Julie Overcomes Her Back Pain and Her Fear of Surgery


Mary Bounces Back From Back Pain

Julie D., a resident of Chicago’s northwest suburb of Mount Prospect, knows it pays to be cautious. As a labor and delivery nurse in a Chicago hospital, she also knows the importance of a swift response. When a swift response resulted in a nasty fall during a shift emergency, caution took the lead when it came time to choose a back specialist. When Julie first visited Dr. Laich in 2012, she knew that
she was in the right place.

The severity of Julie’s back injury made it clear that she needed medical assistance, but her experience in health care led her to be wary of surgical treatment. She dreaded the thought of a slow recovery time and the possible side effects that can occur from surgery if it is not done carefully.  

“I was very nervous to have any kind of back surgery,” Julie said. “A friend of mine who works at Swedish Hospital recommended Dr. Laich and the Chicago Brain & Spine Institute, which at that time had just opened. I had received three professional opinions before I chose Dr. Laich, and he was the only one who could perform a minimally invasive procedure.”

In addition to Dr. Laich’s world-renowned clinical excellence, he is known locally for his kindness and professionalism. It is the Chicago Brain & Spine Institute’s philosophy that patients are cared for as individuals through the development of personalized care plans and a process of careful consideration. 
“He spent an hour and a half with me, explaining all my options and making sure I understood everything,” she said. “His time is so valuable, but he didn’t act like he was in a hurry to see another patient—it was very impressive.” 

The time Dr. Laich spent with Julie had a two-fold effect. It made it clear to Dr. Laich that minimally invasive surgery was the best option to alleviate Julie’s severe pain while allowing her to heal faster and return to work sooner than with traditional surgery. It also comforted Julie to know that she was being so well cared for. She agreed to undergo a lumbar fusion procedure. 

Dr. Laich performed a pair of procedures during the holiday season. After a relatively short recovery time, there was no doubt that Dr. Laich’s course of action had been the right choice. 

Julie began a post-surgical recovery care plan to ensure that she wouldn’t re-injure her spine. She started with hydrotherapy, and as her strength returned, she continued with physical therapy. Over time, she regained the mobility and strength that she had been missing for the past five years.

Dr. Laich was happy to see that Julie was doing so well, but he wasn’t content with her stopping there. He wanted Julie to continue improving; growing stronger and healthier than she had been before the injury. During Julie’s final post-surgical appointment with Dr. Laich, their conversation convinced her to strive for the next level of wellness.   

“At that time, I weighed 260 pounds, and Dr. Laich recommended that I lose 100 pounds,” Julie said. “He was very upfront and kind and I wasn’t offended—he was concerned about my health and told me that if I didn’t do something, he would likely see me back on his table, and he didn’t want that for me.”

Today, Julie has lost 90 pounds with a healthy diet and regular exercise. To achieve this goal, Julie works with a personal trainer twice a month, has a consistent walking and running schedule and has even become a vegetarian—another suggestion from Dr. Laich. 

“I am a different person now because of the surgery and what Dr. Laich said to me,” she said. “Being significantly overweight was a barrier for me in my life; I had a poor self-image, but Dr. Laich treated me like a person, not a fat person. His voice is still in the back of my head—that he cared about me and what would happen to me after my surgery. It’s a different experience than I’ve ever had with any other doctor.” 

Coming from a registered nurse, that’s an exceptional compliment.

Laich, Daniel 250x250Daniel T. Laich, D.O., has nearly 25 years of experience in spine care and neurological surgery. He specializes in therapeutic and minimally invasive spine treatments, including endoscopic and arthroplasty surgeries, as well as spine reconstruction. He was a fellow when he started a study on the Charite artificial disk, and with Rick Fessler, M.D., Ph.D., as he pioneered minimally invasive spine surgery. He continues his academic pursuits both in the U.S. and abroad. His athletic lifestyle provides extra interest in caring for the injured athlete. 

To schedule an appointment with the Chicago Brain & Spine Institute, please call 773-271-2225.

To learn about our affiliated Galter LifeCenter, including how Chicago’s only certified medical fitness center can help you in your wellness goals, call 773-878-9936.

By David Modica | Published February 11, 2015
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