Patient Stories

Overcoming Debilitating Spinal Pain with The Expertise of UC Health

Jun. 11, 2024

Dan's life took a dramatic turn on October 26th, 1991, when a car accident left him in a coma for 18 days, necessitating brain surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

Dan is a Cincinnati native, a husband and stepfather known for his infectious humor and lifelong passion for Taekwondo. He works a physical job at another local health system, and when a car accident threatened to prevent him from enjoying the things he loves, the UC Health neurosurgery team was there with an answer.

The Journey to UC Health

Dan's life took a dramatic turn on October 26th, 1991, when a car accident left him in a coma for 18 days, necessitating brain surgery and extensive rehabilitation. He received his care at UC Health, and despite the odds, Dan's indomitable spirit prevailed, and he embarked on a path to rebuild and recover.

In a cruel twist of fate, another car accident on December 14, 2021, left Dan grappling with excruciating low back pain, threatening to derail his active lifestyle once again.

Dan's lower back pain symptoms included persistent pain, numbness, and tingling down his legs, significantly impacting his ability to walk and perform daily activities.

“I was very athletic before. I played golf and Taekwondo four to five nights a week for four hours or so. I teach and take classes. I’ve been doing it for 29 years,” said Dan.

After enduring months of debilitating lower back pain, imaging, and multiple medical consultations, Dan was referred to UC Health and found himself under the care of Dr. Rani Nasser, an acclaimed neurosurgeon at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

“With this back injury, there was a crack in my spine…It got to be so bad with numbness and tingling I called them lightning strikes that went down my leg…. When you can't even walk, having that taken away from me it was just horrible. That’s when [the doctor I was seeing] said, I'm sending you for answers,” recalls Dan.

The Journey to Pain Relief

Through consultations and diagnostic tests, Dr. Nasser mapped out a detailed treatment plan that offered Dan his first hopes that pain relief may be achievable.

Dan suffered from bilateral pars defects resulting in spinal instability. To treat his mobile L5/S1 spondylolisthesis, Dr. Nasser and team recommended an L5/S1 ALIF with minimally invasive percutaneous pedicle screw fixation.

On November 4, 2022, Dan underwent a 2-hour long minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery.

Dan remembers, “I was a little nervous, but Dr. Nasser came in and saw me right before it. He put me at ease. He said that he’s done so many of these. Next thing I know, I'm asleep.”

Reclaiming The Things That Matter

Post-surgery, Dan embarked on a journey of recovery with determination and the guidance of dedicated physical therapists over several weeks. Each small victory fueled his determination to reclaim his former life, one step closer to returning to himself.

“Every day, I got better and better and better. And then I got to the point where [Dr. Nasser] said, ‘Well, you're OK to return to everything.’ And I said everything? And he said, ‘Everything. '

Just four months after his spine surgery, Dan was back teaching taekwondo classes and effectively managing his chronic back pain. While it took him a bit longer to take classes himself, eventually returning truly meant everything.

Today, Dan is back to tending to his yard, golfing with his friends, and even achieving his 3rd-degree Black belt in Taekwondo with no signs of the previous nerve pain, an experience Dr. Nasser witnessed for himself.

“To see Dan progress towards a third-degree black belt was beyond inspirational, given how crippled he was with pain before surgery.  Seeing him outside the hospital and clinic, doing what he loves, truly warmed my heart,” Dr. Nasser said.

Dan's unwavering optimism and resilience shine through, a testament to the human spirit's capacity to overcome adversity. His story is a testament to the excellence of UC Health in restoring hope and transforming patient’s lives.

“No matter your problems and what part of life you're in, UC Health has the fix.”

The UC Health Back, Neck, and Spine Center

The UC Health Back, Neck, and Spine Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients with spinal pain, lower back pain, and other spinal conditions. Our team of experts specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, advanced pain management techniques, and personalized treatment plans to help patients achieve the best possible outcomes.