Judy Spicer's Story
Judy Spicer feels like a brand new person after minimally invasive back surgery
For Judy Spicer, a retired insurance company executive, excruciating low back pain was making retirement was anything but rosy. “I couldn’t do any of the things I like to do. I couldn’t work in the yard. I couldn’t drive very far, I couldn’t pick up my grandchildren,” Judy says. “I would lay on the couch and cry, it hurt so bad. It’s just the deepest kind of pain you can have. It hurt worse than having my babies, and I had five boys.”
Judy says her pain was so bad at times she had no feeling in three of the toes on her right foot. She tried pain medications, but because of her acid reflux, she couldn’t tolerate ibuprofen, and Tylenol with codeine didn’t alleviate the pain.
Judy knew she had a bulging disk in her lumbar spine, but put off thoughts of surgery until December 2010, when her primary care physician ordered another MRI to see if anything else was causing her pain. He referred Judy to Dr. Mark Spatola, a neurosurgeon who practices at Orange Park Medical Center. Dr. Spatola looked at Judy’s latest MRI and showed her the problem: arthritis in her lumbar spine was pinching her sciatic nerve. This is the main nerve that runs from the lower back through the buttock and down the back of the leg.
Then Dr. Spatola asked Judy what she expected out of the visit. “I want you to fix me. I’m tired of living my life in pain,” Judy told him. Dr. Spatola told her that he was a surgeon and that she would benefit from surgery. “I told him to fix me. I didn’t care if I had a scar from my neck down to my butt,” she says. Dr. Spatola told her that wouldn’t be necessary and explained everything the surgery would entail. “He took lots of time with me. He was very attentive and took as much time with me as I wanted my first visit there. That’s what I really loved about him,” Judy says.
Dr. Spatola asked Judy when she wanted to have the surgery. Judy laughs when she recalls telling him that she hadn’t eaten anything yet that day, so if she could have surgery right then it would be fine.
A few days later Dr. Spatola did minimally invasive lumbar spine surgery to relieve the bulging disk and shave off arthritic bone around Judy’s fifth lumbar vertebrae. He did both procedures through one incision about an inch long in her lower spine. Judy spent one night in the hospital. “The next day I was standing up waiting to go home. Dr. Spatola came in and said, ‘You’re standing already?’ I said, ‘Yes, and I’ve already walked around. I’m ready to go home.’ I told him I had no pain in my leg. It was unbelievable.”
Judy was also amazed at the minimally invasive surgery itself. “The technology now is just unbelievable. It was great. Dr. Spatola said I’d have a scar, but I didn’t even have stitches. He just put glue on it, it was so small.”
Judy’s praise doesn’t stop there. “When I was there, I felt like it really was all about me, like there was nobody else in that hospital. The nurses and all the people who assisted me after the surgery were just out of this world. It was just totally pleasant.”
Today Judy enjoys doing all the things she couldn’t for the last six years. “I feel like a brand new person,” she says. “It’s been three months, and I have no pain.” For the first time Judy can really enjoy the 10 acres she and her husband Roy live on in Callahan, Florida. Here Judy raises goats and roses and loves to watch all the wildlife that parades through their backyard.
Although she lives in Callahan, Judy thinks nothing about bypassing other hospitals and doctors to travel to Orange Park, where she gets all her healthcare. “They are a great group of doctors there.” she says, “You feel like you’ve got arms around you with all the physicians there and they each care about you.” And while Judy has been a patient at Orange Park Medical Center before, she says now the hospital staff matches and complements the physicians that have their practices there. “There’s a general feeling that you’re getting care that’s really good,” Judy says. “I wouldn’t go to any other hospital.”