Jerry & Judy's story
Judy and Jerry have shared a lot in 52 years of marriage. Their latest bond is the condition of their spines and the device used to stabilize it.
Both have suffered from spinal stenosis, both had a Coflex® stabilizer inserted by Dr. William Tobler, a neurosurgeon at Mayfield Brain & Spine – and both are grateful for reduced pain and increased activity.
The device is meant to help patients avoid a more intrusive fusion surgery. With spinal stenosis, degeneration of discs and facet joints in the spine result in compression of spinal nerves and exiting of nerve roots. Inserting a device such as Coflex is meant to stabilize the spine and avoid fusion surgery, where two of the vertebrae are fused together.
"This is a technology that is not widely embraced by physicians, but it clearly has produced a phenomenal result in these two patients," Dr. Tobler says.
Judy had the device implanted in September 2017 to alleviate pain that was radiating down her right leg and had persisted for nearly six months. Now, the former teacher says she's 95% pain-free.
"I was at a point where I couldn't walk more than a few steps," she says. "I asked for Dr. Tobler at Mayfield because of his reputation. It has been life-changing."
After looking at Judy's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images, Dr. Tobler called back the same day.
Jerry, a retired dentist, has a history of back pain dating back nearly a decade, but had remained active while managing his back pain through visits to a chiropractor. He played softball and golf. In early 2020, he started feeling sore in his lower back and made an appointment with nurse practitioner Jody Miniard so he could be seen more quickly.
Nurse practitioners are among the providers at Mayfield who help patients before and after their visits with a physician. Often, the care they provide to patients like Jerry helps relieve the pain and anchors a comprehensive care plan.
After his own MRI, Jerry faced the option of surgery or a steroid injection into his back. He chose the injection and it was administered last August, but did not provide lasting relief – right about the time Jerry was retiring from the dentist's chair and looking forward to a more active lifestyle.
"The only way I would really get relief was if I was sitting down," Jerry says.
He chose surgery with Dr. Tobler, who implanted the Coflex device between Jerry's L4 and L5 vertebrae – the same device in the same spot he used to provide relief to Judy's spine.
"There isn't any reason why he shouldn't have the same sustained relief," Dr. Tobler says. "It's a testament to the benefits of this surgery that this device allows him to be so physically active."
Judy remembers that Jerry got immediate relief. He started playing in two different softball leagues and even went skiing over the winter.
"We're both very grateful we can go about our lives again," Jerry says.
When Jerry and Judy go hiking or for a neighborhood walk, they look at each other and share their common experiences with spinal stenosis, the back surgery and Dr. Tobler.
"He told us," Judy says with a laugh, "that we could be on the cover of Stenosis Weekly."
~ Cliff Peale
Hope Story Disclaimer -"Jerry & Judy's Story" is about two patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.