Relief from Pain Brings Her “Back to Being the Mom I Was”
Excruciating. That’s how Landi Wolter describes the pain she was feeling on her right side, working down from her neck to her shoulder and into her right arm. This busy single mom with three kids and a job in the Winnebago County court system saw her life thrown into a tailspin when she was diagnosed with two herniated discs by her family practice physician.
“I was popping Advil non-stop and then had to switch to stronger medication,” she recalls. “That made me so tired I couldn’t do anything with my kids and it was affecting my job.”
Following the initial diagnosis in late 2014, her family physician referred her to Spine Surgeon Michael Roh, M.D., at Rockford Spine Center, who explained where the herniated discs were located and some treatment options, including surgery.
Patients have a very visceral reaction to their pain, says Dr. Roh. “When I meet with a patient, I pay close attention to both their non-verbal signs and the adjectives they use to describe their pain. What’s most telling is when a patient explains all the things that they can’t do because of their pain. It’s very emotional for them.”
In Landi’s case, the disc herniations were severe. Her first treatment was an epidural pain injection, followed by physical therapy. Neither brought her any relief.
“We tried the injection and then I did PT three times a week for a month but it didn’t help,” she says. “My right hand was going numb on a regular basis and when I dropped a cup of coffee because of that, I knew it was time to do something.”
She met with Dr. Roh again, who outlined the options for surgery. They chose a total disc replacement (TDR), which Dr. Roh has performed numerous times with very positive outcomes.
Landi remembers how “ready” she was to have the surgery and how excited she was to hear Dr. Roh tell her that when she awoke, the pain would be gone.
“It was just crazy how that worked,” she says. “He said I would have instant pain relief and it was immediately gone. I had the surgery on a Wednesday and was back to work on Monday.”
Landi followed her doctor’s orders and worked hard to keep her sutures and the incision clean, which led to a full and uneventful recovery. Today, about a year after the surgery, she tells people that if they have this kind of severe pain to get it checked out right away.
“It’s amazing how my life changed,” Landi says. “I’m back to being the mom I was before I was in so much pain. I can’t say enough about Dr. Roh and his team. They were just amazing.”
Rusty Hayes knows back pain. A former football player who has always lived a vigorous and active lifestyle, he’s had surgeries in the past to repair spine and disc issues. This time was different.
Working on his backyard deck last summer, he stood up and his back “seized up.” He couldn’t walk. For the Senior Pastor at First Free Rockford, this was a serious and unwelcome interruption to his ministry and his life that required immediate action.
A visit to his primary care physician, followed by consultations from both a pain management therapist and orthopedic surgeon, showed the severity of the injury. The diagnosis? Recurrent disc herniations with radiating pain, numbness and tingling, along with severe and intractable back and leg pain.
Unfortunately, physical therapy, pain medication and even electrical stimulation from a TENS unit brought no relief. A referral to Rockford Spine Center brought Hayes to spine surgeon Christopher Sliva, M.D.
“Seeing Rusty for the first time, it was clear he was suffering,” recalls Dr. Sliva. “He had difficulty even walking across the room before he had to stop and rest.”
The solution? Expedited surgery.
“From my first encounter with Dr. Sliva, I could tell that I was at a different place than what I’d experienced before,” Hayes recalls. “They have a tremendous team and it’s such an impressive facility. They spent time with my wife and me talking about the procedure and making a plan.”
A week later, Dr. Sliva and his team performed a transforaminal lumbar fusion on Hayes. The procedure removed two discs from between the vertebrae and then fused the vertebrae together, while “installing” two rods to stabilize the spine.
“Immediate relief,” was what Hayes felt when he woke up and he recalls being able to stand up on the same day following the surgery. For his surgeon, that brought immediate satisfaction as well.
“It’s gratifying to see how surgery can relieve the pain they were once experiencing,” says Dr. Sliva. “I see them right after the surgery and they have that initial relief. Then, I’ll see them again post-surgery and they’re progressing and back to doing the things they were unable to do because of the pain. That’s very rewarding.”
Hayes’ recovery has progressed quickly and he’s back in the gym and weight training again. If you were walking alongside him, he’ll point out, you couldn’t tell that anything is different. And, most importantly, he’s back preaching again.
“I’ve had procedures in Dallas and in Boulder, Colorado,” says Hayes. “This was by far the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s high quality and nationally elite. It’s such a blessing to be able to get that kind of care here.”
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