OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Chris

February 01, 2018

Meet Chris – a runner and father of two who resides in Drums, PA. In his free time, Chris now finds himself taking part in his hobbies of photography, running, flying his drone, and spending time with his family. Unfortunately, several years ago Chris began to endure significant back pain that impacted his quality of life. He turned to Dr. Jeffrey McConnell of OAA’s Spine Center of Excellence for help, and went from having trouble walking to completing his first marathon.
 Chris crossing finish line.
Prior to Chris’s surgery, his back pain was so severe that he had to adjust nearly every aspect of his life. When asked about his condition prior to surgery, Chris shared, “The problem in my back was so bad that I could barely walk. I could no longer work and the only thing that brought comfort was laying on my stomach; I quickly became an expert at “planking” and to make light of the situation, we took photos of me planking in public. While we tried to make light of my situation, my back pain greatly affected me. My wife and I just received a foster child, who we later adopted, and I could not interact or play with her. At the same time, my wife was pregnant, and I felt helpless because I couldn't help her with anything.”
Knowing that he would likely need surgery, Chris asked his primary care physician and chiropractor for the name of a surgeon that they would recommend – both mentioned Dr. McConnell at OAA Orthopaedic Specialists. Chris was familiar with OAA, as he was a patient of Dr. Gregor Hawk of OAA’s Sports Medicine Institute. “I had two prior knee surgeries by a surgeon in my area, and unfortunately both surgeries failed for unknown reasons. In 2012, Dr. Hawk fixed me up, and now, what would be considered my "bad" knee feels better than my "good" knee,” Chris shared.
Chris scheduled an appointment with Dr. Jeff McConnell and made the trip down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, laying down horizontally in the back of his family’s vehicle. After stopping to lay down on the floor several times for pain relief on the way to OAA’s office and briefly waiting in the waiting room in severe pain, Chris met with Dr. McConnell, who informed Chris that he had a very large extruded L5-S1 disc herniation. Dr. McConnell recommended lumbar discectomy surgery to alleviate Chris’ pain.
Dr. McConnell is a dual fellowship-trained spine surgeon with subspecialty interests in scoliosis surgery, total disc arthroplasty in the cervical spine, and minimally invasive spine surgery. When asked about Chris’s condition and treatment plan, Dr. McConnell explained, “Chris presented with symptoms of radiculopathy, a condition more commonly known as a pinched nerve. Chris experienced this because of a large L5-S1 disc herniation and needed surgery to alleviate his symptoms. Chris underwent outpatient lumbar discectomy surgery where I removed the herniated disc, which then took the pressure off his pinched nerve. Most patients with this condition feel a significant improvement in their symptoms immediately after surgery.”
Reflecting back on his encounter with Dr. McConnell, Chris recalled, “Dr. McConnell and the staff at OAA were awesome.  It was very close to Christmas and New Year's, but they fit me into the schedule and got me set up for surgery shortly thereafter. He took the time to answer all my questions and told me what I should expect post-op. He was genuine and empathetic when it came to my situation. He told me to rest one day after surgery, but on day two he wanted me to walk as much as I could tolerate. I thought this was crazy; before the surgery, I could only walk about 25 feet to the mailbox and back. To my surprise, after surgery, I walked two miles on the second day post-op. I continued walking every day, multiple times a day and I continued walking on my lunch breaks when I returned to work.”
As time went on and Chris began to enjoy life without back pain more and more, the walking turned into running. Three years after his operation, Chris wrote to OAA and shared that not only was he running around with his two little girls, but he was also getting ready for his first half marathon. Since then, Chris completed his second half and also ran in his first full marathon in October. “I never thought I would be running the distances I am, and so many people cannot believe I had back surgery. Without hesitation, I always recommend OAA to everyone I come in contact with. Not only do I speak highly of the surgeons, but the check-in, support staff, and billing team was also organized and pleasant to deal with,” Chris shared. 

Chris running marathon.

Do you or a loved one have a similar story?  Share your story with us, and you could be next month's patient ambassador!