MY STORY WITH DR. ALEXANDER HUGHES
My name is Patricia McGarry (nickname is Bebe). I am 74-years-old, I love to dance, do yoga, walk and have 8 grandchildren. I saw Dr. Hughes twice for my back pain. In April 2018, he did surgery on my lumbar spine as well as a fusion (L3-4) and laminectomy. Just recently I saw him in October 2020 for sciatica and extreme back pain that sent me to the emergency room.
My back had been bothering me for 8 years before I got surgery. I had tried everything - acupuncture, yoga, epidurals, spine stretching, physical therapy, etc. I found that it was getting harder and harder to walk.
I’d been in several accidents and had a number of bulging discs and stenosis on my spine.
I live in Brooklyn right across from New York City, that has some of the best hospitals and doctors in the world. I had consultations with the doctors at several top New York hospitals before I came to Dr. Hughes. I had wanted minimally invasive surgery, which he does. But he explained that would not work and why. He said that he would not advise it because it would not hold my spine. He then explained why he would do a fusion on my L3-4. I had read that instability above and below the spine after a fusion often happens. Dr. Hughes showed me on an x-ray why he believed my spine would be stable after surgery.
I decided to go to Dr. Hughes for these reasons. This was his specialty - he was young and did this type of surgery every week. He was the most thorough of all the surgeons I had met. He studied at the top hospitals, was a spine surgeon at HSS and an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Weill Cornell. Also, he was studying and researching new methods of treatment. Also, you are only as good as the team around you. Dr. Hughes has an excellent team of assistants, PAs, and staff who watched every aspect of my treatment. I have Parkinson's and medication and anesthesia can be tricky.
HSS was known as the top hospital in the country for orthopedic surgery. They were the best organized hospital I’d seen, and it was beautifully designed with views of the river. My surgery went well and Dr. Hughes informed me that I was free to get on with my life, which I did.I went back to dancing, walking, and yoga.
I came back to Dr. Hughes in Sept. 2020 because of severe back pain where I couldn’t walk. He and his staff arranged for me to be admitted to the hospital from another emergency room. It has been a complicated 6 weeks. As a first step, Dr. Hughes decided to give me a epidural. I was right outside the operating room when I had a mini-stroke. Since they didn’t have a neurosurgery department, I was transferred across the street to NewYork-Presbyterian for the mini stroke. They put me on blood thinners to prevent another stroke.
I went home, but kept on going to the emergency room because of pain. Because I was taking blood thinners, they could not give me an epidural for at least a month. Throughout all of this, Dr. Hughes' team has been there, carefully monitoring my situation.
In the next 4 weeks, I went to the emergency room 3 times, rehab, and the emergency room again. I got transferred to HSS, thanks to Dr. Hughes team, who were very supportive and determined. Dr. Hughes considered surgery but decided on an epidural.
I had wondered if there was something wrong with my original fusion Dr. Hughes had done in 2018, but found out that was fine. It was the vertebrae below that was the problem.
The next morning Dr. Hughes visited me and said, “It absolutely is the spine and it is easy to fix. It’s frustrating to me that I can’t operate and help you, because that’s what I like to do. But with your stroke, it’s too risky to do anything for 4 months. I can’t risk your brain.”
He was right. “I want to save my brain too!,” I told him. I had been worried that maybe he was hesitant to operate on me, because of all the setbacks and complications in the last 7 weeks.
“Not at all,” Dr. Hughes said. “We have to figure out a way to get to January, and then I can do the surgery. Until then, we’ll send you home or to a rehab center.”
I felt better. I look forward to getting the surgery in January if my back still bothered me. Once again, Dr. Hughes held his boundaries. I realized Dr. Hughes and I both wanted the same thing - to get me Back in the Game.