In January 2017, avid golfer John Schilling started experiencing neck and shoulder pain. The stiffness in his neck made it hard to move his head in any direction, which made it difficult to golf. The pain subsided but reoccurred a month later, along with numbness in his hands and feet.
John has been golfing for more than 65 years. He played throughout high school and continued to be successful at it over the years; however, he was afraid the pain would take him away from playing the sport he loved.
Luckily, John’s wife is a retired nurse and noticed that with the pain John was experiencing, he would need to see a physician. The condition lead John to OrthoIndy.
“My initial appointment at Orthoindy was a walk-in to the OrthoIndy Urgent Care clinic. We have always heard great things about OrthoIndy,” said John. “The staff ordered an MRI and set me up with an appointment the following Monday with Dr. Kevin O’Neill. I was very fortunate they introduced me to him.”
At his first clinic visit, Dr. O’Neill istened to John’s story. One area of particular concern was that he described constant numbness in his hand. He performeda thorough physical exam, and made a diagnosis.
“John had constant numbness in his hands along with atrophy of the muscles. His exam revealed several findings concerning for spinal cord compression; a condition known as cervical myelopathy,” explained Dr. O’Neill.
It was obvious to Dr. O’Neill that John would need further examination. “After Dr. O’Neill had seen my X-ray, it was no surprise that I would be seeing him quite often for the next few weeks,” said John. “Dr. O’Neill explained the conditions of my illness and the procedure carefully. My wife and I were very comfortable with Dr. O’Neill.”
The seriousness and gravity of John’s condition was very extreme. “Even though my condition was very serious, Dr. O’Neill never pressured us to move ahead without further verification,” said John. As a result, John’s MRI was reviewed by three additional physicians all concurring with Dr. O’Neill’s diagnosis.
“I think John was certainly surprised by the initial diagnosis, and the realization that his neck pain and symptoms in his arms and hands were actually related,” said Dr. O’Neill. “I reviewed his MRI with him in detail, showing him where the spinal cord was being compressed and where there was ‘bruising’ within the spinal cord. I then explained the rationale of why surgery was recommended, and what that would involve.”
John underwent a relatively high risk surgery on the back of his neck, where the pressure on his spinal cord was relieved by removing bone and ligaments that were pushing into it. The vertebrae were then fused together with spinal implants to keep his neck stabilized.
After surgery, John decided to do his rehab at OrthoIndy. “Dr. O’Neill advised me of the long and painful period of recovery.” Later, John was able to undertake his rehab at home. This resulted in John being pain free by June 1, 2017.
“I continue to do the exercises and see my results progressing every day,” said John. “I know that it will be a long process and realize the seriousness of my procedure. Most of my continued improvement is in my hands and I am committed to do my part. Dr. O’Neill has provided me with a fresh start and I intend to make the best of it.”
John’s family was amazed at how fast John recovered. “They continue to support me and I sometimes need to be reminded by my wife that I really should put my brace back on,” said John.
“It’s really great to see John doing so well. It’s so gratifying when patients describe doing things that they had lost the ability to do – like in his case just being able to shuffle a deck of cards again,” said Dr. O’Neill. “He is really working hard at his rehab and I expect will continue to notice improvements.”
In John’s opinion, the surgery may have saved his life.
“If you have the pain that I experienced where medication won’t suffice, surgery is the answer. The stenosis is more serious and can be life threatening,” said John. “In any event, both of these in my case were successfully treated by Dr. O’Neill.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Neill, please call 317.802.2429.