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Surgery Abroad

Surgery Abroad

The spine is our body’s central control structure. Made of many parts with many functions, it’s what keeps our bones connected. So, what happens when one of those parts stops functioning correctly? 

We begin to fall apart.


A Different Destination

It had been nearly two years since Tom Theobald began to feel pain in his lower back and leg.

Two years prior, he had experienced similar pain, so he assumed the diagnosis would be similar. Tom was a patient of Dr. Meredith Langhorst, an OrthoIndy physician, who specializes in non-operative spine and interventional pain management. 

At the time, Dr. Langhorst was able to get Tom back in shape with anti-inflammatory and stretching exercises. The pain began to cease and Tom continued back to living life normally. 

Fast forward two years and the pain began to slowly reappear. Come August, Tom would set out on a new adventure, far from Indiana and his daily routine. With a job transfer to Amsterdam, Netherlands, he flew across the Atlantic hoping to leave his pain in Indiana. 


Across the Atlantic

Tom began his life in Amsterdam after moving in with family in August 2014. The European lifestyle, including cycling and walking, became the normal as he became immersed in Netherlands culture.

As months passed, his pain worsened and almost all activity was accompanied by pain. 

“I was able to do almost all things, but often with pain. Long car rides and flights would be painful and often times I would wake up in the night with pain,” said Tom.

As the holiday season approached, Tom began to plan his trip back home to Indiana, which would mean a trip to OrthoIndy as well. 


Home for the Holidays

With two weeks in Indiana, Tom had no time to spare. Upon arrival, he called OrthoIndy and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Langhorst. His hopes of similar treatment as two years
prior were crushed.

“Tom came to me a few years back, when he was an Indiana resident, for recommendations for his back pain,” said Dr. Langhorst. “We were able to treat him conservatively, make an impact on his life and return him to running as he so enjoyed. Tom since took an employment position with his company in Amsterdam and had a recurrence of his lumbar spine issues shortly thereafter.  Access to timely and efficient medical care in Amsterdam is not even close to what we have here in the U.S. and, thus, Tom reached out.”

Dr. Langhorst took immediate action. She ordered an MRI and quickly got Tom in to see OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. David Schwartz.

Tom had a large disc herniation at L5-S1, also known as lumbar disc herniation, with spinal stenosis. 

As a spinal disc degenerates, the inner core can seep through the outer portion of the disc, this is a disc herniation. The L5 is the lowest of the lumbar spine’s five vertebrae, while the S1 is the first vertebrae of the sacrum.  With lumbar disc herniation, the weak spot of the L5-S1 sits directly under the spinal nerve root, putting direct pressure on the spine. This nerve path runs through the buttock and down the leg, causing numbness, weakness and/or tingling in the leg as well as lower back, buttock and leg pain. Spinal stenosis meant that the nerve was being compressed by the pressure. Tom’s spinal nerve root was being choked. 


All Hands on Deck

This was not the trip home that Tom had planned. “I was shocked.” said Tom, “As I am young, in good shape and figured it was an easier fix than surgery. But I had to make a quick decision as I
was due back to the Netherlands in early January.”

All options were discussed and surgery was decided as the best option for Tom. His microdiscectomy surgery was scheduled for December 26, 2014 at OrthoIndy Northwest by Dr. Schwartz. 

“Tom was a great patient. He did his research before coming for his surgery. Unfortunately he was unable to get timely health care in The Netherlands because of their socialized medicine. He could choose any place in the world to get his microdiscectomy and he chose to come to OrthoIndy all the way from Amsterdam,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Within one week, Tom was seen by Dr. Langhorst and Dr. Schwartz, given an MRI with consultation and scheduled for surgery. 

“We were able to streamline his workup and treatment, including surgery, in a time frame where he was back in town with his family on holiday,” said Dr. Langhorst. 

Five days after surgery, Tom flew home to Amsterdam, Netherlands with recovery plans in hand.


Kingdom of the Netherlands

Five months later, Tom experiences very little pain. He is back to living the European lifestyle and enjoying life in Amsterdam. 

“I cycle most days to work without pain and am now back to jogging. Every month my back gets
stronger and I can add distance to all exercises,” said Tom. “I never thought I was a candidate for surgery. I thought I was just someone who would have occurrences every 6 to 12 months and be able to work through the pain and discomfort. The quick responses of the OrthoIndy team made it clear that surgery was the best choice for me.”

OrthoIndy’s ability to act quickly within Tom’s two week vacation back to Indiana put him back on his feet and ready to experience life the best way he can.

“Superb customer service, along with outstanding patient care, is the focus of OrthoIndy and its patients,” said Dr. Langhorst. “Tom had a great outcome and was so appreciative of our multidisciplinary care and attention that OrthoIndy, Dr. Schwartz and I provided.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Langhorst or Dr. Schwartz please call 317.802.2000
or request an appointment online at OrthoIndy.com/Request.

Written by, Tanasia Jackson, the OrthoIndy Marketing Intern during summer 2015. During her internship, Jackson wrote a wide array of articles and blog posts, as well as aided in social media and media relations tactics for OrthoIndy and OrthoIndy Hospital. Jackson will graduate from Ball State University in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a communications studies minor.

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