Sean Spera was getting ready for dinner one evening in July 2022, carrying a few items into the kitchen from the garage, when he suddenly found himself on the floor. Although he had dealt with back pain for more than 15 years, Sean, a 22-year veteran of the Prince William County Sherriff’s Office, had begun to experience sharp pain down his right hip and significant weakness in his right leg after lifting weights at the gym the day before. The pain subsided fairly quickly, but the weakness continued.
“My right leg was giving out when I tried to stand up, and I had numbness from my knee down,” Sean recalled.
The timing of Sean’s injury wasn’t great – his wife, Beret Fischer, was due to have major back surgery herself in just a couple of weeks. Beret recommended that Sean give her surgeon, Faisal Siddiqui, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon with the Inova Spine Program, a call.
Sean met with Dr. Siddiqui right away and learned that he had herniated a disc in his lower back. “The herniated disc was pinching the spinal cord’s nerves, which was causing Sean’s symptoms,” Dr. Siddiqui said.
Because of Sean’s age, job and active lifestyle, Dr. Siddiqui recommended surgery to address the issue. Sean was concerned that he’d be out of commission and unable to help Beret during her surgical recovery, but Dr. Siddiqui assured him that by using a minimally invasive technique called microdiscectomy, Sean would be back on his feet quickly.
Sean trusted Dr. Siddiqui’s expertise. “Dr. Siddiqui and his staff were all great,” he said. “They are calm, relaxed and professional. They know what they’re doing, and they really put me at ease.”
“In Sean’s case, his symptoms, particularly his leg weakness, progressed rapidly,” Dr. Siddiqui said. “We had this narrow window of time to get him fixed, so he could be ready to care for Beret after her surgery just one week later. One of Inova’s many advantages for spine surgery is how quickly we can get patients like Sean scheduled and ready for surgery.”
A few days later, Sean was preparing for surgery. He gives Inova Fair Oaks Hospital high marks. “All of the pre-op procedures went smoothly. The staff explained everything in detail and answered all my questions. The spine patient navigator was especially helpful, arranging my pre-op appointments and staying in close contact,” he said.
Dr. Siddiqui performed a minimally invasive lumbar discectomy, which uses tiny incisions and microscopic instrumentation to remove a portion of the damaged spinal disc and relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves that was causing Sean’s symptoms. The surgery went exactly as planned, and after spending a couple of hours in the post anesthesia care unit, Sean was able to go home.
Sean had the surgery on a Wednesday and was cleared to drive by the weekend. “I was able to get my wife to the hospital and could maneuver to get the cooking, laundry and other chores at home done while she recovered,” he said. The couple’s two teenagers stepped up to help out, too, because Sean couldn’t bend, lift or twist for a few weeks. He went back to light duty at work less than three weeks later and was back to full duty just 10 weeks after surgery.
“I have been able to get back to my normal routine without pain, which makes me happy,” Sean said.
The Inova Spine Program’s team handles a high volume of spine surgery patients like Sean and Beret each year. “We’re experienced in these procedures, including minimally invasive surgical techniques like those I used with Sean. Being at Inova for 18 years, I’ve done thousands of similar surgeries,” Dr. Siddiqui said. “From the pre-op process, to the surgery itself, to postoperative management, the Inova Spine Program is a very smooth-running machine.”