Neck Surgery Got Martha Back Just in Time for Harvest

No Such Thing as Retiring

Martha spent 33 years as a teacher in West Frankfort. When she retired, she didn’t take it easy—Martha and her husband, Ray, decided to start a vineyard. She said goodbye to working 5 days a week with summers off and instead, began working 7 days a week year-round! Martha, Ray and Tommy, their beloved dog, were out in the vineyard during the hot summer months and frigid icy months. The three of them loved every moment of it.

As much as Martha enjoyed working in the vineyard, she began having horrible pains in her neck and arm. She tried to ignore the pain and continued to work every day in the vineyard she and Ray loved so much.

Pushing Through Neck Pain

Eventually, the pain became too much for Martha to handle. She tried steroid injections, massage therapy and even physical therapy. But nothing seemed to make the pain any better. After pushing through the pain for four years, she was finally referred to Neurosurgeon, Mark Fleming, MD at the SIH Brain & Spine Institute.

The two words that Martha didn’t want to hear were “spine surgery.” Martha was suffering from a herniated disc in her neck. On top of that, Dr. Fleming told her he wanted to do carpal tunnel surgery on her right arm at the same time as the spine surgery.

“From the moment I met Dr. Fleming, I trusted his every word. Even when he told me I had to have spine surgery, I knew he would take away my pain.”

Dr. Fleming had All the Answers

Martha was hesitant to have the carpal tunnel surgery at the same time as the spine surgery, but Dr. Fleming reassured her that it would be okay. “Dr. Fleming answered all my questions before I could even ask them! He spent a great deal of time with Ray and me and explained and demonstrated how the spine surgery would be performed. He gave me reassurance and confidence.”

Martha had Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) spine surgery and carpal tunnel surgery on January 22, 2014. An ACDF is done with an anterior approach, which means that the surgery is done through the front of the neck as opposed to the back of the neck.

She woke up the next day pain free. She couldn’t believe it. Martha had felt immense pain for so long and overnight, it was gone—just as Dr. Fleming said it would be. Before the surgery was scheduled, Martha had planned a girl’s trip to Ireland, Norway, Sweden and France. Just 23 weeks after her surgery, she was off to Europe!

Today, Martha and Ray still enjoy working in the vineyard every day, planting, tending to and harvesting Vignoles, Chardonel French Hybrid grapes and a red Buffalo American variety.

“Dr. Fleming truly helped me more than I could have ever imagined. I would recommend him and the SIH Brain & Spine Institute to anyone who needs spine surgery. You will be in good hands.”