The first day I met Dr. Dowdell in person, I could barely get out of my car and I could barely walk from my car to the front entrance. I had to take very short and careful steps with my left leg due the pain I was in. I was a very fit 57 year old yogi, triathlete and multi marathoner with a demanding job, 2 kids and degenerative discs in my spine. I went for a 2 hour horseback ride during the pandemic and was in excruciating pain the next day. I researched every source possible, I tried NSAIDs, I did months and months of PT, I got two cortisone shots to my spine and was gradually getting worse and worse and so began my search for a longer term solution.
I got 5 opinions. The first doctor I went to did x-rays and suggested an ALIF where they go in from the front (like a C-section) and have to move your primary arteries, etc. to access your spine and then fuse L5/S1. The second doctor did x-rays and an MRI and suggested a laminectomy where they slide downward, cut and pull off the muscle of L4. The 3rd doctor used the other image and x-ray and suggested an OLIF from the side and fusion of L3.
This is when I began proactively asking for recommendations and doing more research and I first read about minimally invasive back surgery. I was also told by several people that HSS was the best place to go. When I read Dr. Dowdell's profile which mentioned his interest in minimally invasive robotic surgery I thought it would be worth the ride into the city. But, as it turns out, he was able to do my first visit virtually (during the pandemic) where we mostly talked about what I was feeling pain wise, and he looked at the images I had done. Then, I found out that they have a location in Paramus and I was able to see him 15 minutes from my home. He wanted to have new x-rays done a certain way, and he had a specific CAT scan done in order to really analyze my problem. He spent more than an hour with me, going over all of the images, the angles, the technique and why a MIS TLIF (minimally invasive, transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion) on L5/S1 was causing my pain. It was the way he used the available technology, imaging and the compassion he had for me while I was struggling that made me realize he was invested in my health. He wanted me to get better and was presenting the very best option at the very best hospital.
I was very nervous and tenuous about this procedure and the recovery. Dr. Dowdell's staff (Teresa and Caitlyn especially), both his office staff in NYC and in Paramus are really incredible, the set every thing up, made sure my insurance was all set, and really made it easy, they are always happy and always helpful and always available over email, on phone.
My experience with the actual surgery was seamless as well. HSS has it down. They prepped me and Dr. Dowdell came in and talked through everything in detail, step by step. The OR team was great and everything went well. Almost immediately after the surgery, my leg pain was relieved and the nerve pain was gone. The post-surgery nurses were really amazing, especially the overnight nurse the first night (she brought me an ice cream!). I was walking with help the night of the surgery and out of the hospital and home the next afternoon. I attribute this to the minimally invasive technique. The first couple of weeks were uncomfortable but as long as I stuck with the medication routine it was tolerable. I was walking miles within weeks and have been walking every day since. I'm now 6 months post-op and feeling very good. My leg feels great, no pain, I don't have the nerve pain that would stop me in my tracks and I'm walking 4-6 miles per day. I've had friends tell me that they I forget I had the surgery because I'm moving so well and I'm able to move freely, take are of daily stuff and feel normal again. As I ease my way back into more activity I can't thank and recommend Dr. Dowdell and HSS enough and I highly recommend minimally invasive back surgery to anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation. The good news is there's hope!