MANKATO — Gyles Randall’s pain wasn’t exactly evident to outsiders in the past, but a hunched neck caused by worsening nerve issues last year made it unmistakable.
“People thought I was really heading for the end,” he said. “I was not a pretty case.”
The Waseca man, a retired University of Minnesota agricultural faculty member, struggled to get out of bed last year. His walks were more like shuffles while he waited for pain from his neck to legs to lessen.
“Life wasn’t fun about that time,” he said. “It wasn’t what it should be, enjoyable.”
Randall, 77, said the spinal surgery he received in December — the second of his life — made him feel like a new man.
He sought it after finding out Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato was expanding its neurosurgery department. Dr. Meghan Murphy, one of two new surgeons brought in last year, performed a lumbar decompression and fusion of his L2, L3 and L4, L5 discs on Dec. 13.
Murphy called the surgery one of the more gratifying procedures in her practice.
“Spinal stenosis is probably one of the most rewarding surgeries I get to do because people have some degree of immediate relief,” she said.
Randall’s previous fusion surgery in 2011 alleviated the pain for about five years. Cortisone shots in 2017 held him over for another year, but they quit working, and all the while his quality of life deteriorated.
Murphy said Randall's first fusion naturally put more stress on the next segments in his back, inflaming the arthritic disease he already had. It caused spinal stenosis, a common condition occurring when the spinal canal becomes compressed enough to pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots.
The narrowed canal results in nerve pain, especially in the legs like Randall was feeling. It’s why getting out of bed and walking became so hard.
“That’s a very classic symptom people talk about, that they can’t walk for any lengthy period of time,” Murphy said.
She couldn’t guarantee the surgery would solve his neck issue beforehand. Although she suspected it was caused by the same tension issue, his arthritis added another variable.
Randall remembered waking up from surgery and feeling the difference right away. He spent 15 days recovering after being transferred to Mayo Clinic Health System in Waseca, crediting the team of physical and occupational therapists, nurses and everyone else involved in his care.
Murphy said Randall deserves credit of his own for coming into the surgery and recovery with determination to improve his quality of life. He’s now walking again with some stiffness, but the pain is gone.
“They saw me kind of eroding, and I did erode,” he said of how people used to react to him. “Now I’m a new person with a new spirit.”