Since its inception in 2010, NuVasive’s the Better Way Back (TBWB) program has been committed to raising public awareness of spine disorders and educating patients, loved ones, clinicians, and healthcare providers about treatment options, including surgery. Changing patient lives and empowering patients to make informed treatment choices are the heart of the program’s mission. In this series, you will hear from some of our own TBWB patient ambassadors who are dedicated to sharing their stories of challenge and hope.
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Surgeon: Dr. Juan Uribe, Barrow Brain and Spine
Procedure: T7 corpectomy, T6-T8 laminectomy, T5-T9 PSF
Surgery date: June 16, 2020
Andy played baseball at the University of Kansas and then taught the sport overseas before returning to his hometown to attend law school. But even after he traded his career in baseball for one in law, Andy kept moving with activities like running, biking, and hiking. In November of 2019, he noticed his legs feeling heavier on his runs. Over the next couple of months, he developed burning and pin-pricking sensations in his legs and eventually his abdomen and chest. After preliminary x-rays and a lumbar MRI offered no explanation for Andy’s symptoms, a thoracic MRI was ordered to rule out anything spine related. Instead, the MRI revealed a spinal hemangioma—a tumor made up of abnormal blood vessels. The tumor was putting pressure on his spinal cord at T7, and Dr. Uribe made it very clear that at some point it would be paralyzing. “The complexity of Andy’s surgery had significant risks, including worsening his ability to walk and even bleeding to death,” Dr. Uribe said. But monitoring the hemangioma over time was not an option either.
Six months into recovery, Andy was cleared for full duty and he described that as “a wonderful day!” But getting to that point was not easy. The reality was genuine struggle through frustrating limitations. When he might normally have been out biking, hiking or playing with his children, instead Andy walked around his neighborhood with the support of a brace and trekking poles. He kept a grateful perspective, however, knowing that without surgical intervention his prospects would have been grim. “Not to sugarcoat it, but there’s another side to this,” Andy said. “Being on the recovery side, it’s just a wonderful place to be.”
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Each individual’s surgical procedure and recovery may deviate from what is described herein. This information is not intended to supersede or supplant the information provided by your doctor.
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