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In February, Chad Meacham of Warrens, Wisconsin, slipped on a patch of ice and ruptured a disc in his neck, or cervical spine, resulting in a painful pinched nerve. A herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc, refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions, or discs, that sit between the individual bones, or vertebrae, that stack to make the spine.
For many people, symptoms from a herniated disc improve with nonsurgical treatment, but that was not the case for Chad.
"It felt like somebody was electrocuting me all the time," says Chad in an interview with WXOW in La Crosse. "The pain shot all the way down into my arm. My fingertips were numb. My muscles were going crazy."
Chad’s injury lead him to an appointment with Shelly Lwu, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System — Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin, who explained that surgery would be required to fix his disc and scheduled as soon as possible.
On April 21, Dr. Lwu performed a C6-7 disc arthroplasty on Chad's spine. During this procedure, the disc was removed, including the ruptured disc fragments, to reduce pressure and pain on the nerve. Once in the operating room, this procedure is the same before or during a pandemic. However, there are many new safety steps that all patients notice as they prepare for surgery.
"At the front door, patients have their temperature taken and are asked screening questions," says Dr. Lwu. "Before surgery can take place, patients also have a nasal swab to test for COVID-19."
Chad's surgery was a success and relieved him of the constant pain he was experiencing. He says he is feeling better, and looking forward to fishing and returning to work.
Dr. Lwu stresses that the hospital is safe for patients because of the extra precautions in place.
"For many patients, they just can't wait to receive care. That was the case for Chad," says Dr. Lwu. "Our team has taken the necessary steps to perform urgent and elective surgery in a safe environment for patients and staff."