Michael’s treatment for spinal fracture came after years of wear and tear on his body from putting others’ needs ahead of his own.
For many years, the 74-year-old loving husband served as a caregiver for his wife who had rheumatoid arthritis. And, while living in California, he suffered from back pain and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
Read on to learn how Michael’s treatment for spinal fracture changed his outlook and gave him a new lease on life.
Life Prior to Treatment for Spinal Fracture
Michael had been living with back pain that waxed and waned over the course of his life. While he was living in Los Angeles, he experienced excruciating pain after getting off an airplane.
“My back went out,” he recalls. “I found an orthopedic surgeon at UCLA and he did a laminectomy because part of my disc blew out.”
After that surgery, he went home the next day with no pain. Prior to the surgery, he was unable to bear the pain and could hardly walk. He believes he also experienced sciatic pain and said that it went on for a long time.
“It hurt so bad that whenever I would go to his office, I didn’t wait in a waiting room,” he said. “They put me in a bed.”
At that time, he was told that there is a 15 percent chance that his disc could “blow out” again. This is when the disc, like a jelly donut, can push out its contents and touch the nearby tender nerves which is quite a painful experience. Unfortunately, a year later, Michael got out of bed one morning and fell on his face.
“The disc was blown again,” he said.
Finding IBJI Doctors
After moving to Illinois, Michael was happy to find the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute doctors who helped to coordinate his treatment for spinal fracture. In 2013, he began to see two orthopedic physicians: Jonathan Erulkar, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in spine surgery, and Richard Noren, MD, a pain management physician who is board-certified in anesthesiology.
“They coordinated my care through my electronic medical record, which is now MyChart,” Michael says. “They see each other all the time. They’re in the same building.”
Before treatment for a spinal fracture, Michael received epidural injections by Dr. Noren for his pain.
“He is a very compassionate guy and we would talk about my condition,” Michael says.
During this time, he underwent a three-level foraminotomy for his spinal stenosis with Dr. Erulkar. This, also, occurred before he needed treatment for a spinal fracture. He developed a drop foot after the three-level foraminotomy and Dr. Erulkar wrote him a prescription for a special shoe that would keep him from falling.
But caring for his ailing wife proved to be difficult.
“I kept having issues,” he says. “I was her caregiver, and she would fall and I would pick her up. Sometimes, when picking her up, I’d fall.”
During one event when he was trying to pick up his wife, he fell on his butt and fractured his back. He went to see Drs. Erulkar and Noren and received a shot for the pain.
“They were talking about, at that time, injecting cervical cement into that area,” he recalls.
Suffering a Spinal Fracture
Michael remembers the final event that led to his treatment for spinal fracture. One morning, he went to get his wife breakfast. He was walking back and attempted to open the front door with his foot.
“I fell backward on my butt,” he said.
The result was a fracture in his L1. Both of the times he fell occurred in 2018.
“I was feeling intermittent pain, but Dr. Noren took care of it with injections,” Michael said. “But that was when Dr. Noren said ‘cement is not going to fix this,’ and he gave me a pamphlet on neurostimulation which was pretty interesting. They can install an implant and it alters the pain signal so you don’t feel pain.”
After hearing about this specific treatment for spinal fracture, he decided he wanted to have it done. Interestingly, they are able to do a “test run” prior to the implantation.
“They strap something to your back and attach wires to the thoracic spine,” Michael said. “Dr. Erulkar did it and it was amazing. I said, ‘Okay, wonderful! We’ll do this.”
The day of the surgery came and Michael was glad to know he would no longer suffer from back pain following the neurostimulation treatment for spinal fracture.
“I had the implant done and everything was fine,” he recalls.
That night, as he was going to sleep, his wife was complaining about her stomach. She passed away later that night.
“The next day, I experienced an unrelated bowel obstruction,” he said. “I couldn’t go to her funeral or do anything. I was in the hospital again.”
IBJI Care Following Treatment for Spinal Fracture
Michael got better from his bowel obstruction but developed an issue with his knee. It was fortunate for him that he was able to meet with Bryan Waxman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot, ankle, and knee disorders.
“He cleaned out my knee,” he said. “It turns out it’s arthritis, and that’s something that I’ll have to live with.”
Michael went in for follow-ups with the doctors and that’s when he realized how closely the doctors communicate with one another at IBJI.
“When I would walk into IBJI after my wife passed away, everybody knew about my wife and came up and gave me their condolences,” Michael recalls. “These three doctors are probably the reason I’m alive. They are very compassionate, sweet people who are very good at their profession.”
His implant has a battery that will last for seven to 10 years.
“This is a very good device, and I’m glad I have it,” he said. “I’m very pleased that Dr. Noren suggested that it would be a good idea for me to have that, and for Dr. Erulkar for implanting it. Good teamwork.”
It has enabled him to live a pain-free life and led to significant weight loss since he can now work out.
Back to Activities, Back to a Normal Life
Michael’s life following treatment for spinal fracture is getting better every day. Admittedly, he is a “work in progress” following his injections and surgeries, but he’s been able to return to some of his favorite activities.
“I just went fishing and I hadn’t fished for a very long time,” he says. “I’m able to go into the gym which I wasn’t able to do before.”
He hopes to add golf to the list. He and his childhood friend are planning to return to a golf course they like to visit in a remote location.
“I haven’t golfed in three years, but we’ll see if I can still swing a club,” he says.
Recommending Doctors for the Treatment of Spinal Fracture
Michael says he’s feeling the way he does thanks to the team effort of the doctors at IBJI.
“All in all, these doctors were a large part of my entire recovery,” he says. “I was lucky to have found them. They really did good work on me and that’s why I’m still walking around.”
Need Help With Your Back Pain?
At IBJI, we have an experienced team of physical and occupational therapists, rheumatologists, pain management physicians, sports medicine physicians, and spine surgeons who can evaluate you and discuss treatment for spinal fracture and other spinal disorders. We’ll get you started on the path to relief for your back pain.
Request an appointment and our experts can diagnose your pain and work with you on a treatment plan to get you back to feeling your best.
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