LiveWell Patient Story: Personalized spinal surgery leads to an active life
Monday, April 11, 2022
Rebecca Welch knew long road trips could take a toll on the body, but she had never felt so uncomfortable. After driving to Michigan, she returned to Nashport with a heavy weight sitting on her right shoulder. She also experienced dull pain and tingling that shot down her arms when she moved her head. Even reading a magazine became miserable.
Rebecca told her primary care physician about her discomfort during an annual exam. After imaging, Rebecca met with a rheumatologist, pain management specialist and physical therapist before sitting down with Yasu Harasaki, M.D., Board-certified Neurosurgeon with the Genesis Neurosurgery Group.
“Dr. Harasaki was wonderful. At first, I thought I’d travel to Columbus if I had surgery on my neck or spine. After sitting down with Dr. Harasaki, I changed my mind. He talked with my husband and me for an hour. He was caring and professional. He took his time and didn’t push me into anything. I really liked him by the time I left his office, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else,” Rebecca said.
Dr. Harasaki diagnosed Rebecca with cervical myelopathy and radiculopathy, meaning she suffered from a pinched nerve in the spinal column.
“Bones of the neck are usually stacked and aligned perfectly, creating a tunnel for the spinal cord to pass through. As bones wear down, they can slip out of alignment. The slippage then narrows the spinal cord’s tunnel, and nerves can become pinched. “That’s exactly what happened to Rebecca,”
Dr. Harasaki said. “In fact, she had pinching on multiple levels in her neck.”
Personalized care: Individual bodies require an individual approach
Before her neck and spine problems arose, Rebecca had a couple of instances with difficulty swallowing. To compensate, doctors dilated her esophagus multiple times. Unfortunately, her past medical history impacted her current medical issue.
“The challenge was to fix Rebecca’s back and neck without worsening her swallowing troubles. To avoid disturbing her neck, we chose to surgically enter from the back instead of the front of her neck. This isn’t our traditional approach for the procedure, but it proved to be the best personalized approach for Rebecca,” Dr. Harasaki said.
On surgery day, Dr. Harasaki relieved the pinch and stabilized Rebecca’s spine with rods and screws. He also added material to encourage new bone growth where he fused the discs. The procedure took approximately 3.5 hours, and Rebecca recovered at Genesis Hospital for the next few days.
“Everybody was top-notch at Genesis. Dr. Harasaki and his team were kind, efficient and very caring. Everyone I saw at Genesis was wonderful. That’s why I recommend people stay local for their healthcare – Genesis has excellent team members,” Rebecca said.
Dr. Harasaki also highlighted the benefits of staying close to home for healthcare.
“At Genesis, it’s a team effort. We have a specialized spine team that provides high-quality care right in our community. Plus, we have dedicated operating rooms and the latest technology. Our patients receive very good care here,” Dr. Harasaki said.
“I’m so glad I had the surgery and that I’m back to my walking. I want to be active and stay active, and this surgery made that possible. I’m playing with my granddaughter again and caring for my family.”
Restoring the quality of life
With her neck pain gone and her quality of living restored, Rebecca has returned to the physical activities she adores. For example, last year she walked more than 570 miles along the Gorsuch Fitness Trail on the Genesis Hospital campus.
“I’m so glad I had the surgery and that I’m back to my walking. I want to be active and stay active, and this surgery made that possible. I’m playing with my granddaughter again and caring for my family,” Rebecca said.