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Innovative Spine Surgery Gets Patient Back on the Golf Course, and on the Water

Paul Weyland on Golf Course
Paul Weyland, patient, enjoying a day on the golf course.

Growing up in Ukiah, CA, Paul Weyland always had a golf club in his hand.

Golf led him to play at Sacramento State and then to several qualifying tours in hopes of playing on the PGA Tour.

At the time, Paul was unaware that his years of swinging a golf club were taking a toll on his spine.

While Paul's love for the game never waned, he realized his goal of playing professional golf wasn't going to happen. So Paul spent the next 21 years as a Special Agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Department of the Interior, where he worked to stop poaching rings and prevent international wildlife smuggling.

On a late, moonlit January night in 2000, Paul received a report of hunters illegally shooting ducks on the Boise River. Paul parked his truck, spotted the hunters, and shined his flashlight while yelling, "Federal Agent, don't move!" 

Paul's worst fear came to life as the hunters turned their shotguns toward him and fired. Fortunately, Paul's thick winter clothing stopped the pellets. Paul then ran toward the river after the hunters. Not seeing a cliff, he fell 20 feet, landing on his back on the frozen river.

To add insult to injury to an ankle sprain and sore back, efforts by the FBI and local sheriffs failed to find the shooters.

Paul retired in 2006 and once again focused on golf—this time as an instructor. Paul went on to coach numerous Idaho high school golfers to success.

In November 2018, Paul had a routine dental appointment. 

Several days later, he woke up with excruciating back pain

Initially, physicians in Boise thought the pain may be caused by kidney stones. But after several days of additional tests, Boise physicians determined Paul had an extremely rare bacterial infection that entered his bloodstream from the mouth following his dental procedure.

Once in the bloodstream, the bacterium attacked several degenerative discs and vertebral bodies in Paul's back, causing his acute pain. Paul spent two weeks in bed with a PICC insertion to deliver antibiotics to his diseased discs. 

Paul began to slowly feel better. But his intense pain returned.

Paul Weyland Holding a Fish
Paul Weyland back on the water, enjoying fly fishing.

As luck would have it, Paul's wife saw a feature on The Today Show about the Intracept procedure; heat is applied through a probe to access angry nerve clusters within the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine. The heat desensitizes the nerves, making them unable to transmit a pain signal from the lower back.

Paul's sports physician in Boise recommended that Paul see Zachary McCormick, MD, at University of Utah Health. Dr. McCormick is a nationally recognized pioneer of the Intracept procedure.

In a one-and-a-half-hour surgery, Dr. McCormick treated four separate vertebral bodies using the Intracept procedure. 

Paul went home the same day of the surgery, immediately feeling better.

"I was very impressed with Dr. McCormick and his team," Paul said. "He really cares about his patients and was honest about how much pain could be lessened by the procedure. From check-in to procedure to post-op, it was one of the best medical experiences I've ever had."

At three months post-surgery, Paul was thrilled he was 80% free of pain. 

Today, Paul's back isn't slowing him down. 

He's once again enjoying his love of flyfishing, along with the occasional nine holes of golf. 

“Paul is a wonderful man, and I am thrilled that he is back to filling his time with activities that give him joy!" says Zachary McCormick MD. "Paul’s experience is exactly why we continue to push the frontiers of spine care through improving diagnostic accuracy and treatment options at the University of Utah.”

Written by Steven Dolbinski for
University of Utah Health