Ernie Hamm of Fort Gratiot lived for years with debilitating back pain that steadily grew worse over time. The 65-year-old says he was no longer able to even walk to his mailbox. Eventually, Ernie decided to consult with Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron’s Dr. E. Neil Pasia.
After thorough examination and imaging, Dr. Pasia determined that Ernie had significant damage in his spine, including spinal stenosis and a bulging disc. Ernie’s damage was more extensive than average, with additional disc degeneration and a form of degenerative scoliosis.
Dr. Pasia ensured Ernie tried every conservative treatment method to help with the pain, including therapy, medicine and injections. These measures weren’t able to offer Ernie any lasting relief, and because the damage in his back was so considerable, the surgery would likewise be extensive. Still, Ernie decided to undergo the procedure, and he doesn’t have regrets.
“The day right after surgery, the pain was totally gone,” says Ernie. His procedure, called a laminectomy, involved the removal of the lamina, or the back part of vertebrae, to create space in the spinal canal that relieves pressure on the nerves. A fusion was also performed, where some vertebrae are permanently fused together to help the back maintain its stability.
“Opening up the space for the nerves really makes a huge difference for patients suffering from pain related to conditions like Ernie’s,” says Dr. Pasia. “For many of the procedures I perform, it’s pretty common for patients to be able to get back to working in their gardens, to hunting, to fishing, to going on trips and to taking care of their grandkids.”
Ernie has now spent years reaping the benefits of his procedure and his own work in recovery. He has even recently taken a family trip to Europe, where he was able to enjoy sightseeing and spending a whole day walking through Greece.
“I was able to walk up the Acropolis of Athens and view the Parthenon without even having to take an aspirin,” says Ernie. He has come a long way, and he continues to live free from the back pain that had once limited his lifestyle.
“It’s likely that Ernie won’t need another surgery,” says Dr. Pasia. “The majority of people who have surgery on their backs, 70 – 80 percent of patients, don’t ever have an additional procedure.”
“Ernie’s surgery was completed over two years ago, but there are more minimally invasive options today that are significantly speeding up patients’ recoveries,” explains Dr. Pasia. “Patients are often able to return to light activity and able to stop medication much sooner, oftentimes, within just a few weeks of their procedure.”