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Getting Back to Being Me - Stephen's Story

August 24, 2015

Stephen Lewis and his fianceeStephen Lewis spent the majority of the winter of 2015 shoveling his driveway. Like many in the Putnam, CT area, he shoveled for hours in the frigid weather after repeated snowstorms. At first the numbness in his hands wasn’t out of the ordinary. It was cold, right? But then the numbness started lasting longer.

It started coming on days Stephen didn’t shovel. Then Stephen began having trouble with his hips and legs. He started limiting his jogging time. Lifting things for his job, at the local Staples Distribution Center in Dayville, CT, became cumbersome and he tired easily. His coordination to play basketball started to falter and playing with his kids became harder. At 36, Stephen was in good shape, but something was slowly hampering his ability to play his favorite sport and perform his job.

“I felt like I was falling apart!” he said.

It was frustrating for Stephen. So, at the urging of his fiancee, he made an appointment with his primary care physician, Dr. Fattaleh, to see what the problem might be. Upon examination Dr. Fattaleh became concerned that Stephen's issue was likely very serious and sent him for an MRI and EMG. Dr. Fattaleh also referred Stephen to Dr. Daniel George, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine care and surgery at The Center for Bone & Joint Care in Putnam, for a consult. 

Dr. George had just joined the practice a month earlier after more than two decades practicing in Sharon, CT. He became interested in this specialty area after an acute accident left him with a degenerative disc that required surgery at the age of 18.

X-ray of Stephen's neckWhen Dr. George examined Stephen and viewed the results of his MRI and x-rays, he found that the issue was a damaged disc in Stephen’s neck. It was degenerating and putting significant pressure on the spinal cord – necessitating immediate surgery. 

Dr. George scheduled the procedure for his first week in the operating room at Day Kimball Hospital.

“Discs are like paper clips,” said Dr. George. “You can bend them, but eventually they begin to fray and splinter, and the insides will start poking out. When this happens, it can cause significant pain and nerve damage. I try to limit surgery to only the most acute cases and try other avenues of rehabilitation first – like physical therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture.”

Dr. George explained that in Stephen’s case, the disc was placing a lot of pressure on his spinal cord and causing nerve damage that was hampering his arm and leg mobility…and quality of life. “I knew we had to act fast,” said Dr. George.

On Dr. George’s inaugural day in the Day Kimball Hospital operating room, he replaced Stephen’s degenerative disc with a plastic disc. The positive impact on Stephen was almost immediate. In visiting with him in the recovery room, Dr. George was pleasantly surprised to find Stephen already feeling relief. Stephen said: “I feel better than I have in months!”

“We rarely see such an immediate alleviation of pain, but in Stephen’s case, he is young and in good shape, so the relief was quicker,” said Dr. George. Stephen's PCP, Dr. Fattaleh, continued to help him to manage his pain after surgery and throughout the recovery process.

A few weeks after surgery, Stephen is itching to get back to work and his usual sports activities. “I feel so much better. I can’t wait to get back being me and playing basketball and jogging again. I’m not there yet, though. I’m still taking it slow until the doctor says I can. But thanks to the great care I received I’ve gotten my life back!”

He is also extremely grateful for his experience with his neighborhood hospital. Stephen lives on the same street as the hospital in Putnam.

“It would have been much harder on me and my family to have to go further to have my surgery,” said Stephen. “I was glad and very lucky that it is there because traveling would have been a real pain –literally and figuratively. Both Dr. George and the staff at the hospital were awesome and very professional; they exceeded my expectations by far. Big shout out to them!”


Related Resources

Surgical Care 
Orthopedic Surgery 
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


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