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Relieving Spinal Pain through Surgery

PLAINS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A couple from Luzerne County married 22 years underwent the same surgery two months apart. They’re talking about how the expe...

PLAINS TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A couple from Luzerne County married 22 years underwent the same surgery two months apart. They're talking about how the experience at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center changed their lives.

The first thing you notice about Eileen and Greg Dewey is that they love animals; 12 cats and dogs live with them in Exeter. And that's despite Eileen having severe pain issues for years.

"It's very hard to deal with living in pain every day, which is what I do," Eileen said. "I was on narcotics for 10 years."

Eileen's issues were twofold: first, inherited back problems she's had for years, but more recently, pain in her neck that took away movement in her shoulders and arms. She has degenerative spinal disease.

It turned out her husband did, too.

"I couldn't drive. I couldn't sit. I couldn't sleep. No matter what I did, I couldn't get comfortable," Greg Dewey said. "I was probably miserable to most people. I'm surprised more people didn't punch me in the nose somewhere along the line."

The Deweys were sent to Dr. Gregory Weiner, a spinal and vascular neurosurgeon at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.

"Cervical and lumbar spine disease is a major health problem in the country. The amount of money we spend is in the billions for just those two problems," Dr. Weiner said.

Dr. Weiner explains with cervical spinal disease, discs can slip or crush, causing severe nerve pain.

He operated on Greg last December, then Eileen two months later.

First, he removed discs in the neck that were putting pressure on nerves.

"Now we place a little spacer in to fuse that level. The misconception is that you lose a lot of motion at your neck when you have fusion in the cervical spine. You actually don't lose much at all," Dr. Weiner said.

Now, neither of the Deweys takes narcotic pain medication.

Greg has no pain. Eileen still deals with those long-term back issues but is much improved.

"Once you get that pressure off that nerve, it's very sensitive. People tend to feel better that day, want to go home that day, actually," Dr. Weiner added.

Dr. Weiner wanted to take the opportunity to send the message that this type of surgery may not be the best option for everyone, but the right patient should not be afraid to consider it.