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David Wagner

Brooklyn, NY
  • David Wagner in the photo 1
  • David Wagner in the photo 2
  • David Wagner in the photo 3

At 67, I joined the club of cancer survivors, only to find myself a few months later experiencing pain in the pad of my right foot, which made wearing shoes and walking uncomfortable.

A few weeks later, a tingling in my calf started. It began as soft sparks that, in turn, gave way to wild, bursts of electric sparks climbing up my leg. The sparks would hit an excruciating crescendo when standing and walking and yet, within seconds of sitting down, it would dissipate. The sparks would return the moment I stood up.

Looking for relief, I saw a podiatrist and a vascular specialist, but neither were able to help. In just three short months I went from taking Pilates every day, cycling and hiking to doing almost nothing. And what was really scary was that whatever was happening was getting more painful by the day.

Desperate for a solution, I finally contacted a spine surgeon at HSS for an evaluation. Meeting him wasn’t what I expected. He welcomed my endless questions, provided answers that were never rushed, and expressed compassion right from the beginning.

Reviewing my x-rays and MRIs, he said he thought the spinal stenosis he saw on my films was pressing into a conjoined nerve between L5-S1, causing my pain. He made it clear that the spine and nerves are a complex part of the body and some things still weren’t well understood, but he was sure he could alleviate at least some of my pain, if not all of it. Of course, this meant surgery.

With plans to travel through Europe with my wife and a photo workshop I was leading in Greece in June, I was afraid surgery would put an end to my active life and my photography career. My surgeon was reassuring that my life could go back to normal. But I had my fears.

Back surgery definitely wasn’t what I expected. After the surgery, when the anesthesia wore off, the Physical Therapist had me get up and walk around—and immediately, I realized that the pain was gone! The very next day I walked one and a half miles and climbed 5 flights of stairs, pain free. In the past 12 weeks, I’ve walked nearly 300 miles and climbed over 800 flights of stairs.

My surgeon once said to me that he loves his work. I believe he demonstrates that every day with humility and a deep sense of caring.

The pain has not returned. I don’t expect it to.