Dennis was injured while water skiing last August. Following the accident, he started having pain in his neck and shoulders and into his arms and legs. Besides the pain, Dennis also experienced numbness and tingling in his hands and arms. He tried taking anti-inflammatories for his symptoms but they offered little relief. Dennis took it easy for a few days, but found his symptoms remained — regardless of if he was walking, standing, sitting or laying down. Dennis works in the automotive industry; his symptoms were making work near impossible. He could not even lift a gallon of milk. Dennis knew he needed to get back to work, get back to life — as soon as he could.
Dennis’ aunt referred him to her spine physician, Dr Gus Varnavas, a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
Dennis scheduled an appointment with Dr. Varnavas. At his appointment, the neurosurgeon ordered diagnostics of his spine, the diagnostics revealed a cervical spinal cord injury. This injury was the cause for Dennis’ pain symptoms and numbness. Dr. Varnavas talked with Dennis about the spine surgery that would be needed to treat his injury. Dennis was relieved to learn that Dr. Varnavas has a background in surgical trauma, including brain and spinal injuries.
Due to the severity of his condition, the neurosurgeon recommended that the surgery take place as soon as possible to lessen the risk of long-term injury. Dr. Varnavas and Dennis also talked about the seriousness of spinal cord injuries and the occupational and physical therapy that would be necessary following surgery. Dennis understood that recovery would not come quickly.
In September, Dr. Varnavas performed an ACDF from C1-C4; the surgery was successful in relieving the pressure on his spinal cord. Following surgery, Dennis felt relief from his pain symptoms; though he still felt numbness and tingling in his hands and arms. He started occupational therapy not long after surgery to help with nerve regeneration in his upper extremities. Dennis saw gradual improvements in his numbness symptoms.
He returned to work part-time in December and was back to full-time hours in January. Dennis continues to do the therapy exercises on his own. He still has some tingling in his fingers and hands but is happy to be back at work and back to many of his normal activities. “Dr. Varnavas explained my condition and the treatment needed in a way I could understand. He helped put me at ease during a stressful time in my life,” Dennis says.
Click here to download a pdf of how Dr. Varnavas helped Dennis return to activity after a spinal cord injury.
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