When Don Kappauf, 76, moved with his wife from New Jersey to the River Wilderness community in Parrish in 2004, he had plans to play golf regularly.
Unfortunately, Don’s golf dream was sidelined due to spinal issues centered on his neck, which he’d been dealing with for years.
“You get to the point where your fingers start to tingle — the compression of the disc caused numbness,” explained Don. “An MRI showed the bulge of the discs between the vertebrae.”
Don consulted with Eric Sundberg, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Coastal Orthopedics, who determined that surgery would be the best option and that Lakewood Ranch Medical Center would be the best place to have it performed. Dr. Sundberg performed a cervical fusion of the herniated discs in Don’s neck in May.
What Is a Cervical Fusion?
Normally, the spinal disc between each vertebrae acts as a cushion and allows for some movement between vertebrae. If a disc presses on the spinal nerve, it can cause disc herniation, which can irritate the nerve and lead to pain, tingling and numbness in the neck and arms. Cervical fusion lessens or resolves this pain by linking together damaged segments of the vertebral column in the neck.
During surgery, the disc(s) between one or more vertebrae are removed, and bone growth is stimulated to link together adjacent vertebrae. Often, a metal device is used to stabilize the fusion until the bone growth is solid.
Don’s Hospital Experience
“I was scheduled for surgery about 11:30 am. Tara was the first nurse I saw. She was extremely compassionate, very attentive and kept me totally at ease,” said Don. “When Dr. Sundberg’s other surgery was taking longer than expected, the OR nurse, Grace, kept me informed. She talked with me and made sure I was OK and kept me posted until it was time for surgery. They all had the same compassion and personalized care.”
Don added that the nurses in recovery were both skilled and personable. “I learned about their families, which made me feel like I really got to know them on a different level. Although it’s only for a couple of hours, they made a big impression. No one ever wants surgery, but the truth is they made it far nicer for me than I would have anticipated.”
Recovery after surgery has brought relief not just to the nerve pain but to other symptoms, as well. “I had a headache and tingling for about three months before surgery, and after I woke up from surgery, that disappeared,” he said.
Hospital of Choice
Don had surgery in the past at other hospitals, but his first choice is now Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
“Of course, I hope I don’t have to come back to the hospital, but if I do, I’ll be here,” he said. “I trust the staff and Dr. Sundberg. The nurses caring for me were wonderful, including Kelly and Christina. I like [Dr. Sundberg’s] demeanor, I like his conservative nature, and I like his results.”
Dr. Eric Sundberg is a board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the spine, including degenerative spinal conditions and deformities, such as scoliosis and kyphosis.