In the News
Reported by: Samantha Boatman
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) --Advancement in medicine is changing every day, but an operation that was done right here in Reno is setting the standards for other neck surgeries throughout the country.
The region's first on label two-level cervical disc replacement surgery was successfully done at Saint Mary's last week.
The surgeon behind the surgery, Dr. Michael Song, is very excited about this new advancement in neck surgeries. Dr. Song says the patient is excited as well.
"He's excited because he's the sole bread winner in his family, he has a very supportive wife, he's a family man, he's a laborer he works hard and all he wants to do is get fixed and go back to work," says Dr. Song.
Dr. Michael Song sees patients with severe neck pain all the time. Everyday life and work has not been easy for this patient, who we're going to call "Bob" throughout this story.
Bob suffered from severe neck pain every day, along with shooting pain throughout his arm. Up until this point, patients with Bob's symptoms have only had one option.
"It's a very nice procedure, it allows us to remove the diseased disc and take the pressure of the nerve, take the pressure off the spinal cord and replace the disc with a fusion device. The drawback, however, is patients can lose motion at that level and also have problems down the line," says Dr. Song.
The FDA recently approved a two-level cervical disc replacement, this now means two discs can be replaced in the neck instead of one, giving the patient many benefits.
Few surgeries like this have been done in the country, and this particular on label disc replacement surgery at Saint Mary's is the first of its kind in the region.
"The patient can essentially have his cake and eat it too, have the diseased disc taken out and replaced with a functional unit that can allow motion and decrease the risk of having problems down the line," says Dr. Song.
The recovery time is also much faster for this procedure, normally the patient is out of work for up to three months, but Bob's recovery time is expected to be around three weeks.
"I expect to have the patient to have very quick relief of his arm pain, I think his strength should come back over the next couple of months but more importantly after a couple of weeks he should be back to work," says Dr. Song.
Dr. Song expects to do more of these surgeries in the future, he says the only thing really stopping him from doing it now is insurance companies, because the procedure was just approved by the FDA, the approval time can take longer.
"We like to fight for all of our patients. This is a very unique opportunity, we are excited about it and the patient is also," says Dr. Song.
Bob was released from the hospital the next day and didn't have any neck pain. He also was released without a neck brace.
If you'd like to learn more information about this procedure, you can visit www.cervicaldisc.com.
Marianne Nevling, Carson City
Pain-free without medication: Thank you
We have excellent medical care here in Carson City. I am grateful for the proficiency of Advanced Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Song and his staff at Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare.
The surgical results and the continuing care of Optimum Physical Therapy’s dedicated staff have allowed me to gain independence again and pursue an active lifestyle at almost 70. Jason Overholser's high respect for his clients' needs and his interpersonal communication has made a partnership of regaining my self-worth and being almost pain-free without medication.
Dr. Song won the Patient’s choice award in 2012 as well as the Patient’s choice award in 2011.
Wendy Damonte, Channel 2 News
A few years ago, Cheryl Seroski started having some pain in her middle back. It got progressively worse until she ended up in a wheelchair and incredibly with no diagnosis. "I started not being able to walk. I started falling. I was falling out of bed just falling over a lot."
She finally ended up with another MRI. This one showed a serious problem, one that would put her in emergency surgery that same night. "My spinal column was being almost cut in half by calcification."
The surgeon on call was Dr. Michael Song. Cheryl had a calcified herniated disc in her thoracic spine. "In the thoracic spine there's very little movement because the rib cage stabilizes those bones but even in the thoracic spine once in a million times a year a disc can come out and push on your spinal cord to this extent."
The spinal cord is typically about 10 millimeters. But at one point in Cheryl's back, her cord was pinched so severely it was 1 millimeter or less. Dr. Song started her surgery at 10 o'clock at night. He didn't finish until 5 in the morning. "We came in, took out a rib, deflated your lungs, put in retractors checked with X-ray that we are at the right level and I had to remove this portion and another portion of the bone and all this pushing on your spinal cord we had to drill that out because it was pure solid bone."
Even to Dr. Song's amazement, after a month of physical therapy, Cheryl was walking once again. "I finally got to move little parts. Ya know. It's amazing. It slowly came back."
By F.T. Norton
Danny Haesaerts is an odds-defying kind of guy.
Eleven years ago he met his bride on the Internet, despite the fact that he was a cop in Belgium and she was a graphic designer in Gardnerville.
Now, six weeks after tripping and breaking his neck in his hallway, Haesaerts is working his way back, thanks to "a little bit of luck, a little bit of wisdom and a little bit of strength," he said.
"I was considered a quadriplegic. Dr. (Michael) Song did incredible surgery so now I am in rehab," Haesaerts said Tuesday from his bed at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. "I can feed myself, stand on my own legs. I'm exercising every day three hours to get better.
"Dr. Song gave me about 70-percent chance of recuperating. I might have a big chance of beating this whole thing and go back to maybe my old life."
Haesaerts run-of-the-mill tumble in his hallway should have just left him with bruises — he was carrying groceries when he tripped on the leg of an exercise machine.
"Its pretty ironic that you get a machine into your house to better your health and it breaks your neck," he said.
"My head did a 45-degree inclination and my vertebrae in the neck basically shattered. I knew it immediately that something was really wrong," said the retired cop of 27 years. "I couldn’t move and I couldn’t feel anything at all."
Wife Bonnie immediately called 911 and paramedics collected Haesaerts and rushed him to Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. The following day he underwent a six-and-a-half hour surgery to repair the shattered vertebrae. But he was still unable to move.
"When I came here in rehab, I was a jellyfish. I couldn't move at all. I was completely paralyzed from the shoulders down," he said.
Now, Haesaerts, motivated by his desire to reclaim his life, endures three hours of physical therapy and 1.5 hours of occupational therapy daily.
Bonnie said she never doubted her husbands ability to get better.
"He's just amazing. Something else happens in the positive, every day. I know Danny, he's unstoppable. If he wants to do something, you can take it to the bank that he's going to do it," she said.
Haesaerts admits that sometimes he might feel down about his situation.
"You have moments where you go to the dark place," he said. "Its usually when you wake up, you start thinking too much. So when that happens to me, I usually start doing something with my arms or legs, start doing exercises, That takes my mind off it. Its really easy to go the pity road. Its just better not to."
While there's plenty of work ahead of him, Haesaerts said he's confident hell regain most of his mobility.
"There's two ways to handle this — you can start whining and complaining, or you can keep your morale up there and try to beat this," he said. "Its working out really well for me. I think its mind over matter, with a little bit of luck, good surgery and good people."
Gardnerville man fights to regain his life
After tripping and breaking his neck in his hallway, Haesaerts works his way back.