The following are actual pictures of MIKE HIMSELF SCUBA diving at Truk Lagoon!
Photo credit goes to: Wayne Sumrell (Mike's dive buddy) and Robert Purifoy (Owner of Olympus Dive Center, Morehead City)Mike’s radiant smile made my day on Friday when I opened up the exam room door, and he began to tell me of his amazing, once in a lifetime experience traveling half way around the world (24 hour plane trip!) to SCUBA dive in Truk Lagoon in Micronesia (also known as “Chuuk”. Check out Google Maps: this place is on the other side of the planet in the Pacific Ocean!
Mike had been hoping and planning to do this trip dating all the way back to 2009. However, he had progressive thoracic myelopathy, with a progressive kyphosis above an old spinal fusion. He was having clumsiness in both legs and trouble walking, and his posture was becoming increasingly pitched forward and painful. In August 2010, I performed a posterior thoracic laminectomy decompression and extension fusion with osteotomies to correct his kyphosis. This problem is called “PJK” -- proximal junctional kyphosis — and is a complication that can happen after spinal fusions, especially longer fusions. The reason for this problem is that there are higher loads at this junction point wear old fusion ends and unfused spine begins.
The Truk Lagoon Trip then became a MAJOR incentive to get through the surgery and rehab (as he says, "third only to God and family).
His evoked potential monitoring at beginning of surgery showed that his signals were not good going through the cord. By end of surgery, they had improved dramatically . Since then, he has made a wonderful recovery, and can now walk normally with normal posture and strength.
Mike is an incredibly active guy, and goes SCUBA diving often. However, before his recent spinal reconstruction surgery, his quality of life was unacceptable, and getting worse. For each of our guests, their goals for an acceptable quality of life are different --- for Mike it CLEARLY involved being able to travel and put on a big SCUBA tank and jump into the water without being in agony!
I did some additional reading on Truk Lagoon, and I think I want to go as well! From Wikipedia I learned that Truk Lagoon is in the central Pacific in Micronesia. It has 11 Islands, and has an unusually sheltered body of water in between the islands. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia as they describe the marine environment:
“In 1969, French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and his team explored Truk Lagoon. Following Cousteau's 1971 television documentary about the lagoon and its ghostly remains, the place became a scuba diving paradise, drawing wreck diving enthusiasts from around the world to see its numerous, virtually intact sunken ships. The shipwrecks and remains are sometimes referred to as the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon". Scattered mainly around the Dublon, Eten, Fefan and Uman islands within the Truk group, a number of the shipwrecks lie in crystal clear waters less than fifteen meters below the surface. In waters devoid of normal ocean currents, divers can easily swim across decks littered with gas masks and depth charges and below deck can be found numerous human remains. In the massive ships' holds are row upon row of fighter aircraft, tanks, bulldozers, railroad cars, motorcycles, torpedoes, mines, bombs, boxes of munitions, radios, plus thousands of other weapons, spare parts, and other artifacts. Of special interest is the wreck of the submarine I-169 Shinohara which was lost when diving to avoid the bombing. The sub had been part of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The coral encrusted wrecks attract a diverse array of marine life, including manta-rays, turtles, sharks and corals. In 2007, 266 species of reef fish were recorded by an Earthwatch team and in 2006 the rare coral Acropora pichoni was identified.”
Mike emailed me this weekend with a bunch of the photos, which were truly awesome. He also gave his permission for us to share these photos and story with all of you. That’s Mike and I with his X-Ray at Hey Clinic for his one year graduation photo! When I was at college at MIT, I took SCUBA classes, and used to do work diving with my brother Ken to help make money for college and med school. SCUBA diving is definitely an awesome experience. It gives you the sense of flying, and being a part of another world that is beautiful and mysterious. If you’ve never tried it, it is something to definitely consider. Snorkeling can get you part of the way there, but if you get the chance take a dive somewhere. The North Carolina coast actually has excellent dive centers down in Beaufort and Morehead City, which go out to the many wrecks off our coast. Mike specifically has done a ton of diving at the Olympus Dive Center, where Bobby Purifoy works. I’ve done some fun dives now and then, but have NEVER been to a place like Truk Lagoon!
Hearing guest stories like Mike during clinic and via email, and seeing their smile and enthusiasm brings all of us at Hey Clinic great joy and a sense of vicarious pleasure --- this is what QUALITY of LIFE is about! It constantly reminds me how thankful I am for my own recovery from my severe left leg crush injury, which continues me to have an excellent quality of life at work, as well as hiking, biking and working out each day. Out of gratitude to God, and the people who cared for me when I was in trouble, I can continue to “pay back”, by seeking to restore quality of life and better posture to others. What a joy it is for all of us in our Hey Clinic and Duke Raleigh Hospital teams to be a part of this story, and help enable it to happen.
Dr. Lloyd Hey
Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery