to work in the coming weeks.
It’s a far cry from what seemed probable when Suzanne Lampton first found her husband lying semi-conscious in a field on their Pike County muscadine farm. “I have seen a lot of spinal cord injury patients, and I knew from his coloring, his level of consciousness and his inability to move his legs that he was in serious condition,” said Suzanne, a former neurology nurse.
The accident occurred as Lampton, his 13-year-old daughter Sidney and her Jackson Prep classmate Ann Marie Edlin were riding in an old Jeep refurbished for farm use. Lampton had put in seatbelts, and both girls were buckled up. But as he stood in the backseat holding onto a roll bar, Sidney’s driving lesson took a tragic turn. “I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing and now I’m paying the price,” he said.
When the Jeep stalled at the top of a steep hill, Sidney dutifully pushed in the clutch and tried to restart it. But the Jeep began rolling backwards, and Sidney couldn’t get the brakes to work. “I’m a better lawyer than I am a mechanic,” explained her dad.
The Jeep came to rest against a small tree, but not before Lampton went flying 16 feet and landed on his back. “I kept patting his face trying to wake him up,” said Sidney. “He started moving his arms, and I was happy about that.”
While Sidney comforted her dad, her friend ran a mile uphill in bare feet to summon help. Suzanne was first on the scene, and she immediately realized her husband’s rescue would be challenging. Cell phone service was spotty. And when emergency workers were finally contacted, they weren’t able to reach Lampton. He had to be transported to the road via an off-duty fireman’s four-wheel-drive truck. Then the ambulance broke down on the highway and Lampton had to be transferred to yet another rescue vehicle.
“We were lucky to have a doctor on board,” said Lampton, who had been joined in the ambulance by Brookhaven physician and family friend Joe Moak.
While all the drama was unfolding, Suzanne – the official calm one of the family -- had the presence of mind to start phoning people who might be able expedite Lampton’s transport to a Jackson hospital. “After I did my initial neurological assessment, I knew we wanted to get Dunn to Jackson. Time is of the essence with that type of injury,” Suzanne said.
Family friend and Jackson cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Stuart Horsley worked out the details via the phone. And neurosurgeon Dr. Lynn Stringer, another family friend, was waiting when Lampton rolled into River Oaks emergency room.
“He had a CT scan and an MRI all done in about 15 minutes and we were able to establish exactly what his problem was,” Dr. Stringer said. “We went ahead with what is a fairly standard protocol – massive doses of steroids over a 24-hour period.”
After just two weeks of therapy at Methodist Rehab, Lampton’s progress is remarkable, said Dr. Stringer. “I think his prognosis for an excellent recovery is extremely high,” he said.
Rehabilitation medicine physician Dr. David Collipp, who has been treating Lampton while his attending physician Dr. Michael Winkelmann is out of town, said he’s also optimistic. “I anticipate he will be walking without assistance in the near future.”
Dr. Collipp said Lampton was fortunate to have people knowledgeable about spinal cord injury at the scene. He also benefited from being at a hospital that treats the vast majority of spinal cord injury patients in Mississippi – including more than 1,000 in the past five years. “What they do they are very good at,” Dr. Collipp said.
Dr. Samuel Grissom, director of Methodist Rehab’s spinal cord injury program, said another factor in Lampton’s favor is the hospital’s emphasis on research. “We have the Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery and that helps us translate new research and discoveries into better clinical care.”
Lampton hopes to return to his duties as U.S. Attorney within a few weeks. Until then, he’ll continue to stay in touch via phone and laptop computer – unless it’s therapy time. Lampton understands that reaching his maximum level of recovery will require continued therapy. “The physical therapists at Methodist Rehab have to work you hard to make you make progress. I intend to reach my maximum medical recovery before I leave.”