A Patient Story – Sharon Norman

Malfunction Junction

Neck was a wreck until surgeon put her on track

Sharon Norman
After suffering neck and shoulder pain, numbness, and headaches, Sharon is now pain free.

Sharon Norman could get no rest at the junction.

In short, the 62-year-old Rockford woman’s neck was a train wreck. It had jumped the track at the C6-7 vertebrae, pulling the C7-T1 vertebrae along to form a kind of “malfunction junction.” In that spinal segment (properly called the cervicothoracic junction), bone spurs, disc degeneration and stenosis were causing headaches and numbness in Norman’s ring and pinky fingers, as well as severe neck and shoulder pain. It was pain she tolerated for 15 years.

“It had gotten to where it felt like my neck wasn’t strong enough to support my head,” she said, explaining why she finally went to see Lawrence Maccree, DO.

Dr. Maccree, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Methodist Medical Center Oak Ridge, recommended anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).

It took less than two hours for Dr. Maccree to make a tiny incision in the front of Norman’s neck, remove the spurs and bulging and herniated discs, and replace them with two carbon fiber spacers along with a titanium plate and six screws for stabilization. Later that same day, Norman was back home, free of pain and singing Dr. Maccree’s praises.

“Dr. Maccree is so gifted. Only God could give a gift like that!” she said. “I know Dr. Maccree’s not the only one who can do it, but I’ve just been so appreciative of him I hardly know how to tell him.”

ACDF is the most common surgery in the United States for cervical disc disease, relieving pain in more than 200,000 patients a year, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Norman’s case, however, was unusual in that the source of most of her pain – the C7-T1 –seldom requires repair.

“The C7-T1 is not a common location to do – it’s not typically a place where we see these issues,” said Dr. Maccree, estimating that only two to three percent of patients he sees have problems at that location. “Additionally, it’s usually not the spinal cord getting squeezed – it’s the nerve roots. But in her case, both the spinal cord and nerve roots were being affected.”

As far as Norman is concerned, Dr. Maccree rose to the challenge.

“It was a good experience – I’m happy with it,” she said. “The hospital, the workers there, they treated me just like a queen. Except for a few little sinus problems, I haven’t had a headache since. I had been in so much pain before the surgery that I had gotten lazy not doing anything, and I needed to get up and move around. Now I can do whatever I want!”

Learn More

For more information about the neurosurgical services provided at Cumberland Neurosurgery and Spine Center, please call (865) 835-5460.

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  • Cumberland Neurosurgery and Spine
  • Lawrence Maccree
  • Methodist Medical Center

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