Charles “Kelly” Hodges will go down in medical history. He was the first person in the United States to receive the Triumph® Lumbar Disc to replace a herniated disc. The artificial Triumph disc was surgically implanted by neurosurgeon James Lindley Jr., at Memorial University Medical Center. Hodges doesn’t care that he’s a medical “first.” He’s just glad he can finally live his life without constant pain.
Hodges is only 37 years old. He began experiencing back pain in his early 30s.
“It started in my lower back and hip. It wasn’t bad in the beginning, but it got progressively worse,” said Hodges.
He works as an interior master craftsman at Gulfstream. His job requires a lot of bending and lifting to install custom cabinetry, furniture fittings, and side panels in jets. When his back pain began affecting his work, Hodges asked his doctor for help. The first course of treatment was a cortisone epidural in his lower back, combined with nerve-blocking medication. The treatment worked for a while, but eventually the pain returned.
Hodges then tried a physical therapy treatment called traction. He was placed on a special table and his spine was gently stretched. Unfortunately, the procedure brought no relief. Hodges spent the next year of his life in pain. It impacted his mental well-being and affected his relationship with his wife and his young sons, ages 5 and 3.
“After working eight hours, I couldn’t do anything else. I would come home and just sit on the couch in pain. It had gotten to the point where it was mentally beating me down,” said Hodges. His wife encouraged him to try another doctor. This time, he went to an orthopaedic specialist who recommended surgery. Hodges was worried about the idea of a major operation and he asked friends for advice. He says nearly every person he talked to told him to see Dr. Lindley.
Hodges immediately felt comfortable with Lindley and began accepting the idea of surgery. He studied all of his options, but felt something was still missing. With all of the medical advances available today, Hodges wondered why there wasn’t a better disc replacement option. He shared his concerns with his surgeon. That’s when Lindley told him about the Triumph artificial disc. Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah was one of only five sites in the nation selected to participate in a pilot study to test the disc.
Hodges had to wait another four months for the disc to become available. On October 27, 2010, Lindley implanted America’s first Triumph lumbar disc in Hodges’ back. During the procedure, Lindley gently separated the muscles in the lower back to reach the damaged disc. This differs from traditional artificial disc surgery that involves operating through the abdominal cavity. That’s what sets the Triumph disc apart from other artificial discs – it is designed to be placed posteriorly and ultimately improve the patient’s motion (ability to bend, twist, etc.).
“After surgery, I opened my eyes, looked down at my feet, and wiggled my toes. Everything was working great. Each day after that, I felt better and better,” said Hodges.
Hodges took a three-month leave from work. During that time, he continued to recover and regain his strength. Today, he is back at work and enjoying an active, pain-free life. He can play with his sons and help them ride their bikes – things he could not do before surgery. Hodges recommends the Triumph procedure for anybody living with back pain. He was the first person in the U.S. to try it, and it changed his life.