Gonzalez says Dr. Yasmeh gave him his lifestyle and happiness back by performing a minimally invasive spine surgery. [Photo Courtesy of Loma Linda University Health]
United States | Molly Smith

Enrique Gonzalez called himself an industrial athlete. He worked as a night warehouseman, performed laborious work, and lived an active lifestyle until day-by-day tasks like casual walking became too difficult a task. After compressed spinal nerves forced him to give up the activities he loved, a Loma Linda University Health orthopaedic surgeon uttered what Gonzalez thought was impossible: “I can fix you.”

Siamak Yasmeh, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, says neurogenic claudication cuts off power to the legs due to the compression of spinal nerves. In the spine clinic, he typically sees this condition in 70- to 80-year-old patients who accept and tolerate the pain. Gonzalez, 68, was now walking hunched forward at a 90-degree angle. The pain caused mental paralysis that forged a grim outlook.

“I thought, if after all this time, my body hasn’t gotten better or healed itself, it’s not worth anything,” Gonzalez said.

Enrique’s younger brother, Richard, was determined to change his perspective by getting him the help he needed; Richard wanted to get the brother he knew back. His persistence led Enrique to the spine clinic where change was promised.

In May 2021, Yasmeh performed a minimally invasive fusion through a small incision on the side of Gonzalez’s body and small incisions on his back. This fusion immediately relieved the pressure off Gonzales’ nerves, allowing him to walk later that day.

“Once I was told I wasn’t hurting myself, I worked through the anxiety and slowly got back to where I once was,” Gonzalez said. “Dr. Yasmeh gave me my lifestyle back.”

The once-recreational tennis player, skier, and weightlifter strives to become stronger and more flexible every day. With a weight set in his home, Gonzalez works with five- to twenty-pound dumbbells to maintain posture and muscle definition and stretches daily to gain mobility. Though he is not quite ready to run on the tennis court again, he is working on his coordination by hitting a ball against the wall.

“I became okay with where my body was. Now, I want to ensure the quality of my life for as long as I’ve got,” Gonzalez said. “I just want to keep moving until my last day.”

Loma Linda University Health’s spine surgeons are experts in surgical and non-surgical treatments for spine disorders. Meet providers, make an appointment, and learn more about spine surgery at https://lluh.org/orthopaedics/meet-our-providers.

This article was originally published on the Loma Linda University Health news site