Voices of Our Patients — Spine Surgery Gets Patient Dancing Again

kimonKimon Bekelis, MD
Director of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center and co-director of the Neuro ICU at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center
Chairman, Neurointerventional Services at Catholic Health Services of Long Island Instructor, the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice
West Islip NY

Misinformation regarding spine care in the U.S. is a significant hindrance to understanding the important issues surrounding the care of patients with spinal conditions. At some point in our lives, each and every one of us will experience back or neck pain. Thus, the issues surrounding spine care matter to us all. Neurosurgeons know that if it is the right surgery, for the right patient, at the right time, these interventions can be life-altering. Furthermore, sharing the real stories of patients who have benefitted from spine surgery may help others realize how they may benefit. To this end, here’s Howard’s story:

rprsBy Howard Matatia

This all started in 1993 when I was rear-ended in a car accident. After that date, I could not lift without pain, and my walking became severely restricted.

I suffered from complete numbness in my right leg, which eventually progressed to the left and wasn’t resolving. My feet were also involved, and I felt constant tightness in my thighs. It was a 24/7 ordeal. At the time surgery was deemed very risky by an orthopedic surgeon.

In 2017, I saw Dr. Benzil, and she was the first neurosurgeon to give me hope. She developed a plan and made me feel comfortable with going ahead with the surgery. By that time, my symptoms had progressed so much that I could not get into a car. Dr. Benzil spent the time to carefully explain the procedure and the risks associated with it. I decided to move forward with it.

Dr. Benzil

Dr. Benzil

The results were nothing short of a miracle. My pain resolved immediately. The only residual symptom initially was minimal numbness in my right foot, which has since resolved. I feel that now I have a new life.

I am currently in Physical therapy at CareMount Medical. Mr. Ryan Sy is my therapist.  At first, he corrected a long time right foot defect, which was preventing me from walking fast. He then got me to a point where I can lift 60 pounds with my legs. I use a recumbent bike, stretching exercises, heel and toe raises, sitting forward, trunk leans and heel slides.

I feel like I am 25 now, dancing, and I have a normal life. Words cannot describe my gratitude for my neurosurgeon!

Editor’s Note: We encourage everyone to join the conversation online by using the hashtag #SpineMonth.

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