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Kellie Kieley

Guilderland, NY

In August of 2014 (2 weeks after I got married) I started experiencing odd sensations in my throat. A pressure and discomfort was the best way to describe. I have Crohn's Disease and thought maybe It was that. The Crohn's has been under control for a long time though, soI really did not know. My GI doctor ordered a test to see barium go down my throat. The radiologist immediately came out and said, "Honey there is nothing wrong with your esophagus, but there is something very wrong with your neck. You should go see a neurosurgeon quickly." I am a very active person. I was relieved that nothing was wrong with my esophagus, and just continued on with life, worry free. Within a few weeks my neck started hurting (and I mean It felt like It was dying) and my right arm into my fingers had nerve issues. I could only hold my arm a certain way. I had an MRI done at a neurosurgeon's office in Albany, NY. I was horrified when he came in and told me I needed surgery ASAP and the degree of the surgery was beyond what he could do.

In my cervical spine I had 4 levels of compressed nerves, C-4-T1, spondylolisthesis, spondylolysis, spinal stenosis and severe degenerative disc disease. I was only 42 years old. I saw 2 local surgeons in Albany who both said surgery was imminent. However, one said he would go through the front of my neck (anterior), while the other said he did not think an anterior cervical fusion would hold because of the severe structural compromise of my neck. He said he would go in through the back (a very painful recovery with longer healing time).

A family member told me not to let anyone in Albany touch my spine, but to go to HSS. They repaired a botched spinal operation on my 12-year-old niece. I was referred to Dr. James Farmer. I met with him 2 times before I ultimately had surgery. I also met with another surgeon in NYC (I won't say his name). Online he had great reviews. I left his office in tears because he was so abrupt. He told me I would need to be cut in the front AND the back!

Dr. Farmer certainly agreed that I had a big problem. He said my neck on an MRI looked like a 90-year-old gymnast. He knew I was mentally not ready for surgery,(I was too scared) but told me when my arm and hand really started to become a problem, (and I would know) to get to him quickly. After 5 years of meds, exercises, and a lifestyle change, the time came. During a walk my shoulder blade down through my fingers felt like I was being electrocuted. My arm and fingers were moving on their own, but the pain was excruciating! I visited the ER in hopes of some relief. They did an MRI and called Dr. Farmer. I went to see him on a Friday and he had me in surgery on Tuesday.

He said there was no time to wait or I would lose my arm and hand. I knew he was right.

I called him panicking on Monday. He took the call and calmed me down. Right before the surgery he came to talk to me and told me "Positive Energy." This man changed my life. It was an 8 hour surgery through the front. He did It! He visited me afterwards and told me what he did. He said it went great. I had to wear a brace for 10 weeks, but it was not bad. I had my 3 month follow up yesterday and got many clearances! No shoveling still though. HAHA guess my husband will have to do that.

The pain is gone. My 2 fingers are still numb, but Dr. Farmer said It could take up to a year. The nerves were damaged so badly, so I get It. I feel great! I can write and type again! Dr. Farmer is a superhuman to me. For 5 years I had nightmares about having this surgery. He was great from beginning to end! Kind, understanding, humble, but most importantly an OUTSTANDING surgeon! Thank you for my life back Dr. Farmer, your staff and HSS! I am so grateful!