Patient Spotlight: Gary Shirman

Gary’s story starts more than 6 years ago when he had numbness and pain in his neck which radiated down his arms and into his hands. It came on for no reason he knew of and slowly got worse and worse. He tried acupuncture, physical therapy, a chiropractor, and bodywork, when those didn’t work, he went to a spine specialist. He didn’t like the recommendation – a 2-level fusion. So he went to another doctor, again the recommendation was a 2-level spinal fusion.

Gary is an avid mountain biker – biking is hard on the neck and he knew it would make his beloved biking difficult. Gary then went to Dr. Thomas, who understood Gary’s lifestyle and presented a different option for him.

Here is an email we received from Gary recently:

“It’s been over 6 years since you saved me from doing a neck fusion and instead did a foraminotomy. Two prominent Orlando surgeons recommended fusing 2 levels, and you suggested making room where my nerve was being pinched as an alternative to try before fusion. You said that I could always have the fusion surgery down the road if the foraminotomy didn’t work.

I want to let you know how ecstatic and grateful I have been and still am with your recommendation and surgery. I am now 61 years old and still an avid mountain biker. I ride 2-3 hours at a time, 2-3 times per week, averaging 1500 vertical feet a ride, and averaging 75 rides per year since surgery with no pain in my neck!!! Who knows where I would be right now had I had fusion surgery!? Mountain biking is such an important outlet for me in my life in so many ways, and I am deeply indebted to you for suggesting the foraminotomy. It has allowed me to pursue my passion of mountain biking, exercise at a high level of intensity, have an outlet for stress, and enjoy nature. Actually, when my neck is feeling a bit tight (holding stress there), mountain biking helps reduce the pain and tightness. Motion is lotion.

It was refreshing to find a doctor who suggested an alternative to fusion surgery, and I want to make you aware of how successful your foraminotomy has worked for me.

Just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to you for your help when I was in extreme pain. You have made a HUGE difference in my life!”

Dr. Michael A. Thomas is a board-certified neurosurgeon who practices general neurosurgery with a specialty in minimally invasive spine surgery, skull base and endoscopic brain surgery. He treats conditions and diseases affecting the nervous system, which includes the brain, spine, spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves. Dr. Thomas has been referred to as a patient-focused professional and a conscientious and skilled neurosurgeon by his colleagues. He is certified by the American Board of Osteopathic Surgeons with a Neurosurgical discipline and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.

Patient’s names and details were changed due to HIPAA privacy policy.