An X-ray of Jim Marks’ spinal column told quite a story about a lifetime of activity. Tell-tale signs of arthritis and natural deterioration also explained the pain and the instability in his legs.
The retired teacher, coach and guidance counselor had been active all his life. Last fall, he began noticing nagging pain in his hips. Then he started to lose control of his legs and trip himself when his right toe hit his left foot.
Jim thought he had a bad hip when he went to Goshen Physicians Orthopedics and Sports Medicine for an initial consultation. One look at Jim’s X-ray and Orthopedic Surgeon Arjuna Cuddeback, DO, knew Jim didn’t need joint replacement. His lower spine was weak and structurally unsound from a narrowing of the spine, called stenosis.
That’s when Dr. Cuddeback brought in Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Michael Hartman, MD, to talk with Jim about his condition.
“Dr. Hartman told me I had a lot of mileage on my spinal column,” explained Jim. “I agreed after seeing the X-ray.”
Learning the path to pain relief
Arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes cartilage to wear away. When it’s in the spine, it leaves little support for all the bending, lifting and twisting of everyday life.
Jim, 75, needed back surgery or he would end up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He also learned he needed to follow instructions before, during and after surgery to get himself back on the road to recovery.
“We go over a list of dos and don’ts with every patient before surgery,” explained Sharon Adams, RN. “Patients have to be in the right mindset for surgery – emotionally and psychologically.”
Trust and support play important role in recovery
Jim wanted to go into surgery as prepared as possible. Fortunately, he’s a quick learner and a rule follower. He never hesitated to ask questions during appointments with his medical team. Usually he brought along Nancy, his high school sweetheart and wife of 54 years, to listen and learn with him.
“Everyone was very thorough in explaining what was going to happen,” he said. They also made sure Jim knew about tests, X-rays, MRIs and other appointments leading up to surgery day.
“They coordinated everything between the orthopedic center and hospital,” said Jennifer Anglin, Jim and Nancy’s daughter. “We could call any time with questions and had no concerns when it was time for the surgery.”
On the move again
With five plates, two rods, 10 screws and a four-level fusion in his lower spinal canal, Jim continues to follow instructions as he heals from surgery. His daughter Carol Anderson stepped into the role of his personal coach, making sure he completes his daily walks, physical therapy and at-home exercises.
Follow-up appointments give Jim reassurance that his fused vertebrae are healing into a single, solid bone. He also charts his progress with strengthening exercises and pain-free movement.
Three months after surgery, Jim returned to an activity he’s missed the most, riding his bike. Now he’s looking forward to biking to his favorite destination – the ice cream shop 25 miles from home.
When he gets there, he’ll make sure to show everyone the copy of his post-surgery X-ray. He keeps it in his back pocket just in case someone wants to listen to his story. He hopes it may inspire others to seek medical help like he did and get back to the simple pleasures of life.
To learn more about Goshen Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine visit GoshenOrtho.org.