Working together during a community crisis

Innovative surgery revitalizes fly fishing guide’s life

His neck made a little cracking noise when he lifted a log overhead nearly 20 years ago during a building project. Since then, Randy battled pain that got in the way of most everything he did.

"My family is my life line," says Randy. "Without the means to help support them, whether it be working on the river during the summer as a fly fishing guide, my job teaching, or skiing, coaching, boating or hunting with my kids, life was incredibly tough and getting unbearable." Randy's pain would come and go in episodes lasting up to six months.

Until recently, spinal fusion surgery was his only option. Fusing the spine can reduce mobility and eventually the discs above and below the fusion wear out, often requiring another surgery. Knowing that the fusion fix had a limited life span, Randy worked hard to non-surgically manage his pain conservatively over two decades until age 46 when he couldn’t stand it anymore. During the last three to four years, his activities became severely limited. Having to hire another guide last summer to finish up his fly fishing season for him was Randy’s last straw—the 12-hour days of intense rowing became impossible because of pain and loss of strength. Randy’s many repeat clients from all over the country were as disappointed as he was.

That's when Randy chose neurosurgeon Dr. David Lundin at Valley Medical Center for a leading edge two level disc replacement surgery. Single level disc replacement has been around since 2004. Replacing two discs is a newer surgical option approved in August 2013 for patients who previously could have only considered traditional disc fusion for cervical disc degeneration. Disc replacement offers better mobility than fusion and fewer patients require secondary surgery.

Lundin performed Randy’s two level disc replacement at Valley’s award winning Spine Center in December 2014. In the hospital for just a day, Randy began walking right after surgery and used physical therapy exercises, swimming and lifting weights to regain his lost strength.

Now just six months after his double cervical disc replacement, Randy is enthusiastically back to guiding clients on three-day, whitewater fly fishing trips, June through August. "This surgery has gifted me with a second chance at doing all the things I know so well, pain free," says Randy. "I lost this luxury so many years ago; I had forgotten what it was like. I now enjoy every day with my kids and my customers on the river. I get that happy face again I had lost for so long when I see their success of learning how to fly fish and catch fish. Rowing my boat, which was nearly impossible, is now a joy again. Being involved with my kids, at a level that used to be so painful, is now effortless."

"I can't begin to tell you the difference this has made in my life. Dr. Lundin is a miracle worker. His help, in addition to my wife’s love and caring has made this one of the easiest experiences of my life. Valley Medical Center gave me my life back."