Burak Ozgur, M.D., is the neurosurgeon Ray Macken had been waiting for.
For years, Ray, 71, didn’t talk about his back pain. A firefighter in the days when firefighters didn’t have much job security, Ray figured that if he complained about his back, he’d likely get laid off.
Once he retired he began seeking help, but he didn’t like what he heard: Three orthopedic surgeons and two neurosurgeons took a look at Ray’s neck and back – wrecked by spinal stenosis with a protruding disc – and determined he’d need to have some of his discs fused.
The Costa Mesa senior, who still climbs ladders, splits logs and rides his bike everyday, wasn’t interested.
Unfortunately, Ray was running out of options. Years of lifting heavy objects and performing manual labor with an untreated back had taken its toll; Ray began experiencing shooting pain down his back and in his right leg. He stooped, walked sideways and felt horrible. Something was going to have to change.
In the Spring of 2014, Ray received a mailing featuring Hoag Neuroscience Institute’s multifaceted Back Pain program, including the available minimally invasive surgical expertise. It detailed a technique that involved preserving as much muscles and ligaments as possible while still effectively treating the problem. Patients who fail conservative therapy may qualify for minimally invasive surgery heal faster and experience less pain.
“I told my wife, ‘I’m going to make an appointment,’” he said.
Dr. Ozgur, who is double board-certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American Board of Spine Surgery, is the Chief of Service for the Neurosurgical Spine Program at Hoag Neurosciences Institute. He is also, according to Ray, an incomparably caring physician, who reviewed all the non surgical options, as well as the value of minimally invasive surgery in Ray’s particular case
“It was the exact thing I wanted done, but it hadn’t been available all these years,” said Ray. “His demeanor was totally focused on me and for my wellbeing,” Ray said. “He really listened to everything I had to say. I never had a physician like that before.”
Dr. Ozgur explained the focused procedure, in the context of the available non-surgical and surgical options, which involved making a tiny incision in Ray’s back to remove two cysts and to remove excess bone and ligament that had been pushing on the nerve root in his spine. The process would relieve the pain without causing much damage to muscle, bone and tissue.
“Dr. Ozgur said, ‘When do you want this done?’ I said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’”.
Ray was no stranger to surgery. Over the years, he had undergone a hip replacement, rotator cuff surgery and an aortic valve replacement. But his spine surgery was different.
“The main thing that amazed me, was that for the first time, I instantly felt better,” he said. “Right away I felt the difference.”
Ray had been taking pain medication for his back for more than 20 years. Within three weeks after surgery, he was off most of his pills and feeling terrific.
“I’m doing things that I didn’t think I was going to do, like riding a bike. I ride down to Huntington Beach Pier, eat a sandwich and ride back,” he said. “Tomorrow morning, I’m heading to Lake Tahoe to do some fishing.”
Ray said his posture has returned to normal, and even his personality has straightened out a bit.
“When you feel bad, you don’t respond to people,” he said. “I’ve got a smile on my face a lot more. He did miracles.”