Spinal Surgery Puts Motorcyclist Back on Two Wheels

Robert GulleyRobert was working as an aircraft mechanic when he suffered a back injury. As he stepped out of a tow tractor after towing a plane that day, he felt excruciating pain in his leg and hip. Later he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and bone spurs. “I had to leave in an ambulance. I was immobile.” Robert may never forget how debilitating the pain was from his back injury or how Usman Zahir, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and spine specialist, made him feel during his treatment. 

“Dr. Zahir, he was perfect. He’s great! I know he’s a busy man, but if you have a question, he’s there,” said Robert. “He doesn’t brush you off. He takes the time to explain things to you and answer your questions. He even shows you models to help you better understand.” 

“Many times, all we have to do is remove these bone spurs or discs, and provide the nerves enough room – a procedure called laminectomy –and that helps with the pain. Yet in some patients with spondylolisthesis, a condition where the spine slips in an abnormal way, we often have to fuse the spine. The fusion that we performed on Robert’s spine will keep it stable, allowing him the opportunity to return to his activities.”

“I came out of surgery and said, ‘Wow, no more nerve pain,’ ” said Robert. “It was gone. I couldn’t believe it!” Robert’s hobby of riding motorcycles has taken a back seat for about a year due to his injury. Now, he’s looking forward to getting back to doing what he loves.

After his back injury, Robert spent more than six months undergoing several different types of treatment before resorting to lower back surgery. When a few months of physical therapy didn’t result in any lasting relief, his family doctor recommended he get an MRI and see Dr. Zahir. “Trying to first relieve symptoms with more conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy or injections is typical, and is my preference,” said Dr. Zahir. “After a series of injections, his level of pain wasn’t improving and it was clear Robert was a candidate for laminectomy and fusion.”

Robert is grateful his long journey led to Dr. Zahir, who helped him get back on the pain-free path again. And he’s planning to ride that path on his shiny red luxury motorcycle with his wife, Lynn, in the seat behind him.