Jim Grady has spent 38 years as a volunteer and career firefighter. He has experienced it all—from flashovers to extrications to vehicle, structure, fuel, and large field fires. But over time, the job had taken a toll on his body to the point where he was in constant pain, specifically in his legs. Jim suffered lumbar degenerative disc disease and lumbar spinal stenosis—both normal wear-and-tear effects of aging. He also had a herniated disc.
“I tried just about everything including spinal injections with very little relief,” said the 61-year-old Frankfort Fire Protection District Chief. “I finally decided it was time to take the next step and consider a permanent solution to stop the pain once and for all.”
Jim had a MRI performed at nearby Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. After consulting with the fire department’s physician, he took the results and went to see Thomas Hurley, M.D., neurosurgeon with Cadence Physician Group now part of Northwestern Medicine at Silver Cross Hospital. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Hurley specializes in traumatic spine disorders, fusion, and minimally invasive procedures. He has been consistently recognized as a “Top Doc” at Silver Cross Hospital for outstanding patient satisfaction and is a past president of the Will-Grundy Medical Society.
“I had heard good things about Dr. Hurley from my doctor and co-workers. And they were all true,” said the 61-year old. “He spent nearly two hours with my wife, Bobbi, and I talking through my medical history and explaining the entire surgical process until we felt confident in how everything would go. My biggest concern was how long it would take to heal. I wanted to get back on my feet as soon as possible.”
“Interestingly, most of Jim’s pain was on the left side of his body, specifically his left leg; however the tests showed that his herniated disc was on the right side of his spine,” said Dr. Hurley. “I try to spend as much time as possible with my patients gathering the facts so we can rule out all conservative treatments before considering surgery. In Jim’s case, surgery was really the only option.”
Complex Low Back Surgery with No Complications
On Aug. 4, 2014, Dr. Hurley performed a laminotomy to relieve the pressure on Jim’s spinal cord and to treat his herniated disc. He followed that with a laminectomy to alleviate Jim’s leg pain caused by the lumbar spinal stenosis. Also known as decompression surgery, the laminectomy enlarged Jim’s spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves by removing the lamina, which is the back part of the vertebra (bone) that covers the spinal canal. Laminectomy is generally used only when more-conservative treatments such as medication, physical therapy or injections have failed to relieve symptoms.
Dr. Hurley visited Jim frequently during the three days he spent in Silver Cross’ surgical patient care unit, which is ranked in the Top 1% in the nation for patient satisfaction according to Press Ganey.
“Everyone was so friendly from my first office visit, through pre-op, through discharge,” Jim said. “Dr. Hurley and the entire staff—from the nurses to the (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross) physical therapists who took good care of me while in the hospital, were extremely helpful, enthusiastic and upbeat. They made sure that everything was set when I went home and that I had no complications.”
Back to Work with a Positive Outlook
After a short recuperation at home and a few weeks of physical therapy, Jim was able to able to return to some of his administrative duties with the Frankfort Fire Department just 4 weeks after his back surgery.
“I give Jim a lot of credit,” said Dr. Hurley. “He is proactive when it comes to his health, very active and physically fit, which goes a long way when you are undergoing such a complex procedure. Plus having a positive attitude always helps in the recovery process. Jim truly is a hero in every sense.”
“It will take some time to rebuild muscle, but overall I am feeling great,” comments Jim. “Oohrah to Team Silver Cross!”
For more information on back pain treatment options or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Thomas Hurley, call (815) 723-4387.