Community rallies around local surgeon after spinal cord injury

August 5, 2018 | 6:09 pm

Updated August 9, 2018 | 9:06 pm

Dr. Jim Tidwell is known throughout the Owensboro community not only as a superbly gifted plastic surgeon but as one of the most giving and hardworking men one could ever hope to meet. The same humble man that has dedicated his life to reconstructing trauma wounds and repairing cleft palates is now in need of medical care himself.

According to a recent GoFundMe page, established by fellow physician Dr. Ben Kittinger, “Jim has had a life changing spinal cord injury. Because of the nature of his injury, we will not know the significance of his condition for quite some time. He required emergency surgery and will stay in intensive care in the hospital for several weeks followed by intensive rehabilitation far from his home.”

The money raised from the account will go directly to supporting Jim’s family, and towards any necessary “modifications to his home, medical equipment, adaptive equipment for driving and helping with all the normal bills.”

Just four short months ago, Dr. Tidwell was one of ten recipients of Owensboro Health’s 2018 President’s Awards.

According to the Lane Report, “The individuals who earn the award are recognized for their above-and-beyond dedication to the health system’s core commitments of integrity, service, respect, excellence, innovation and teamwork. Honorees are chosen based on nominations from their co-workers.” Physician award recipients may donate to a selected charity of their choosing.

The report goes on to say that, “This year, Dr. James Tidwell donated half of his award to a local charity and half to ‘Faith in Practice’ for mission trips to Guatemala to repair cleft lips.”

Dr. Tidwell, who is fluent in Spanish, has participated in Faith in Practice for several years and believes that “the biggest single change you can make in the life of a child is to repair the cleft palate.” Without the benefits of this surgery, children may have difficulty feeding and eating, as well as delays in speech and language development.

Surgical patients and the children of Guatemala are not the only ones that have felt the impact of Jim Tidwell’s kindness. Jim spends his mornings exercising with a group of gentlemen that casually refer to themselves as “The Running Buddies.” This tight-knit group of physicians and professionals runs together, often eat together, and support one another in times of need.

According to Dr. Andrew Thompson, DMD, “Jim has been there for every one of us.” From digging wells to assisting with home remodels and moving furniture while still in his surgical scrubs, the stories of Jim Tidwell’s selfless efforts are never-ending.

The community’s response to the GoFundMe page reflects the type of impression Dr. Tidwell has made throughout the community. Within the first five hours, $29,000 of the $100,000 goal had been raised, and thoughts and prayers continue to pour in as Owensboro expresses their appreciation for Jim Tidwell.

To donate to Jim and his family in order to help with impending medical expenses, please visit


On Monday evening, Ben and Renae Kittinger posted an update on the amount of support raised and the status of Jim Tidwell’s condition, via his GoFundMe account:

#TidwellsTribe –

First off….thank you all for your overwhelming support of Jim and his family. You guys! You literally broke the GoFundMe account in the first 24 hours! The account grew so fast that the company contacted us holding funds until we proved Jennie and Jim do in fact exist.

After the first 24 hours of setting up a GoFundMe page, there were over 400 shares, 14,000 views, and >$50,000 raised for his family’s needs. We have no words and continue to be in awe of the many, many lives Jim has touched over the years. Your prayers, texts, calls, messages, and social media comments all get relayed to Jennie who reads them to Jim and are so appreciated.

Some upcoming things to be on the lookout for…

  • We will be having a T-shirt sale fundraiser with Say it Southern for all of our #tidwellstribe members.
  • We have some local businesses that will be offering fundraising dates for us with 10% of the profits going directly to the family. Dates and locations coming soon.
  • Wristbands with #tidwellstribe in the works

Jim’s Condition:

Many have asked us what happened and we apologize to all of those we have not been able to contact individually to update…but as you can see…#tidwellstribe is massive!

Jim was enjoying an evening with family and friends and involved in an injury while sliding down a slip-n-slide. He hit his head on the bottom of the pond at the end of the slip-n-slide. He did not lose consciousness but immediately could tell he was paralyzed. He held his breath until several friends took him out of the water and then called the ambulance.

He was promptly evaluated and treated by the ER and neurosurgery and sent off to surgery.

His surgery was to stabilize the bones of the neck where they had dislocated and were causing him immense discomfort. His surgery went well and he immediately felt better afterwards. He has been his normal gracious self, smiling, talking and welcoming visitors for the last two days.

Jim suffered a cervical spine injury at the C7/T1 level. What this means is he has good movement and control of his arms. He can flex and extend his elbows and he can extend his wrists. He does not have the ability to squeeze his hands yet. It is much too early to make any assumptions on the extent of his recovery. He cannot move his legs currently and has no feeling from below his upper chest.

This afternoon, Jim started to very calmly notice he was having more trouble breathing. He was promptly evaluated and needed help to clear lots of build up in his lungs (bronchoscopy). He now has a breathing tube back in helping him rest. He has already calmly asked to get a tracheostomy to help him breathe and that procedure is already being planned for later in the week. He is currently being treated with IV medication to keep his blood pressure slightly elevated to help get as much blood flow to the area of injury. Once he has completed that treatment, he will likely get the tracheostomy procedure, tentatively planned for Friday.

Tomorrow, we will begin looking at rehab facilities and placing referrals.

Thank you for all you do for us!!
Help spread the word!

August 5, 2018 | 6:09 pm

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