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Patient Success Stories

Seva M. - Testimonial for Dr. Kerr
“I immediately knew it worked, because the pain, achiness and tingling was gone. I’m completely satisfied and just happy.”

This is how local entrepreneur and entertainer Seva May describes her condition after undergoing cervical surgery on October 10, 2012 at Specialists Hospital Shreveport. Her surgeon, Dr. Euby Kerr, III performed an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, or ACDF to correct a host of problems initially caused by an accident seven years ago. “I went to the ER after the accident and was told I had severe whiplash; that the condition would worsen over time.”

As predicted, her condition gradually, but steadily got worse as the years progressed. She tried different therapies to remedy the pain; including physical therapy and a regimen of pain medications. Then the pain became chronic. “It was finally just a dull aching non-stop pain. I had arm pain and shoulder pain, and tingling in my hands. It was like my hands would go to sleep. I couldn’t pick-up my grandchildren.”

At this point, May says she decided to seek help from Dr. Kerr, a spine surgeon at the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “I saw what he had done for my husband Byron, so I had a lot of faith in him.” She says Dr. Kerr had performed two surgeries on Byron: one to correct a surgery that had been done years ago by a different physician, and another surgery to remove scar tissue. “I just liked Dr. Kerr’s demeanor. He is brutally honest, but I appreciate that.” She says Dr. Kerr explained how he would make an incision in the front of her neck – through a natural crease or fold – and then move the vocal cords aside to reach the cervical spine. “I’m a vocalist, so this was terrifying. I was scared to death.”

Despite her fear, May says she trusted Dr. Kerr and the staff at the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “I knew I was in good hands and that everything would be fine. I can’t say enough about how nice the people up there are. You’re not just a number on a chart; you’re a person. If you have to have surgery, that’s the place to go.”

May says no overnight hospital stay was needed, and she was able to go home the same day as her surgery. Within six weeks her voice was back to normal. “I’m singing again and currently rehearing for a show at the Shreveport Little Theatre.” May also sings in church and gives voice lessons. “I should have listened to my husband and had the surgery years ago. I wish I had done it a long time ago.” May says she now has no neck pain and there is no sign of the incision. “You can’t even see it.”

May says she is looking forward to celebrating her 36th wedding anniversary with her husband Byron this January, and to continue singing – without pain. “Now, there is no pain.”

Rob B. - Testimonial for Dr. Utter
“On a scale of one to ten, I have zero pain.” This is how 43-year-old Rob Bailey describes his condition today since Dr. Andrew Utter performed Bailey’s spinal fusion procedure in February of 2011. But, living without pain today did not come quickly or easily.

Bailey, a chemist and engineer with the U.S. government, has led a busy, active life traveling nationally and internationally for his job; and pursuing his athletic interests of weight lifting, running, and mountain bike racing. Several years ago, while living outside the state of Louisiana, Bailey suffered a major back injury. “In 2009, I injured my back weight lifting. This traumatic injury caused me to be paralyzed from the waist down. I had a badly ruptured disc and surgery was done to clean out the debris that ruptured out from the disc. A second surgery had to be done to completely clean out everything.”

Bailey eventually moved to Shreveport, living with a great deal of pain. “My health deteriorated. I would go home from work and be on my back or be bed ridden with pain. It affected my work and entire lifestyle. I couldn’t travel, and my job with the government requires lots of traveling.”

On the advice and recommendation from his family doctor in Shreveport, Bailey visited the Spine Institute of Louisiana where he met spine surgeon and neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Utter. “His knowledge of state-of-the-art surgical approaches is superior. I was very impressed with his knowledge. And, it put me at great ease knowing that he is also an athlete.”

As a scientist and athlete, Bailey says he researched his surgical options. “I knew when a disc ruptured that spinal fusion was the best option for someone who is active and young. During spinal fusion they take out the injured disc and replace it with either a cadaver bone or a plastic disc. Bone grows through the new disc. So, two bones are fused together.”

Unlike the first two surgeries out-of-state, Bailey’s third back surgery – the first with Dr. Utter – had dramatically different results. “Six weeks after surgery, I was back in action. It was a quick recovery. I don’t smoke and am not overweight, so, I healed very quickly. At the six week mark, I stopped all pain medications. Now, I am able to do everything I did before and more!” Bailey says he continues to have some muscle stiffness that is relieved with exercise and massage, but there is “no pain.”

“I’ve recommended Dr. Utter and the Spine Institute of Louisiana to several people with back and bone problems.”

Kaylee T. - Testimonial for Dr. Nunley
“It went better than I expected. It met my expectations and beyond.” This is how Kaylee’s Mom, Kelly described the outcome of her daughter surgery to correct Scoliosis – a curvature of the spine that occurs most often just before puberty. Kaylee had surgery June 6, 2011; about two months before her 13th birthday. Now, an active pep squad member at Byrd High School, Kaylee says she is happy with the results. “I’m doing good. I haven’t had any pain for a very long time. I’m very active. I play soft ball, gymnastics and tennis. I can do what I want to do.”

Kaylee was diagnosed around age 10, after her mother – a nurse practitioner at a family practice clinic – noticed the curve in Kaylee’s spine. “My friends said something about it. And, it was very noticeable to my Mom.” Her Mother took her to Dr. Pierce Nunley, medical director and spine surgeon at the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “He was nice. My mother really liked him. He’s a good doctor.”

Kelly says she chose Dr. Nunley, because of the positive feedback she received from patients that had been referred to Dr. Nunley from the family practice clinic where she works. “We’ve had patients that we referred to him, and the patients said they liked him.”

With the possibility of surgery a head for her daughter, Kelly investigated her options. “You want to be sure that surgery is absolutely necessary.” There are a number of treatments for scoliosis. The type chosen depends upon the extent of the patient’s curvature, age, and progression of the condition. Scoliosis surgery reduces the severity of the spinal curve and prevents it from getting worse.

After consulting with Dr. Nunley, Kelly chose the surgical option for Kaylee. “I’m very thankful that we did it when we did.” During surgery, Kaylee says two rods were placed in her back, along with 14 screws. “They are fused to my spine to strengthen my spine. Before surgery, my back was 52-degrees, and after surgery it got down to 18. It made me two inches taller.”

In addition to his surgical expertise, Kelly is grateful for the medical innovations used by Dr. Nunley. “He used a bone stimulator, which helps you recover quicker and heals the spine faster. Kaylee wore it for two months after surgery. It helped fuse the spine. She never had to wear a brace after words.” Kelly also liked the idea that Dr. Nunley was concerned about her daughter’s long terms results, such as having range of motion and flexibility of the spine.

“There’s nothing that she did before that she can’t do now.”

Greg B. - Testimonial for Dr. Nunley

Today, former Air Force B-52 navigator Greg Bell is once again able to participate in athletic competitions; vigorously running, swimming and cycling. But, it wasn’t too long ago that Bell had trouble just standing and walking. “About two years ago I had an injury in my lower back. I thought I had pulled a muscle. It was very painful, but I kept pushing thru it. I could only walk about a quarter of a mile before I had to stop and stretch, but I kept walking. I had to back off on running, but I was able to cycle.”

Prior to this injury, Bell says he had always been very active and athletically competitive, so, being unable to walk and stand without pain affected all aspects of his life, except flying. “I was okay flying, because I was not in an upright position. I was sitting while flying, so I could do my job. But, I was in pain doing anything upright. And, it was debilitating.”

As the pain “got progressively worse” and his activity level diminished, Bell sought help off-base. He says he heard about spine surgeon Dr. Pierce Nunley from other people. “They said he was good and to check him out.” Bell says he was impressed with Dr. Nunley and the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “The experience there was very positive and very helpful. It worked. I’m glad that I went with them. The method they used helped me big time!”

The surgical method used to help Bell was spinal fusion. But, this surgical option was not selected until after diagnostic testing, conservative therapies, and consultations with his surgeon. Bell says spinal fusion was selected, because he had a spinal fracture.

Bell’s surgery occurred on May 9, 2011. “After surgery, I noticed that I didn’t have numbness in my leg. And, when the staples were out, that’s when the improvement was pretty astonishing. I was on a bike a few days later and racing in three months. I was happy with the results and happy to get back out there. I surprised a lot of people on the cycling team.” Bell says there was no pain within less than a month after surgery; and he has not taken any pain medication since.

Bell credits the surgical techniques used by Dr. Nunley for his speedy and pain-free recovery. “He didn’t have to cut thru muscle to get the cage in. The cage is a plastic disc, and looks like the letter “H.” Your own bone grows through it. It takes longer to heal if they cut thru muscle.”

In November of last year, Bell retired from the Air Force; but not from his love of high-level athletic competition. “When racing, I do very well. I’m one of the top athletes around here. Within three months of back surgery, I placed 2nd in my age group in the River Cities Triathlon.”

This Arizona native is grateful for his surgical recovery. “I went from something messing up my way of life to pretty much bringing me back to 100-percent. Thanks to Dr. Nunley and his staff I’m pain free and racing.”

Judy M. - Testimonial for Dr. Utter

When I went to his office the first time…I felt like family had come out to wrap their arms around me. They told me they were praying for me. I just felt so taken care of by the staff at the Spine Institute of Louisiana and my surgeon Dr. Andrew Utter.” These are the words of Judy McMaster as she recounts a brain tumor diagnosis and surgery less than a year ago.
It all began on August 23, 2011 as Judy began to experience a severe headache. “I never have headaches, so this was very unusual. The headaches started at 2:00 a.m., so I couldn’t sleep and then began taking over the counter pain killers every two hours for the next six hours with no relief. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and every movement hurt. At 8:00 a.m. I told my husband to take me to the emergency room.”

Her first encounter with a diagnosis was discouraging. “The ER doctor took a CAT scan and told me I had a brain tumor that appeared to be malignant.” A subsequent MRI ordered by another physician proved more promising. “They said it looks like there’s a 99-percent chance that the tumor is benign. We were ecstatic.”

Dr. Andrew Utter was the Neurosurgeon on call and was consulted to evaluate and treat Judy’s condition. Judy would later learn that Dr. Utter is a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at the Spine Institute of Louisiana specializing in a number of procedures, including brain tumor surgery – with a background which includes eight years of experience at the Mayo Clinic and a Spine Fellowship from the Cleveland Clinic.

Early on the evening of August 23rd Dr. Utter visited Judy in the hospital. “I can’t say enough about his bedside manner and how well he communicated with me and my family. My daughter was taking notes and he took the time to explain everything as long as it took to explain. He said the tumor appeared to be non-malignant and that there was a 92-percent chance it was benign. He also informed me that he thought the tumor had been growing for two to five years and was the size of a golf ball!”

Judy was pleased and comforted that Dr. Utter believed there was no urgency for surgery. So, she and family were able to attend the LSU-Oregon game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium and attend Kairos Prison Ministry Weekend before her September 14, 2011 surgery. In the days leading up to surgery, Judy was put on anti-seizure medication, so she could not drive; and she was prescribed steroids to reduce swelling of the brain. She also visited Dr. Utter once a week before the surgery. “He explained everything about the tumor. Looking at the CAT scan and MRI he explained how there was a major artery in the brain that was attached to the tumor. He told me, ‘We’re going to get it. We’re going to take care of it.’ He’s factual, but he doesn’t scare the patient.”

Judy says the six hour surgery went well and there was no malignancy. “Dr. Utter said the lab showed the tumor was 100-percent benign.” And, her recovery has been swift. “I was in ICU on Wednesday, in my room Thursday, and went home on Friday. So, I only spent two nights in the hospital after a six-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor.”

Judy has been doing well in the months following surgery. “After the tumor was out, I felt so much better. I have more energy now.”

Her condition continues to be monitored by Dr. Utter at the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “I look forward to my visits up there, and I usually don’t go to the doctor. The first time I met him I told my family I felt 100-percent confident in Dr. Utter. When he walked out of the room that first night I said, ‘He’s it. He’s number 1.”

Skip S - Testimonial for Dr. Cavanaugh
Just weeks before Skip Simonton’s 81st birthday last year, she reached the five year mark of being cancer free of lung cancer. But, on her birthday – June 16, 2011 – things changed dramatically for the long-time Shreveport resident when a vehicle rear-ended her car. “I was stopped, waiting to turn left on Line Avenue, when a Lincoln Navigator ran into the back of my car; knocking me across two lanes of traffic.”

The accident aggravated an existing medical condition involving her wrist and hand, and caused a host of new problems involving her neck. “An internist sent me to Dr. Cavanaugh,” a neurosurgeon at the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “I had numbness and pain in my hand, pain in my neck, and pain radiating from my neck to my arm. I couldn’t lift my arms up to put my clothes on.”

She says Dr. Cavanaugh ordered a series of diagnostic tests, which included a nerve study, MRI and CT scan. The eventual outcome: endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery on her wrist and a cervical spine surgery to remove a cyst that was pressing on nerves in her neck. “It relieved the pressure and stopped the pain.”

Throughout the entire process of diagnostic testing, pain medication, physical therapy and two surgeries; Simonton has trusted the integrity, knowledge and experience of her surgeon, Dr. Cavanaugh. “He’s one of the best surgeons around here. It gives you a secure feeling. And, he is so nice; a happy person, which makes you feel good.”

Since the surgeries, this mother of five and grandmother of nine has resumed her busy life – active in her community of friends and family. “There is no pain now. I haven’t had any pain since the surgeries. And, I have not had any pain medication since 4-5 days after surgery.” She credits Dr. Cavanaugh with the good results. “I’ve done well. I had confidence that he was going to fix it.”

“As soon as I woke up from surgery, I had no pain; none in my neck and none in my arm.  Six months after surgery I began playing tennis and golf again.”  This is how 49 year old Tim describes the outcome of his cervical discectomy surgery.
Tim S, a 49 year old Sales & Business Development Executive for an Oil and Gas Company; said that what started as a crick in his neck, continually worsened.  In addition to the neck pain, he also had excruciating pain radiating into his left arm.
Tim was referred from his Orthopedist to Dr. Rishi Wadhwa, Neurosurgeon, and first received conservative treatment which he said was very important to him.  Tim wanted all non-surgical treatments that could be possibly be done prior to a surgery being performed.  He had an MRI and also went to Physical Therapy but unfortunately was unable to participate because of the pain.  He ended up in bed for three weeks prior to his surgical procedure as a result of the extreme pain he was experiencing.
During this time period, he said that he was checked on regularly.  “The amount of attention given to me from Dr. Wadhwa was something.  He really cares about his patients.”
Tim said that he would recommend Dr. Wadhwa and the Spine Institute of Louisiana to anyone having neck or back pain, or needing surgery.  “The entire process was so smoothly run that I was made to be extremely comfortable.  Dr. Wadhwa explained each step of the process and the expectations were so clearly set that my every part of my experience was excellent.”
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