In November, as we recognize our nation’s military in honor of Veteran’s Day, meet a Quad City serviceman, husband and father, who says he’s grateful he received high-quality orthopedic care from an ORA physician who was able to perform two separate back surgeries closer to the patient’s family here at home.
Five military combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan have yet to keep Quad City serviceman, Andrew Gregory, 31, Davenport, from staying strong, thanks in part to two spine surgeries at ORA Orthopedics. “I have made the military my career and a couple of herniated discs were not going to keep me from serving my country,” vows Andrew.
Since 2011, Andrew has suffered two separate herniated discs — one in his neck and the second in his lower back.
His first surgery came after Andrew was performing intensive military training at the Rock Island Arsenal. “I was practicing hand-to-hand combat training when I injured my neck.” Andrew subsequently suffered nerve pain and numbness in his arm, typical symptoms for a cervical herniated disc.
ORA Orthopedics spine surgeon, Dr. Michael Berry, performed what is called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. “I removed the disk through a small one-inch incision in the front of Andrew’s neck,” describes Dr. Berry. “After I removed the disc, I fused the disc space to stabilize the vertebrae, enabling Andrew to return to both his military career and the quality of life he enjoys with his family.”
Disc degeneration can happen at any age, as Dr. Berry explains, “In between each of our spinal vertebrae are discs that serve as shock absorbers when we move. When a disc is herniated, its soft, gel-like material can leak back into the spinal canal and put pressure on the nerve, causing pain to radiate to the limbs.” (Herniated discs in the neck often result in arm pain and numbness, while lower-back disc herniations can cause pain to radiate through the buttocks and into the legs or feet.)
Three years later, Andrew suffered another herniation in a lumbar (low back) disc, and Dr. Berry performed the second surgery as well.
Recalls Andrew, “I was deployed in Afghanistan and was in the gym doing back squats when I heard a popping noise. I couldn’t lift my foot due to a pinched nerve, so when the military told me I needed surgery, I told them I wanted Dr. Berry to do the procedure.”
The military agreed and flew Andrew from military hospitals in Germany and Washington, DC to the Quad Cities for the surgery. Dr. Berry performed a minimally invasive micro-lumbar discectomy. Using a microscope, Dr. Berry removed the disk herniation through a small incision. Andrew was home the same day and resumed activity within weeks.
“While some doctors told me I would never run again, I not only ran the Bix the following summer, but I have also been able to participate in military competitions that have required me to march 18 miles with a 45-pound pack, as well as perform in simulated combat missions,” says Andrew. “Dr. Berry has done such a great job and he really understood my priorities.”
While Andrew’s persistence has kept him at the top of his military game, he says his biggest goal after surgery was to be able to lift his two sons, Laithe (age 4) and Kai (age 2) onto his shoulders, as well as stay active with his wife, Jessica, who is a personal trainer. “I can carry my boys thanks to Dr. Berry.”
It’s that restoration to movement that motivates Dr. Berry to practice orthopedics. “I want to make sure patients like Andrew get back to doing the things they love. We need to know what the patient wants out of the procedure, and I want to make sure I can deliver it to them.” Stay strong and in uniform, Andrew.