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Inspirational Comeback Story Powered by Determination & a Dedicated Team


An essential characteristic for any diehard sports fan is determination. A positive attitude, a great sense of humor, and an unshakeable faith in yourself and your team are welcome additions. Will Goldman has all of the above.

Time and time again Will has been let down by Washington teams which according to him, "like to break his heart," but all that means is he appreciates a good comeback story; and none compare to his own.

In the summer of 2016, Will began to notice some changes in his body. Lately he hadn't been able to run very fast, or far or long, and he began to experience weakness and numbness in his left leg below his knee. When it got to the point where he couldn't even walk a block without having to stop, he knew something was wrong.

"This is really weird" he thought, "this isn't right."

But Will attributed these changes to an injury he had suffered just nine months earlier: a shattered tibia while visiting his hometown in Washington, DC. When he called his doctor to confirm, he was told the symptoms indicated a spinal injury and was immediately put in touch with William Spiker, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at U of U Health.

Will's MRI confirmed that he would be needing surgery for spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing and tightening of vertebrate and can occur from wear and tear on the body, but can commonly occur in people with achondroplasia. He was scheduled for surgery a month out, but then went straight into the ER after experiencing symptoms he was advised to be on the alert for—such as severe weakness in his legs or incontinence—meaning he would need an emergency surgery. In Will's case he ended up in a five-hour surgery in the middle of the night.

Will was initially expecting to spend only four days in the hospital with some follow-up therapy, but due to the urgent nature of the surgery, it turned into a month-long stay. Despite a much longer stay than anticipated, Will never let it dampen his spirit. Singing and dancing were just as much a part of his daily routine as any other part of the physical healing process.

"It really has been a fun experience" he said, "as weird as it sounds, I've actually really enjoyed it."

Surrounded by new faces at U of U Health Sugar House Rehabilitation Clinic, Will developed relationships with everyone around him, not just the clinicians he was working with—some of whom he was meeting for the first time—but other patients at the clinic as well, who he said inspired and motivated him. "I really enjoyed being around other patients," he said. "I've always liked being around other people."

Will is not shy, and was likely to be found cracking jokes and laughing with anyone and everyone who was around. Will recalls one day in particular at outpatient therapy, when someone approached him to simply thank him for his positive attitude, which helped them throughout their own process.

When it came to Will's recovery, he was determined. He wasted no time when it came to taking charge of his own health, as he was eager to get back to his life—especially back to his jobs with the U of U Athletics Department and the Utah Jazz. And he finally had a team he could count on, that would help lead him to victory.

Will gives his care team a lot of the credit for much of the progress he made; but they give it right back, attributing his success to his positive spirit and enthusiasm. Will fondly recalls going to physical therapy and both Emily Kanaley, his in-patient physical therapist and Lindsay Humphrey, his occupational therapist, received high praise from him.

"Those two were the cream of the crop," he said. "The best of the best."

Will was extremely grateful for the care and support of everyone on his team who helped him through the kind of physical rehabilitation needed for a quality future. Once he was discharged, he met Katherine 'Kiki' Kilbourne, DPT, who he worked with for a year and who was especially impressed by the progress he made.

"Not only has he exceeded everyone's expectations as far as his recovery, but he is really just an amazing person," she said. "He is a well-loved member of the U of U community."

Without any assistance, Will is walking away from this experience with a newfound respect and admiration for the care U of U Health gives to their community.

"It's gotten me to see this whole new world," he said "What the physical therapists do, what Kiki does for other people, is so selfless and so amazing."