“The Relief was Amazing”

Maryville Woman is ‘Back to Active’ Following Spine Surgery at Parkwest

Christy Garland sitting behind her desk at work, wearing a black shirt.
Christy Garland found relief from back pain after spine surgery at Parkwest Medical Center.

The minute she woke from surgery in June 2022 at Parkwest Medical Center, Christy Garland of Maryville knew her many years of suffering from lower back pain were over. “I woke up with no pain. The relief was just amazing!” says Garland, now 51. Back pain is an ailment nearly everyone experiences at some point. An estimated 80 percent of  Americans will suffer from back pain, and more than 31 percent of women have had back pain in the  last three months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think my pain was due to years working in the dental field,” says Garland, who works as a  dental assistant. “It’s bending over patients to see the area you’re working in, plus I  was playing softball, and I was not taking care of myself as I should.

“There were times when my feet and legs were numb. The pain radiated down both of my  legs,” says Garland, who at one point needed to use a walker to move around at work. After a failed back surgery in 2019 resulted in worse pain, she was told there was nothing else that could be done and she would have to live with the pain. On the same day she received that depressing news, Garland went back to work, where she met a patient who recommended Paul Johnson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center.

Headshot of Dr. Johnson wearing a tie and blazer.
Paul Johnson, MD, orthopedic surgeon

“That just goes to show you the good Lord puts people in your life for a reason,” says Garland. “It was just meant for him to be there that day.”Garland made an appointment and immediately liked Dr. Johnson. Over time, several visits and non-surgical treatment efforts, they decided that surgery was the best option for Garland. “The decision to do surgery on Christy came after she had tried other treatments first, but she still couldn’t do the things she wanted to do without pain,” says Dr. Johnson. Garland had two spine surgeries at Parkwest. The first in 2021 was to remove bone spurs from the previous failed procedure.

“In June 2022, I had my L-5, S-1 surgery,” says Garland, meaning that Dr. Johnson fused the L-5 vertebrae at the base of her spine with the sacral (S-1) bone. This is the transitional vertebrae section at the base of the spine to the legs. It is a common area for injury and pain. “I placed rods and screws in her spine to fuse them together, because structural elements  of her spine did not maintain their relationship in a way that protected her nerves,” says Dr.  Johnson. “I enlarged her spinal canal and took pressure off her nerves.” Garland stayed one night at Parkwest Medical Center. “The next morning, I walked up and down  the hall and did my physical therapy. They even had a car simulator to see if I could get in and out of that,” she says. 

“My experience at Parkwest was amazing. It was fantastic. Everyone, from the time I got to the surgery center to the young man who wheeled me out, was top-notch amazing. “When I went home, I took maybe three pain pills total. At my two-week post-op office visit with Dr. Johnson, I went bebopping in and said, ‘I’m ready to go back to work!’ “Today, I ’m back to normal. I have my exercises that I do on a regular  basis. I walk. I play with my grandchildren. Now that I’m able to get out and enjoy  activities again, I’ve lost 33 pounds – it’s fantastic!” she says.

Garland would recommend Dr. Johnson and Parkwest Medical Center to anyone experiencing back pain. “In his office, you just feel comfortable, like you’re in the right place,” she said, adding that Dr. Johnson and his staff answered any questions she had. “They’re all just fabulous.” Now that she’s pain- free, Garland is back to her adventurous self. “Thanks to Dr. Johnson and Parkwest, I’m back to enjoying my life.” She says, “Four months after surgery I went to Las Vegas and went ziplining!”

Finding the Right Solution to your Back and Neck Pain

At Covenant Health, we strive to provide a caring atmosphere and deliver an excellent patient experience. Our pledge of excellence begins by our commitment to always putting our patients first. If you’re experiencing back or neck problems that prevent you from enjoying everyday life, Parkwest Medical Center has highly qualified surgeons who treat a wide range of spinal conditions, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Herniated or ruptured discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spine tumors
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis

When to See a Doctor

Back or neck pain alone typically isn’t a neurosurgical problem, but it may be a symptom of a serious spine condition if you’re experiencing pain that leads to:

  • Numbness, weakness in one or both legs, feet or toes
  • Numbness, weakness in one or both shoulders, arms or hands
  • Foot drop
  • Pain radiating down one or both of your arms or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Spinal injuries and diseases

For more information about Parkwest Orthopedics and Spine Care or a physician referral, call 865-374-PARK or visit TreatedWell.com/Orthopedics.

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