Spine Fusion

Rick's surgery story.

For Rick Ely, back pain and spine surgery are all-too-familiar territory. 

The 64-year-old retired firefighter from Quarryville has dealt with back pain for many years and had his first spine surgery when in his early 50s. In recent years, Rick was able to go about his life without major pain, until an unfortunate accident stopped him in his tracks.

A Fall and a Return to Pain

Recently, Rick fell on some slippery steps in his back yard and ruptured a disc. He was in intense pain from a subsequent pinched nerve and spent most of his time either in bed or a recliner chair. He could not drive or take part in any of the activities he enjoyed. 

Rick’s primary care doctor ordered an MRI to better understand the injury.

A Referral to Neurosurgeon Dr. Nick Hernandez 

After reviewing the MRI results, Rick’s doctor suggested he meet with Dr. Nick Hernandez, a neurosurgeon with LG Health Physicians NeuroScience & Spine Associates

“I was interested in seeing if Dr. Hernandez had new approaches to back pain and surgery, since he recently went through med school and training,” says Rick.

As is typical, Rick first underwent non-surgical treatments, including physical therapy and lumbar epidural steroid injections. However, his pain did not improve and he did require spine surgery. Dr. Hernandez removed the herniated disc to relieve the pressure on his nerve and performed a fusion of the L1-L2 vertebrae with revision of the previous L2-L3 fusion.

An “Incredible” Surgical Experience 

While Rick had had multiple surgeries before, his latest experience really stood out. 

“It was just an incredible experience,” he says. “The nursing staff treated me like a human being. They were so respectful. I sent flowers to my main nurses as a thank you.” 

The surgery itself was also a success. 

“I was pain free the afternoon after surgery. I was up and walking after I got over the effects of anesthesia. My nurses would take walks with me. The next day I wanted to walk down to get the post-surgery X-rays, but they wouldn’t let me of course,” he laughs. 

Kudos to Dr. Hernandez

Rick was extremely impressed by Dr. Hernandez’s skill and care.

“It was a hard surgery due to the severity of the disc injury—to avoid hurting the nerve,” explains Rick. 

He gets emotional when talking about one particular moment in his recovery.

“I had surgery on Friday and on Saturday morning Dr. Hernandez came in to check on me. It was his day off. That meant so much to me,” says Rick, who also appreciated how well Dr. Hernandez kept his family doctor informed.

Back in Action

This is how Rick described his progress to a spine program team member at a follow-up appointment two weeks after his surgery: “If you were to take your hand, and place it on the floor, that would be how low my quality of life was prior to the surgery. Two weeks out from surgery, if you take your hand and raise it up to the ceiling, that is how high my quality of life is right now.” 

Rick is back to walking for exercise, chopping wood, taking care of his property, and is getting a camper to travel with his wife and four large dogs.

Rick is hopeful that spinal cord surgeries are behind him. “Dr. Hernandez told me I should be OK as long as I don’t do anything to hurt it,” chuckles Rick

“I recommend Dr. Hernandez to anyone I come across who has back pain. I can’t say enough good things.” 

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