“I began to notice a problem in my right hand in March 2007, a few months after I turned 39. It wasn’t pain but rather numbness, which I took to be carpal tunnel syndrome. I went to see my PCP about it. Right away, he noticed something else — I was walking differently, too. He thought it might be in my neck and he sent me for X-rays and then on to a neurologist who ordered an MRI. By this time, I was definitely aware that something more serious was going on. The numbness had traveled to my right arm and leg which were also becoming weaker. The neurologist confirmed what the PCP had said: the problem was in the cervical spine and that I had a very large bulging disc that was pressing on my spinal cord. I was then referred to a neurosurgeon.
“The neurosurgeon showed me and my husband a picture of the pinch point and said that he wanted to do surgery right away. He described the hardware he was going to insert, and said that I should expect to have reduced mobility in my neck afterward. Well, you can imagine that this news scared us plenty. I’m director of recreation at a long-term care facility and the mother of four young children. That wasn’t going to work for me. The next day, I told a nurse colleague at my job about my diagnosis and how concerned I was. She urged me to go see her friend, Dr. Overby, for a second opinion.
“Dr. Overby was wonderful. He explained that I had ‘disc herniation at the C4-C5 level with significant central spinal stenosis and cord compression.’ He also reported that he could pick up some subtle ‘signal changes’ in the spinal cord which meant that more serious problems like partial paralysis were ahead for me if I didn’t have surgery soon. He described a simple stainless steel disc that he could insert to take the place of the damaged disc and said that I should have little if any stiffness or immobility afterward.
“On October 30, 2007 I went in to North Shore University Hospital for the procedure. When I awoke from the anesthesia I had a tiny incision on my neck where Dr. Overby had gone in but otherwise no pain or discomfort. He told me that I was one of the first people in Nassau County to get the brand new Prestige® cervical disc and that the procedure had gone perfectly. I was up and walking the next day and home the day after that.”
“I’ve been back for a couple of follow-ups and I just feel great, without any limitations. I don’t let little things bother me anymore and I treat my body better, eating more carefully, losing some weight, getting more exercise. At 5’11” I used to think of myself as Superwoman and just jumped into everything without thinking about consequences. Now I am more selective because I am so grateful to be here. I celebrated the big 4-0 at my house last December and what a party that was! We literally wore a hole in the floor dancing for joy. And Dr. Overby is my hero. I can’t say enough about his technical abilities or his ability to make patients feel safe in his hands.”
“This odyssey began when I broke my right ankle. The chair I was standing on went out from under me and I ended up on the floor. But that little accident was a blessing in disguise. That’s because my doctor and I paid more attention to the subtle symptoms that followed, whereas I might otherwise have ignored them for months. “As I was recovering from the ankle surgery, I began to experience radiating leg pain in my right leg. The doctor assured me that it had nothing to do with the ankle which had healed nicely. Rather, he thought it was sciatica due to a herniated disc, which is not unusual in someone in later middle age as I was. He said that the disc problem should be checked out and he recommended that I go to see Dr. Hollis. Dr. Hollis took a contrast MRI and came back with the frightening news that I not only had advanced spinal stenosis between L4 and L5 but that I also had a very large, rather rare intradural tumor between L1 and L2. The stenosis could wait but the tumor needed to come out right away. I nearly fainted.
“So a month later I checked into LIJ Medical Center and Dr. Hollis removed the tumor. Thankfully the mass turned out to be benign and it had done no harm to my spinal cord. I came out of that procedure without any side effects except a little residual numbness in that side. That numbness was just enough to put an end to the occasional ache in my right knee that I have had since childhood. Then in November, when I was 100% recovered from the tumor resection, Dr. Hollis brought me back — this time to North Shore University Hospital — to take care of the spinal stenosis. He performed what he described as a minimally invasive lumbar fusion, fixing the fusion with two plates and some connectors at the L4-5 site. After a few days of recovery, the sciatica that had been troubling me for months was gone. Though the physical therapy that Dr. Hollis had prescribed postoperatively was great, I stayed with it only three months because I just felt so good and so normal that I didn’t think I needed it. And the PTs told me I was doing better than they expected, too.
“Dr. Hollis has been fantastic all the way along. He addresses all my questions and concerns, and his neurosurgical results are nothing short of astounding. I’ve met a lot of people who’ve had similar surgery, and when we trade stories I can’t help but notice that most of them still seem to be in some various degree of pain. But for me this experience has been entirely positive. Plain and simple, Dr. Hollis gave me my life back and I think it’s time to go have some fun. After 30 years with the FAA, I’ve decided to retire. My husband and I have started planning the next chapter of our lives, putting our house in East Meadow on the market and we’ll be heading out west soon to resettle, maybe in Las Vegas. I feel like I can do anything now and with all this new-found energy rising I want to find out.”