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Keith and Bobbi Richardson

Cheyenne, WY
  • Keith and Bobbi Richardson in the photo 1
  • Keith and Bobbi Richardson in the photo 2
  • Keith and Bobbi Richardson in the photo 3

About four years ago my wife, Bobbi, began experiencing severe pains in her neck and head. Within three months the pains became debilitating and she was nearly bedridden. At the early stages she received injections which did not work, and then we saw an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports-related injuries of the spine. We were uncomfortable with his surgical recommendation. We decided that we wanted to find a specialist, one of the top cervical spine surgeons in the USA. At first this seemed a daunting task, but after some study online I developed a strategy that brought Dr. Darren Lebl to my attention.


I began with the assumption that the best surgeons operate out of the best hospitals. I discovered the U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best USA hospitals for various specialties, including orthopedics. I also learned that the best hospitals also had the best websites with the most complete analyses of their physicians. U.S. News listed the top ten orthopedic hospitals, and I confined my search to the top 3. I learned that HSS was ranked #1 for Orthopedic Surgery (now 12 years on a row). I had never heard of them. My initial sort listed about 40-50 orthopedic surgeons at each of these hospitals I found it was fairly easy to scan their bios and eliminate all who were not cervical spine specialists. The resulting list of 10 or so surgeons was very manageable and I did a “deep dive” of each of them going from their thumbnail bios to their detailed bios.

For my deep dive, I assumed that the best surgeons graduated from the best schools and served their residency at the best orthopedic hospitals. I educated myself on these schools and hospitals through the U.S. News website. It was easy to whittle this list down using the websites most of which include a summary of the surgeon’s areas of interest and philosophy, their educational and training backgrounds, their work history their outside interests, and helpful patient reviews and videos.


I found that Dr. Lebl has practiced for many years at HSS. Prior to that he practiced at another highly ranked hospital and took a year off between these two appointments to study with the top cervical spine specialists in the world, traveling to Japan, China, Germany, and Spain. He directed a Complex Cervical Spine Symposium at HSS bringing together leading international cervical spine surgeons for advanced training. These facts spoke to me of Dr. Lebl’s commitment to the advancement of cervical spine surgical techniques and practice.

His education and training reveal that he earned degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the USA with a dedication to multi-faceted learning in diverse and intellectually challenging fields: biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, economics and even earning an MBA from Wharton! His surgical residency at Harvard/MGH, and fellowship at HSS plus many other pursuits and awards reveal a person of tremendous intellect, wide ranging interests and the drive and history of pursuing excellence.

I found no other surgeon who better met my search criteria. I was convinced he was among the top cervical spine surgeons in the USA, and we immediately arranged to see him for a second opinion.


Bobbi had a rapid onset of severe pain in her neck and head reducing her in three months from an active 70-year-old in great physical condition to being bedridden and in unrelenting, debilitating pain. As noted previously we were uncomfortable with our first medical evaluation, and our search was rewarded with our first visit to Dr. Lebl. He quickly identified Bobbi’s problem as a commonly misdiagnosed issue and recommended a special procedure involving C2-C4. Our previous surgeon would have performed a fusion of the lower cervical spine which would not have addressed her problem at all. Bobbi and I trusted Dr. Lebl’s opinion and she had surgery within 60 days. Her debilitating pain was totally gone, and she had a quick and complete recovery. She remains active and hard working in our outdoor settings in Wyoming, Idaho and Washington State.


About a year after Bobbi’s surgery my chronic sciatica pain advanced to a level that impeded my lifestyle. At 73 years I could no longer ride horses for 6 hours a day as required by my hobby: competing in horseback field trials of bird dogs. I could barely ride an hour without having to quit for the day. I know many people who have had unsuccessful fusions of the lower spine, but I decided to trust Dr. Lebl for my problem, reasoning that a surgeon able to treat complex issues of the cervical spine could certainly deal with my more common issue. Dr. Lebl recommended anterior and posterior fusions of L4-L5, and L5-S1. I have never experienced sciatica pain since my surgery.


It is now four years since Bobbi’s surgery and two years since mine. We have both recently been seen by Dr. Lebl and he pronounced that our surgeries have healed extremely well, and the affected areas are stronger than ever. We have never experience any of the previous pains and feel it is time to write this article confirming our experience with Dr. Lebl.

Dr. Lebl is compassionate, friendly and professional, and was able to walk us through the complex maze of x-rays, MRIs and CT scans describing the problem and offering his proposed solution in terms we could easily understand. He did not “dump the truck” with an overload of information, but fully addressed any concerns or issues requiring clarification. We both would recommend Dr. Lebl to anyone seeking the optimal resolution of their spinal problems whether it is therapy or surgery. He is not prone to recommend surgery as the first step, but will provide a sensible plan. If surgery is eventually recommended you may expect the best surgical outcome for your spinal problems, and especially if you are suffering from complex issues of the cervical spine.