Man shatters vertebrae while working on home project

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Doing home improvement yourself can save money, but it also comes with risk. 


        What You Need To Know

    • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports there were more than 24,000 home improvement injuries that sent patients to the hospital in 2020
    • A Charlotte contractor says he severely injured his back when working on a painting project at his parents’ house
    • He didn’t have anyone holding his 16-foot ladder, and it slid to the ground  


Brian Lord has been doing home improvement work for 25 years. He loves using his hands, skills and imagination to create a new space.

“I enjoy just seeing the beginning product and what comes out at the end,” Lord said. “I like seeing the change.”

He is usually really careful on the job, and says he has never had a major injury while working. But one afternoon in March, he let his guard down. He was on a ladder 16 feet above the ground, tinting the windows of his parents’ house.

“The ladder slid out from under me,” Lord said. “I had just enough time to brace myself and get ready for the fall.”

He is not sure what caused the ladder to slide. What he did know, though, is when he slammed to the ground, he was in a lot of pain. He found out he shattered his L1 vertebrae.

“One of the pieces was pushed against my spinal cord, and all I had to do was move the wrong way, and I could be paralyzed from the waste down,” Lord said.

Lord was worried about his livelihood. He went to see Novant Health neurosurgeon Dr. John Berry-Candelario for surgery.

“He had a notable risk of neurologic compromise, specifically at the area where the injury occurred,” Berry-Candelario said. “He could have become commonly what we call paraplegic.”

Candelario immediately performed surgery to remove the damaged vertebra and stabilize the spine.

“The goal is that six to 12 months after that injury, he is able to get back to his regular life and quite frankly not need to see someone like me,” Candelario said.

It took Lord even less time to recover than expected. In nine weeks, he was back at work. But this scary experience made him much more cautious.

“If you are going to be on a ladder, it is always good to have a second man there,” Lord said. “Definitely have someone holding the ladder if at all possible.”

It’s advice that he plans to follow the next time around.