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January 4, 2019

Charles H.

After 8 years of treating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, my lymphoma seemed under control. Just after Christmas of 2016, my lower back began to ache. I went in for my routine Lymphoma check-up in early January 2017. The CT scan showed a lymph node that had not changed size in 8 years was greatly enlarged and was occupying about 25% of my L5 vertebrae. I received 8 days of radiation treatment in February to kill the cancer cells in my spin. My oncologist noted that the cancer was eliminated from my spine, but the cancer and radiation had damaged about 25% of my L5 vertebrae. I was advised that the damage may repair itself or may get worse. One month later, in March, I felt my L5 begin to crumble.

Over the next few months I saw numerous doctors about what to do. The pain and my ability to walk kept getting worse and I finally was scheduled for an MRI in September. After the MRI showed my L5 was crumbling, I was referred to and approved to see Dr. Bartie in October. At my first appointment with Dr. Bartie, he reviewed my MRI and had me do a few simple exercises. At the end of the exam he told me I would soon lose the use of my right leg if I did not have surgery. My spinal cord was almost pinched off at this time. My spinal cord was squeezed down to about a 1mm in diameter by the L5 bone chips. He also said the surgery was typically 100% successful if the patient had not had lymphoma and radiation treatment. For me he said the chances for success are about 50-50. My L5 was “a bag of bone chips” in Dr. Bartie’s words. In short, 50-50 chance of keeping the use of my legs with surgery, 100% chance of losing the use of my legs without surgery.

Dr. Bartie scheduled me for surgery November 14, 2017. He estimated the surgery would take 4 hours. The surgery took 7 hours, and I lost a liter of blood. In Dr. Bartie’s words to my wife “it was a beast of a surgery”. The day after surgery I could walk without any of the pain I previously had. My spinal cord now had a 15mm channel instead of a 1mm channel. I had pain from the surgery but that was nothing compared to the pain before surgery. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days then went home. Dr. Bartie advised me on what physical activity was appropriate next year. For 6 weeks, I stayed home doing essentially nothing. After that I start doing some light workouts at the gym, only doing exercises Dr. Bartie recommended. For 6 months, I was not to lift anything over 10 pounds. I went back to work after 6 weeks, no lifting involved with my job. After 6 months, I worked my way up to exercising with up to 50 pounds on weight machines recommended by Dr. Bartie. Today I exercise regularly at the gym, can walk at least 1 mile with no pain and am looking forward to fly fishing and scuba diving again.