In early 2010, Father Joseph Smith, pastor of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, was facing a full calendar. Lent and Easter were fast approaching, along with a busy wedding season. It should have been a joyful time, but Smith’s quality of life was deteriorating. He was living with constant pain that extended from his shoulder blade to his right hand. It had gotten so bad he could no longer use his hand.
“It was drastically debilitating,” said Smith.“ My arm was painful and clumsy. I could not sleep at night and could not function in my job.”
After a series of tests, Smith was diagnosed with stenosis in his neck. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord. The pressure then causes pain to radiate through the arms or legs, usually on one side of the body. Spinal stenosis can be a result of aging, arthritis, or a previous injury.
Smith knew surgery could relieve the pain. But he was unsure how difficult the surgery would be. He decided to wait until June to have the procedure. In the meantime, his doctor gave him epidural shots to help relieve the pain.
He planned to have his stenosis procedure at Memorial Spine a center of excellence for spine surgery and the treatment of spine conditions at Memorial University Medical Center. An important part of Memorial Spine’s program centers around patient education. The spine team wants patients to know exactly what to expect during and after surgery.
Before coming in for surgery, Smith was invited to watch an online video about his procedure.
“I realized I had more questions after watching that, so I went to a spine surgery class at Memorial. That was unbelievably helpful. I knew how to prepare myself and knew what to expect,” said Smith.
In June 2010, Smith underwent a minimally invasive cervical fusion procedure. His neurosurgeon, James Lindley, M.D., removed scar tissue and a damaged disc, then fused together two vertebrae in Smith’s neck. Smith spent only one night in the hospital. The next day, he felt immediate relief.
“The whole experience was very, very positive,” said Smith. “I believed in the hospital and my physician, and I was informed. I knew what I had to do.”
He left the hospital and began outpatient rehabilitation. Soon, the feeling returned to his hand and he was able to function normally again. Just a week after surgery, Smith was leading church services at St. Anne’s.
Today, Smith is doing well and enjoying a pain-free life. He credits his successful spine surgery to a combination of faith, science, and patient preparation.