March 8, 2019

Life Changing Instant Brings Man to UAMS

UAMS patient Bruce Bell

UAMS patient Bruce Bell

Bruce Bell is proof that a persons life can change in an instant.

While applying weather-proofing material to the ceiling of a building in Pine Bluff, Bell fell 20 feet, landing on his back. No one witnessed his fall, and it is estimated that it took his employees about 10 minutes to find him. “I wasn’t breathing, and my lips and hands were blue,” Bell said.

He was taken to a local hospital, where doctors quickly determined he should be transported to UAMS a move he believes saved his life.

“I couldn’t have picked any better people to take care of me.”

Bell’s injuries included a broken neck and a dislocation of the base of his skull and cervical spine. A very low percentage of people survive such an injury, and those who do often experience severe brain damage as a result.

Dr. T. Glenn Pait, director of the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine Neurosciences Institute and professor of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery, performed the delicate surgery to reattach Bells skull to his spine. “My condition was pretty grim,” Bell said. “I was so blessed to have Dr. Pait. He took excellent care of both me and my family.”

Under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Kiser, now an associate professor in the UAMS Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Bell underwent inpatient physical and occupational therapy for about two months. Within six months he went from being unable to move to talking and walking with assistance.

Nine years later, Bell’s favorite activity is spending time with his wife and three kids. He even hopes one day to run a 5K.

“It was a complicated injury, but everyone always remained positive that I would recover,” he said. “You have to keep fighting.”