Thursday, October 25, 2007

Can you be active after scoliosis surgery? Lou from Pinehurst would tell you "Yes", on his 10 yr Scoliosis Surgery Anniversary with Dr. Hey. Lessons learned listening to your patients.

This week, my friend and patient Lou, from Pinehurst NC came back for his 10 year anniversary appointment for his scoliosis surgery I performed for him back at Duke Medical Center in Durham.
Lou, a retired CEO of a stainless steel company, really took me by surprise during our initial meetings. After he had decided that his quality of life was unacceptable, and that his curve indeed was progressing, and that the conservative treatments had failed, he had told me that he wanted to move forward with surgery.
I vividly remember a very interesting interchange regarding his questions about postoperative activity:
LOU: “How about golf?”
DR. HEY: “No golf for one year, until fusion is healed.
LOU:  “That is not acceptable!”, [said firmly, as if he was striking his fist on the conference table at same time]
DR. HEY: [Eyebrows go up in surprise ... Speechless]
LOU:  “Are you a golfer? Have you studied the mechanics of the golf swing?  It seems to me that it should be possible to play some golf during the first year.  I will send you some articles.
DR. HEY: OK, Lou.

LOU:  What about SCUBA diving?  I have a big SCUBA trip planned for 2 months after surgeryto the Cayman Islands.  I plan to still go.
DR. HEY:  Lou, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  The SCUBA tanks are really heavy, and that could put a lot of load on your lower back fusion.
LOU:  Do you think I would do that?  I already have it figured out.  I will have them pass me the SCUBA tank when I am in the water, and then put on my tank.  Once I am in the water with the tank, the tank is effectively weightless.  Problem solved.
DR. HEY: Sounds good to me!

1 week later I receive a fairly good size box with a half a dozen golf magazines in it, with several chapters labelled which described in detail the mechanics of the golf swing.
Wearing my engineering hat, I studied these documents carefully, and came up with a new regimen, which allows for gradual advancing golf program over one year period.
That golf program allows people to start back to golf at 6 weeks, and then advance up to full swing by a year.  I have used that program effectively for hundreds and hundreds of golfers ever since Lou’s forceful meeting.

Lou did just great after his surgery.
He went on his SCUBA trip, advanced quickly on his cycling and walking, and then golf.
A few months later, he went with some friends up to Canada, where he went “Heli-Hiking” along the top of the Canadian Rockies!

For the past 10 years, I have seen Lou and his wife Nancy back for follow-up every year or 2.
They have become good friends, and have helped many of my patients and their families over the years.

I have learned a lot from Lou, and many of my other patients, and these lessons learned have turned around to help other patients and their families.
The learning never stops.
Happy Anniversary, Lou.  I thank God that you have been able to enjoy a better quality of life these past 10 years.

Keep it up, and come by anytime.

Lloyd A Hey, MD MS
The Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery
Raleigh, NC  USA

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