The World Is His Oyster
At 72, Bob Vandel scuba dives in the Caribbean, plays golf most days of the week, works out with a personal trainer, jogs and lifts weights. Needless to say, the former military pilot enjoys an active lifestyle. But it wasn’t always easy. Ever since his teens, Vandel lived with severe lower back pain stemming from a high school football injury that grew worse over time and would not respond to medical treatment.
“I just kept living with it,” says Vandel. “There was no way I could even envision a pain-free life. It was to the point where I didn’t think I could walk more than 100 yards or stand for more than three or four minutes. The pain would be so bad I would just have to sit down.”
Exploring New Options
Last fall, Vandel began searching for a doctor who could help him get back to doing the things he loves doing. When he met with Christopher Silveri, MD, Director of Inova Spine Program at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, he knew he had found the right physician.
“What Dr. Silveri did for me is amazing, I just can’t say enough,” says Vandel. “I wanted to go a conservative route and he agreed that that was a good plan. My wife and I met with him three or four times and we were going in there with pages of questions, and for every question we asked he gave us a candid answer.”
Another deciding factor for Vandel was the fact that Inova Fair Oaks Hospital is one of the only hospitals in the area named a Center of Excellence in the surgical treatment of cervical and lumbar disorders by The Joint Commission.
“The Joint Commission evaluated our prehospital care, intra-hospital care and postoperative care to make sure it is on the highest level of excellence you can achieve, and they are very happy with the program we have set forth,” says Dr. Silveri, who is fellowship-trained both in neurosurgery and orthopedic spine surgery. “We have a hospital that provides excellence in spinal surgery, and it’s only getting better and that’s because the administration supports our goal to really make every part of the patient’s stay in the hospital a good experience.”
Back to Normal
After discussing Vandel’s symptoms with him and examining the results of his MRI, Dr. Silveri diagnosed him with scoliosis, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Despite the multitude and severity of Vandel’s lower back problems, Dr. Silveri recognized that a less invasive approach would yield excellent, long-term results. Dr. Silveri performed a lumbar spine decompression to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves and fused two vertebrae to eliminate painful motion between the degenerated discs.
“Mr. Vandel is a perfect example of how a focused lumbar spine decompression and fusion helped restore his quality of life,” says Dr. Silveri. “His symptoms were resolved almost immediately.”
Vandel was walking the day of surgery and he left the hospital the next day. The pain in his back and in his leg had completely disappeared. Within two and a half months, he was walking more than seven miles at a time and he resumed playing golf. Three months post-surgery, he reconditioned his muscles by attending physical therapy sessions.
Discovering New Realms
With pain a thing of the past, Vandel, now 73, takes being active to a whole new level. When he’s not on the golf course, he and his wife are back to scuba diving off the coast of the volcanic island Bonaire.
“I can do anything I want to,” he says.
Last April, he ran a 5K race, placing high in his age group. “Due to inactivity I was not in shape for running so I experienced trouble with my breathing, but I didn’t have any pain,” he recalls. “That’s the beautiful part; there’s no pain!”
Common Lower Back Problems
About 80 percent of adults have lower back pain during their lifetimes. Most people with lumbar pain do not require surgery. However, when the aching is constant and does not respond to other treatments such as physical therapy, medications or steroid injections, a doctor may recommend less invasive surgery. Here are four common back problems:
- Spinal stenosis. The spinal canal can narrow over time, placing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
- Degenerative disc disease. Also known as a herniated disc, it occurs when the cushioning between vertebrae becomes damaged.
- This painful condition occurs when a vertebra slips out of place.
- Vertebral fractures. Most often caused by trauma to the spine, fractures can also result from osteoporosis.
To schedule an appointment with Christopher Silveri, MD, at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, call 703.391.0111.