Keith roberts collage

Two years ago, Keith Roberts was relocating his office. He began to feel immediate pain in his lower back after lifting a table. The pain became progressively worse from that point. His doctor told him it was just a sprain, but he soon learned more about his diagnosis.  After a regimen including rest and anti-inflammatory medications, he didn’t get better. “I’m a fairly active person and I knew there was something more to this,” he said. His first doctor ordered an MRI and the scan revealed a herniated disc. “My wife and I did a lot of research and we decided to try Texas Back Institute,” Keith said. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done.”

Keith made an appointment with Dr. Jessica Shellock and hasn’t looked back since. Texas Back Institute helped him navigate through the sometimes laborious paperwork involved with a worker’s compensation claim. “Without Dr. Shellock’s medical expertise and Tonya’s help with everything, I have no idea where I would be today.”  The Tonya he is referring to is Dr. Shellock’s medical assistant, Tonya Edwards. Medical Assistants are imperative to the delivery of healthcare for the providers at Texas Back Institute. They help obtain information about the patient including vital signs, medication, and their medical history.  They also assist the patient with future testing and appointments. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to get the surgery that I really needed to get better.”

After failing to respond to conservative treatment and without sustained relief following a microdiscectomy, Keith ultimately underwent a L5-S1 fusion in November 2012 with Dr. Shellock.  It was after progressive worsening of his symptoms at this point that I recommended the fusion,” said Dr. Shellock.  “He has done fantastic. “

He took three months off of work to recover properly and is now attending outpatient physical therapy sessions at TBI. He went from being very active to no activity and is now making a comeback. In April, he was able to complete his first 6-mile bike ride and this summer, his plans include a 12-mile hike in the Ozarks with his wife.  He and his wife are avid photographers and have donated art work for Dr. Shellock’s patient rooms.

“It’s amazing to go from being able to walk less than a half a mile and having so much pain to this,” said Keith. “I missed out on 2 years of my life and I would be missing more if it weren’t for Dr. Shellock.”

RasmussenCollage

Gracie Rasmussen is a 13-year-old athlete who loves the sport of cheerleading. Her dream had always been to compete for Cheer Athletics, a nationally renowned cheerleading powerhouse.  She worked hard to make the team, spending hours in the gym each day perfecting every tumble, dance move and stunt.  Like most of the girls, she had to ice down parts of her body that would ache after practice.  For Gracie, it was her back that hurt the most, a pain easy to dismiss after watching the cheerleaders tumble, jump, stretch and flip over and over again.

It was actually a weekend off from cheerleading, spent on the lake with her family that brought her a diagnosis of scoliosis.  Gracie and her sister, Sawyer, were riding an inner-tube being pulled by a boat on the lake, when they both fell off and jarred their backs. An X-ray on Gracie’s back confirmed much more than bruising: it illuminated a severe case of scoliosis that was bending Gracie’s spine at a 65-degree angle.

“I was just so impressed with Dr. Lieberman,” said Lynn Rasmussen, Gracie’s mom. “He spoke directly to her.  He looked her in the eye and told her exactly what was going on. He worked her in and within two weeks, she was having surgery.”

“Gracie’s eight-hour surgery was an instrumentation correction fusion for idiopathic scoliosis – essentially, we realigned her spine and locked everything where it needed to be by using computer-navigated robotic assistance for the placement of the hardware,” noted Dr. Lieberman. “We use tools like this to achieve the best accuracy, effectiveness and efficiency we can for patients who need a procedure like this.”

Cheerleaders are known for their positive attitudes and strong spirits.  But it was faith, Gracie says, that pulled her through: “I was really nervous about the surgery, but I knew that I needed it. I had just made Cheer Athletics team – it was my dream to go there.  I just prayed about it.” A strong Christian faith and friends at her church, Prestonwood North Baptist Church, Gracie said, helped her through surgery and recovery. She spent eight days in the hospital at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and continues physical therapy at home.

Almost a year post-surgery, it was mom Lynn who was the most nervous as her daughter prepared to do her first back flip on the mat at the gym where Gracie practices.

“I couldn’t believe it when she did it,” she recalled. “I was jumping up and down and saying, ‘Gracie, you did it! You did it! And she looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, ‘Mom, I’ve done this, like, a thousand times before.’ But I was thinking, ‘Yes, but you got it back!’ Nothing prepares you for watching your child relearn everything they knew, from lifting their head to walking to tumbling.”

Gracie’s passion for cheering pushed her to work hard through her recovery to continue the sport she loves so much.  Her coaches credit her strong work ethic and muscle memory for allowing her to get back onto the mat so quickly post-surgery.

“Tumbling is a lot easier now,” notes Gracie, when talking about her recovery and her return to her sport. “It’s straighter and it’s easier.” Gracie never knew that it was a curve in her spine that was causing her to veer off to the side during tumbling passes, something she had struggled to control. Even just months after her surgery, she felt that her back was stronger and that things were coming easier than they did before.

“Gracie is an athlete,” said Dr. Lieberman. “While we want the best outcome we can for all patients, we know that flexibility is particularly important for these young men and women.”

Gracie, who loves English and writing, is looking forward to writing the ending to this chapter in her life, which she hopes includes a spot on her high school cheerleading squad. One day, she wants to help others by going into the field of physical therapy or sports medicine, and she is excited to share her story with other patients who may be going through a similar experience with a diagnosis of scoliosis.

Her advice for them?

“Just trust the doctors and know that you will be stronger than you ever were.”

Spoken like a true cheerleader.

1st US Service Member to Receive Artificial Disc Celebrates 8 Years Pain-Free

He was a U.S. Marine on Active Duty, planning a career as a Naval Aviator, when a herniated disc stopped everything. Alex Fender saw all his plans postponed, then stopped indefinitely, as physicians repeatedly told him that he would be ‘medically retired’ from the Corps at the age of 21. It was a prediction he refused to accept.

In 2004, Fender met Dr. Scott Blumenthal, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute in Plano. After the initial exam, Dr. Blumenthal suggested an artificial disc, which was a new procedure at the time.

Artificial Disc Replacement had just recently been FDA approved back then,” says Dr. Blumenthal, “I had exceptional outcomes since performing the first disc replacement in the US and I knew Alex would be a good candidate for this procedure.”

Fender was up and walking pain-free hours after his surgery. He had no complications, served four more years on Active Duty, and was honorably discharged in 2008.

Today, Fender is a successful entrepreneur in Dallas. He now serves as CEO of Funnel Science, an internet marketing and SEO agency.

“Staying healthy is objective number one,” says Fender. “You can’t get on with your life if you’re not able to get up and go to work. Texas Back Institute gave me that opportunity, and I’m glad to be an example of how well this surgery works.”

Professional bass fisherman, Ryan Lovelace gets back to fishing

As a professional bass fisherman, Ryan’s pain was exacerbated by his participation in several fishing tournaments every year. In order to win or place in these professional bass fishing tournaments, the angler must catch as many bass as possible with the idea being that the final fish weight of his top 5 fish are compared to the other participants.

The fishing tournament typically lasts for two days and the more fish that are caught, the higher probability of getting 5 huge ones. This requires lots of casts. How many? “I typically cast 3,000 to 3,500 casts each day of a tournament,” Lovelace said.
Standing on his feet for about 8 hours and casting 3,000 times a day during a tournament took its toll on Ryan’s injured back. Over time, it wore down his L5 vertebra and Dr. Richard Guyer at Texas Back Institute recommended a microdiscectomy.
After this procedure was completed, Ryan spent less than 24 hours in the hospital for recovery and was sent home for rest and further rehabilitation. A short while after his operation, Ryan is getting back to his top fishing form. He hopes to be completely recovered and able to compete in the 2013 pro bass fishing season.

Patient of the Month

Robbin Hallford went from unable to stand to increasing the number of yoga classes she teaches thanks to the miracle of 360 fusion.

Baby Boomer Robbin Hallford is a teacher and yoga instructor who can proudly state she is more active now than in her 20’s thanks to the miracle of modern surgery. Hallford, a 48-year old mother of three, underwent a 360 fusion around her L4 and L5 vertebrae in March of 2011. Since that time, she has proven daily that she can stay active and continue teaching yoga. In fact, she is planning to increase the number of classes she is teaching this summer, only a year after surgery.

Surgery was not Hallford’s first choice. After several days of pain and the inability to move her left leg, she attempted to manage the pain with chiropractic treatments. It was during these treatments that x-rays showed the lumbar area to be foggy. The chiropractor suggested an MRI, which Hallford took to a physician who recommended Dr. Michael Duffy of the Texas Back Institute.

Dr. Duffy made every effort to help me control the pain, including steroid shots, pain control and anti-inflammatory drugs. Unfortunately, I had reactions to the medications, particularly the anti-inflammatory,” said Hallford.

Hallford collapsed in her class, which was the final straw. She decided to move forward with back surgery at Texas Back Institute. Dr. Duffy assembled a team of experts to ensure that Hallford’s surgery went smoothly. In March of 2011, they performed a 360 fusion on L4 and L5, giving Hallford much needed relief.

“We knew that Robbin’s condition would be considerably improved by a 360 degree fusion,” said Dr. Duffy. “Having a patient who was so dedicated to post-operative physical therapy certainly expedited her recovery.”

Hallford’sbackground is in physical therapy and kinesiology, so she was well aware of the effort it would take to recover from surgery.

“I was in devastating pain, thinking of giving up my yoga practice and going on disability,” said Hallford. “Thanks to Dr. Duffy and his great team, I am 100% better. I got the life back that I wanted. For me, surgery was the answer.”

Like many baby boomers, Hallford wants to continue an active life on her own terms and not let injuries or aging slow her down.

“My 48 does not look like my mother’s 48 or my grandmother’s. I do more now than I did when I was 20 years old. I’m stronger now. The surgery helped me to be able to keep that,” said Hallford.

Hallford is not a proponent of choosing surgery first. In fact, she chose to use her own knowledge and skills in yoga to postpone surgery as long as possible. In the end, it was the miracle of back surgery that gave her the life she wanted.

“If there is any way, do it without surgery. But it you cannot avoid it – go to TBI. I highly recommend Michael Duffy. To take me from where I was to where I am now, he’s a very skilled physician. The team they put together was top-notch. If you are facing [spine] surgery, I can tell you with all confidence you will get the best treatment and honestly I believe the best outcome.”

Guest blogger, Anabelle Gutierrez, Workers’ Compensation Specialist, love her job!

Workers’ compensation can be tricky which is why it’s important to have a concierge case manager dedicated to each patient. At Texas Back Institute we realize this and we have a team of dedicated work comp professionals to help each patient through the workers’ compensation process. My name is Anabelle and I am your resource for anything workers’ comp related at Texas Back Institute.

Anabelle and her beautiful nephew.

I love my job! I have worked at Texas Back Institute for several years and I still feel like every day I am going to make a difference in someone’s life.  My goal is to help walk each work comp patient through their treatment process.  When someone is injured on the job and unable to work it can be exceedingly stressful and I want to make sure when it comes to TBI, we make the process as easy as possible.

I strive to provide each one of my patients with individualized care and attentiveness.  I know it’s not only important for our physicians to communicate effectively; I also have to make sure I am keeping an open dialogue with my patients so they always know where we are in the process of their claim. I truly love the days when a patient expresses how much I have helped with their workers’ compensation process. When patients articulate they are able to do things now they couldn’t do before, I know I was part of the team who made it happen! My most memorable day thus far was when a former patient stopped by to let us know how she was doing. Her comment will always stick out in my mind. She said, “Texas Back Institute does get people back to life, look at me I can walk without pain!” I love knowing my job helps people get back to doing the things back pain or neck pain once prevented them from doing.

Patient of the Month – Felix Gonzales

At 58 years old, Felix Gonzalez, Jr. was a quadriparetic from severe repetitive stress injuries incurred while employed as an aircraft assembly worker. He was confined to a wheelchair and could barely use his arms and legs.

Today, he’s living independently in the Dallas area – thanks to what spine surgeons call a miraculous recovery from modern surgery.

“When I came to TBI, I could not even tie my shoes,” said Gonzalez. “Now I use a walker to walk, have my own apartment, can drive and shop for my groceries. I am slowly gathering my independence.”

Last year, Gonzalez was living with his parents in Washington State, unable to care for himself. Fortunately, his sister-in-law found a place that would treat Gonzalez’s injuries and provide him with relief – Texas Back Institute.

“We knew we could help,” said Dr. Daniel Bradley, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute, “but we had no idea how well Felix would recover.”

Gonzalez met with Dr. Bradley and his team to outline a treatment schedule. Dr. Bradley is a pioneer in minimally invasive spine surgery at the Texas Back Institute in Denton, Texas. He performed the cervical fusion first to give Gonzalez relief by alleviating pressure in his spine. Gonzales made what the staff called a miraculous recovery during therapy due to his discipline and diligence.

Next, Dr. Bradley performed the lumbar decompression surgery on Gonzalez. Again, after extraordinary progress in physical therapy, Gonzalez was walking.

Gonzalez does not plan to stop his progress any time soon. He is hoping to be using just a cane in the next month. And he has other plans.

“I want to get back on a Harley and join my friends in Arizona. We used to ride the Four Corners. I will do that again,” said Gonzalez.

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