At the end of 2018, Laura Wilson began experiencing pain and numbness in her shoulder blades and left arm. She initially thought she was having muscle spasms. But as the pain worsened, Laura knew the problem was more serious and that she needed to take action.
Active throughout her life, Laura had never experienced back problems. Then an injury prevented her from doing her job as a registered nurse for several months, marking the first time she’d been out of work since giving birth 30 years prior. The pain interrupted her regular activities and diminished her quality of life. Unable to sit up, she was forced to constantly either lay flat or walk around. She couldn’t travel and could barely drive.
Yet, when severe pain down her arm made her think she may be having a heart attack, she visited urgent care to find out. Fortunately, an examination showed that the pain may be related to her neck.
Laura’s primary care physician referred her to be evaluated by Dr. Peter Miller, an Iredell Health System neurospine surgeon.
On her first visit, Laura felt agitated before meeting office staff. She was experiencing intense pain and was unsure whether Miller’s office would be able to provide the help she needed. She even felt she needed to apologize for not being friendly enough.
“The entire staff just welcomed me and let me know that that’s what they’re there for – that I need to tell them the truth and tell them what’s going on,” she said.
With Miller’s guidance, Laura pursued a conservative path. Every two weeks she would receive selective nerve-root injections to help relieve pain. After the injections, Laura would feel better for a day or two before the pain would return. After six weeks, Laura knew she needed to try something else.
Throughout the process, Miller would tell Laura, “We just want you to get your life back.”
Miller presented Laura’s options to her, let her go at her own pace, and helped her along the way. He told her about minimally invasive cervical disc replacement, a newer procedure that involves replacing two cervical discs. He and physician assistant Whitney Reavis evaluated Laura and saw that she was a good candidate for the procedure. They left the decision up to Laura, who chose to go ahead with the surgery.
Prior to the surgery, Laura attended the office’s class for patients with an upcoming surgery.
During the class, surgical nurse Cara Kimmet described what the surgery would entail. Laura found it helpful to understand what to expect the day of surgery, such as how she would be positioned.
“I have a background as a surgical nurse, but I didn’t ever participate in spinal surgery,” Laura said. “So I was not sure what to expect. The class really helped decrease my fear, and I just appreciated it so much.”
After having her surgery performed at Iredell Memorial, Laura is grateful for the care she received at the hospital.
“I could not have asked for a better operative team, postoperative team, the nurses, the CNAs, everyone on the post-op,” she said. “The care I received at Iredell Memorial Hospital was fantastic from the day I went in for preoperative evaluation, through the operative process, and my post-operative care on the nursing unit. I could not have been more impressed. I’d like to thank everyone that took care of me.”
On Laura’s first postoperative visit, each surgical team member came in to say hi and let her know how well she’d done. “It made me feel like the whole team cared about me and my recovery,” she said.
Laura now has full pain relief in her back, shoulder, and arm. She returned to work eight weeks after the surgery, has no physical restrictions, and can participate in her regular activities.
“It has been a great choice. Now everything feels so much better,” she said. “I definitely have my life back now.”