Updated: Nov 27, 2018
Note: Thank you to James T. for sharing your story!
Lower Back Issues
My lower back issues began with a football injury in high school in 1963. Through the years, I would experience a flare up every 10 years or so, usually following an ill advised activity, such as long stretches sitting in the car or lifting a bucket of sand out of a car trunk. I had a workman’s comp claim in the mid-80s set off by digging up irrigation lines that resulted in nearly two years of chiropractic treatment.
The condition was relatively dormant until the spring of 2014, when a flare up after skiing resulted in my first round of epidural shots administered at the Steadman Clinic. By the time I had the treatment, nerve damage had left me with numbness in my calf and big toe on my left side and dropfoot in my left foot.
Remarkably, this treatment provided immediate pain relief and lasted nearly four years, providing relief from the debilitating pain experienced in the initial flare up. However, the MRI taken revealed the source of the problem: the degeneration of the discs in the L3-L4-L5 area of the lumbar region. In the fall of 2017, while I was completing physical therapy treatments for an April total right knee replacement, I began to experience pain across my left glute area and down the lateral left side of my quad/IT band and later in my left big toe. The pain was present any time I was walking or standing.
Fortunately, I had very little pain when sitting or lying down. In October 2017 I scheduled another round of shots. This round of shots provided some relief, but not the scope or immediacy of the first treatment. The relief from this round of shots lasted until early January, when I caught a very serious cold with 24 hour a day coughing for nearly two weeks. The stress inflicted on my back from the coughing completely negated any benefit I gained from the October treatment. I had another round of shots from in mid-February- this treatment provided even less relief than the October treatment had.
In a last round of desperation, I scheduled another, as it turned out final, round of shots from . The doctor requested another MRI to see if the condition had deteriorated since the original MRI from 2014, which it had. This treatment also resulted in minimal relief, and he suggested that I consider surgery. He suggested a doctor in Denver that he had had prior experience with for some of his previous patients.
Not really wanting to go to Denver for the procedure and inevitable follow up appointments, I reached out to four friends in the medical profession here in Eagle County. They were: Bri Hirsch Maher PA, Lindsey Adams NP, Dr. Jean Hadley of Colorado Mountain Medical, and Meredith Mueller of Axis.
Contacting Dr. Braxton
All were very enthusiastic about recommending that I contact Dr. Braxton for an explanation of the XLIF procedure he was using for lumbar surgery. My initial appointment with Dr. Braxton convinced me that he was the surgeon I wanted to fix my back. I found him to be very personable and approachable, and his explanation of the procedure was compelling and reassuring.
"Up And Walking Within Hours"
I was also enthusiastic about the reduced recovery aspect of XLIF, having had friends who had the traditional procedure and suffered through extended rehab afterward. While he suggested that I might want to get additional opinions, I had already decided to schedule the surgery based on my impression of Dr. Braxton.
When he expressed that his main goal was to help people, I had absolutely no reason to question his sincerity. My surgery was performed on 8/2/18. Within hours of my procedure, I was up and walking with absolutely no sign of the extraordinary pain I had experienced for over a year, which has not returned.
The progression of my recovery has been exactly as portrayed at my initial consultation.
Back to Hiking
On 9/2/18 I was able to take a two mile hike on flat terrain. On 9/23/18 I completed the Berry Picker trail on Vail Mountain, which encompassed 3.2 miles and 2200 feet of vertical gain with no issues other than tired legs from not quite having regained my conditioning, which to be honest was less than optimal after a year of debilitating pain from my condition.
As I proceed with my physical therapy with Meredith, I can feel my strength returning week by week. My goal is to be ready for the upcoming ski season, and I trust Dr. Braxton’s assessment that I’ll be ready with time to spare. I would unequivocally recommend to persons with issues in their lumbar region such as mine that they consider Dr. Braxton and Dr. Schoeff as their surgeons.
World Class Care
The care I received at every step of the way from Drs. Braxton and Schoeff, Vail Summit Orthopaedics, and the Vail Surgical Center was absolutely world class. I’m looking forward to my completed recovery and return to the activities that have made my life here in Eagle County so rewarding.