March 25, 2019

Soldier returns to the National Guard after neck surgery

Neck, Back and Spine | Patient Stories


Major Kent Anderson is an officer in the 38th Sustainment Brigade. In 1990, he graduated from the U.S Naval Academy in Annapolis. Afterwards, he served five years in the Navy before pursuing his career in mechanical engineering. He then joined the National Guard after the attack of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

However, in the spring of 2017 his commitment to being an active member of the National Guard was threatened. Major Anderson who at the time was serving on active duty, woke up with what he thought was a pinched nerve. At the time, he assumed his pain was from sleeping in an incorrect position the night before.

Later that day, Major Anderson flew to California to prepare for deployment to Iraq. However, he couldn’t shake the sheer pain he felt in his arm.

While in California, Major Anderson visited a chiropractor. He thought the chiropractor would need to make a few adjustments; however, he was still experiencing pain after the appointment. He then called his friend Major Travis Welch who he had met when he joined the National Guard.

Major Welch is a physician assistant at OrthoIndy, who ordered an MRI. The MRI showed a disc herniation pinching an important nerve to Major Anderson’s arm.

He tried cervical epidural steroid injections in the back in order to calm the nerve, as well as physical therapy. Both of which worked well for a while but ultimately the pain returned.

“I was in a very difficult position,” said Major Anderson. “I not only needed to be physically fit in order to live a normal day to day life, but I needed to be fit to meet the physical demand of being a deployed soldier.”

Neck surgery

Major Anderson began looking for advice on where to have surgery. Shortly, Major Welch introduced him to Dr. John Dietz, an OrthoIndy spine surgeon.

Major Anderson had surgery at the end of August 2017 with Dr. Dietz. He chose OrthoIndy because of the specialization in orthopedic care.

“Specialty brings focus, focus brings excellence,” said Major Anderson. “Also, Dr. Dietz and his physician assistant, Major Welch represented the dream team for me.”

Dr. Dietz was happy to help Major Anderson return to active duty. “Major Anderson is a true patriot who loves serving his country,” said. Dr. Dietz. “We wanted to get him back to full duty as quickly and safely as possible.”

Dr. Dietz is a West Point graduate, former Army Ranger and served in the Army as an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Dietz’s physician assistant, Major Welch is currently serving in the National Guard as a physician assistant in addition to working at OrthoIndy.

“Dr. Dietz and Major Welch understood what I was facing as a soldier with orthopedic challenges and that I was scheduled to deploy so they were able to plan my treatment options beforehand,” said Major Anderson. “Where else on the planet could a soldier in need find two spine specialists both who have served in the Army?”

Dr. Dietz was faced with a challenge to design a surgery for Major Anderson that would not hinder his ability to serve in the military. Luckily, Dr. Dietz knew exactly what needed to be done.

“Fortunately, we can now remove a disc without doing a fusion by replacing the ruptured disc with an artificial one,” said Dr. Dietz.

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After neck surgery

Major Anderson came out of surgery and felt relief almost immediately. “The difference was like night and day,” said Major Anderson. “When the nurse came in and offered me pain medication, I turned it down. However, Dr. Dietz insisted that I at least take an anti-inflammatory.”

Four weeks after surgery, Major Anderson was training for deployment in Army body armor. Then, six weeks later, he was able to take the Army Physical Fitness Test. In the months that followed, he was able to board an airplane for deployment to the Middle East.

As of today, Major Anderson is pain free. “I have returned to my pre-injury workout levels and I am able to perform all of my soldiering functions,” said Major Anderson. “I have been in full body armor, full combat load, near the front lines and feel completely fine!”

A new adventure

Major Anderson’s next adventure is to tone it down and simply relax.

“While there are no guarantees in life, for me, surgery was not an option it was a requirement,” said Major Anderson. The replacement disc that Dr. Dietz and Major Welch put in my neck has given me a second lease on life.”

Major Anderson advises anyone who has a ruptured disc and it is interfering with daily activities and a doctor recommends surgery, then he would second that recommendation.

“We live in the greatest country this earth has ever known in part because great men like Major Anderson choose to put duty to their country above their own self-interest,” said Dr. Dietz.

Major Anderson is also grateful for where this journey has taken him.

“We are blessed to live in an incredible country and we are blessed to have places like OrthoIndy that can provide exceptional specialized care,” said Major Anderson. “If I had to do it all over again and was given a free choice of anywhere on the planet to have my neck surgery, I would be right back at OrthoIndy with Dr. Dietz and Major Welch.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Dietz, please call 317.802.2875 or learn more about OrthoIndy Spine.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

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