I was 2 -1/2 years post-op from another doctor and hospital, with spinal fusion from L4-S1. I continued to have pain that grew worse on a continual basis. I saw my first surgeon, (world-renowned), during those years, every three months with moderate improvement for only several months. He attempted an L4-S1 fusion. However, as time went on, there was no additional improvement or even stabilization of the existing symptoms. I was simply getting worse week after week and my x-rays revealed nothing.
Luckily, a recent CT Scan of the abdomen for a different issue, revealed a failed fusion at the lower end of my L5-S1 joint. My first surgeon recommended a revision of what he had done two years earlier, and no involvement of additional levels. There was never a day without pain starting in the late 1990's, even after this first surgical intervention.
My continued inability to drive more than thirty minutes without stopping for ten; or to sit in a restaurant for more than 20 minutes without pain; or to sleep without numerous pills for both pain and sleep; and most important, the inability to even pick up my grandchildren in three years ultimately led to my decision to seek another surgical opinion.
We decided to go to HSS, where we were fortunate to get a quick appointment with the surgeon we wanted to see, Dr. Russel Huang. After our first consultation with Dr. Huang, it was apparent to us that he was a caring, empathetic individual who understood both the nature of my pain, and what should be done to correct the causative spinal issues. He carefully reviewed all documents and 'films' with my wife and me. He explained in complete, logical detail what he would do to help me, why each step was necessary, and what risks/benefits I faced.
In his comprehensive notes following our consult, he stated that he felt he could "significantly reduce the pain” from which I suffered, and could “significantly improve the quality of my life." Having confidence that he could deliver on what we discussed, we scheduled quite 'extensive' surgery for May 23, 2017.
Dr. Huang fused from T11 through my sacrum, adding stabilizing bolts from the sacrum to my pelvis. I have three 14-inch rods, close to twenty screws, and a “cage” set in between L5 and S1. The instrumentation reveals itself in x-ray as a "construction project." I believe this is commonly called a TLIF.
I spent a week in the hospital and was transferred to the Burke Rehab Hospital in White Plains, where I spent another two weeks in occupational and physical therapy. Upon my discharge from Burke, I was able to walk moderate distances, climb stairs, dress and wash myself, and enter or exit a car. And most of this is accomplished with a minimum of pain. My cane and walker are now just used as fixtures, upon which to hang clothing.
As of this writing, almost four months post-op, and for the first time in more than 20 years, I am just about completely pain free, and have had NO PAINKILLERS since leaving rehab! My sleep is better, and my mood improved as well. While it is too early to pick up my grandchildren, I can sit, stand, and walk easily, and without fear of pain. I drive distances now, go shopping, and can once again sit in a bridge game without necessitating my standing up every fifteen minutes. And my wife and I have just planned two vacations, our first in four years.
Dr. Huang delivered on both HIS expectations, AND ours! Meeting him was indeed a life changing experience for which we will be forever grateful! With all due respect to the good doctor, we call him "Houdini - the Magician!"
We also cannot say enough about his office personnel. They make you feel like you’re part of a family...warm, knowledgeable, and efficient. Finally, we found the entire HSS organization. Every interaction we had with staff was friendly, caring, and courteous; and we were asked multiple times a day, "How can I help you?" or "How can I make your day better?" We found HSS to be a most well-oiled "human-helping-machine"... from first request for an appointment throughout our hospital stay, and beyond!
THANK YOU ALL at HSS, for making it possible for me to enjoy life once again!