“I knew in June of 2014 that something wasn’t right. I’d had all sorts of back problems since I was about 20 years old after an injury while I was in the Coast Guard. I had periodic and transient pain in my lower back, usually in the form of muscle spasms since that injury. I was always able to work and only had to miss a day here and there for pain when I later became a paramedic. But this time was different. This time I had some strange tingling symptoms and absolutely unfathomable pain in my right leg that just kept getting worse and worse over the course of a few months. It got to the point that at 34 years old I was walking with a cane and stopping to rest due to the pain and numbness every 10 or 20 feet I walked. I actually got to the point, while working as a Physician Assistant in an Emergency Room that I was literally crawling from room to room to see my patients.
One day while I was at church the pain just kept climbing and I had usually been able to find at least temporary relief in the pain by changing positions in my seat, this time I could no longer. I went home early from church, leaving my wife and kids there to walk the couple of blocks home. When my wife arrived home I was laying in in the entry way of my door writhing in pain and crying. She had never seen me in pain like this before and called my father, who also having a career in emergency medicine, knew what was happening and brought me to Doctors Medical Center Emergency Department.
While in the ER, the few remaining symptoms to indicate that what I was experiencing was indeed Cauda Equina Syndrome crept up. It was surreal. I remember the lectures from PA school talking about how if someone with these symptoms doesn’t get into surgery soon, they aren’t likely to ever fully recover. I was admitted to 4 West that night under the watchful eye of one of Dr. Helbig’s talented and watchful PA’s. Around 4 AM in the morning a nurse came in to check on me and I remember telling her that the pain had gone away, thinking, in my sleep deprived state, that this was a good thing. The nurse however realized that this could be a sign that the need for surgery was imminent. From that point, things happened quickly. I don’t remember much else until the day before I was discharged home, walking down the hallway with a very compassionate nurse holding my arm to help me keep my balance as I felt like I was walking on brand new legs.
Since then I’ve come back to Dr. Helbig for an additional surgery on my back and within a month of that second surgery I was traveling on the bumpy rural mountain roads of Haiti in the back of an ATV. Absolutely above and beyond anything I could have expected from all the staff in emergency, in four west and neurosurgery. It is such a comfort to me to know that we have such an amazing neurosurgery service right here in the Modesto area.