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A Shopping Trip with an Unexpected Detour


At first, Samantha Gumpman of Harrington didn’t feel anything when she broke her neck.

In November 2011, Gumpman was traveling northbound on DuPont Highway near the Canterbury Shore Stop, excited about a shopping trip at the mall when another car hit hers, causing her to crash into yet another car. The collision snapped the second-top vertebrae in her neck – the vertebrae that, along with the topmost vertebrae, forms the joint that connects the spine with the skull. Her collarbone was also broken and displaced.

“I didn’t feel a thing at first, I was unconscious. I woke up when they were pulling me out of the car. Then, I felt like someone was stabbing me in the back.  I couldn’t feel any pain in my neck. I passed out again in the ambulance,” she said.

Gumpman needed surgery immediately. Unfamiliar with the new neurosurgery program at Bayhealth Kent General, her parents wanted her flown to an out-of-county hospital.

“Samantha’s injury required quicker care,” said Bayhealth Neurosurgeon James D. Mills, MD. “Hers was a very complex case, and it was best to not have to take the risk of travel.”

Several treatment options were available. Dr. Mills chose to pull the C1 and C2 vertebrae together with a screw, a minimally invasive surgical option that would allow Samantha to spend less time in the hospital and recover more quickly as well.

After a week recovering, Samantha went home. She wore a stabilizing neck brace for nearly four months and saw Dr. Mills regularly for check-ups as well.

In November 2012, one year after her accident, the screw holding the two vertebrae together will be removed.

“The bone has fused back together, so the screw is no longer needed,” Dr. Mills explained.

“My friends used to joke that they would ‘snap my neck’ if I did this or that. They don’t say that anymore!” Samantha laughed. “I’m just so lucky Dr. Mills is here. That surgery was such a risk, and he saved my life.”

Fore more information about Neurosurgery visit bayhealth.org/neurosurgery.

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