Your Health Today Magazine

Back to normal: Mehlville resident back to exploring after spinal surgery

Alvin Camden

Alvin Camden was suffering excruciating pain when he entered St. Anthony’s Emergency Department last spring. He had every right to be miserable: tests showed he sustained five fractured vertebrae from a car accident three days earlier.

“The doctors said, ‘You’ve got a broken back, and we need to operate,’” he recalled. “If I had jerked the wrong way, I would have been paralyzed – it was that serious.”

The fracture was sufficiently unstable that Alvin could have been paralyzed, agreed neurosurgeon Fangxiang Chen, M.D., who performed the emergency surgery.

The delay in treatment – and the pain – resulted from the injuries being missed at another hospital, where doctors had found nothing wrong. He was told to go home and rest.

Alvin came to St. Anthony’s Emergency Department at noon on a Saturday, and Dr. Chen operated at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning.

“It’s really outstanding that Dr. Chen was able to do that: I think he understood the importance of the situation,” said Alvin, 77.

Alvin is doing well, and his prognosis is very good, said Dr. Chen.

“This type of fracture, a T10-11 fracture with three-column involvement, is not uncommon,” Dr. Chen said. “The fracture caused instability to the spine, and the procedure involved taking a posterior approach to stabilize it by placing rods and screws into the spine.”

Alvin returned to his Oakville home three days after the surgery. Two days after arriving home, he ended all his pain medications to avoid any chance of addiction.

“I didn’t want to take any chances, and I didn’t need it,” he said. “There are positions you can put your body in a lot of the time that will help to relieve that pain.”

He’s now three months post-surgery and relies on a back brace at times.

“They tell me it’s going to take at least three months for this back to completely heal,” he said. “I can’t drop down fast to pick things up off the floor. I have a little pain, but it’s bearable.”

Formerly in the restaurant business, and now a semi-retired rehab consultant, Alvin said he’s glad he gave St. Anthony’s a chance.

“I wish every business was run as smoothly as St. Anthony’s seems to be running right now,” he said.
“I credit top management.”

Alvin looks forward to exploring the United States with his wife, Angela, and fishing. He loves to fish for trout at Montauk, Bennett Spring and Meramec State Parks in Missouri.

“He’s my bionic man,” Angela said.