After 35 years of a blue collar lifestyle (15 years as an auto mechanic followed by 20 years as a career firefighter), my body began talking to me big time! Two years back and forth in my NJ medical group resulted in x-rays, muscle relaxers, PT and 2 failed attempts at steroid injections. I was suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis that would require surgery. I had also developed a stiff neck and some minor pain down my left arm. After sharing this with my NJ pain management doctor a few times, he ordered an MRI to get a “baseline” of my neck. That MRI resulted in devastating news. I was immediately sent to my NJ medical group’s spinal surgeon who stated I was a fraction of an inch away from being a quadriplegic. I was told I needed a triple level fusion in my neck which would likely cause a 70% reduction in my neck mobility and end my career as a firefighter. All this, and my lower back pain would remain as it also would need eventual surgery as well. I needed help and I needed hope. I turned to HSS for a second opinion.
I found Dr. Han Jo Kim right on this website and read his history and the stories of his patients just like the one I am writing now. I had hope. The day I met Dr. Kim, I will never ever forget. I told him my story, and like no other doctor I have ever met before (even my personal physician for 35 years), he listened to every word in detail. I ended my story with “I just want to finish my career as a firefighter with honor.” Dr. Kim put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.” He explained he would do a procedure that many spinal surgeons were not comfortable doing but he had done many. The procedure was called a cervical laminoplasty. I did not need any fusions, and I would be able to return to the FD full duty in weeks.
Dr. Kim explained the surgery in detail and answered all my questions. Literally everything he predicted was right on target rom post-operative pain to time of recovery. I returned six weeks after the surgery and was fully healed. We then scheduled the lumbar surgery for two weeks later. Fast forward eight weeks and I am cleared for full duty at the FD. BACK IN THE GAME!!!
The level of care I received from Dr. Kim and his entire staff was world class. I cannot express enough gratitude and appreciation for his entire team and all those who I encountered throughout my stay at HSS. This place is like no other hospital I have ever visited or worked with. I feel so honored and blessed to have been a recipient of the unbelievable talent Dr. Kim brings to HSS and will return to my career giving it everything I can to pay it forward.
Battalion Chief Andy Stratton- Cranford, NJ Fire Department