Uphill Climb: Ruby Keary Turns to Texas Health Plano for Help
Ruby Keary traveled
from Colorado to Texas for chronic back pain
Ruby Keary, 70,
like many wives and mothers, is a precious treasure in her
family. Smart, kind and caring, this gem is adored by her two
sons, her sister, and her husband of 45 years, Bob.
Ruby's sweet nature belies chronic
back pain with which she has lived for years. Diagnosed with
degenerative disc disease in her 20s, Ruby also had arthritic
bone spurs. The pain eventually caused her to limp and soon kept
her from riding horses and walking around her home near Colorado
When she couldn't climb a steep
hill behind her house any more, Ruby decided it was finally time
for the surgery on her back that doctors had told her she would
need to have. Hoping for an end to her pain and an increase in
mobility, she put her faith in physicians in Colorado and went in
for the repair, a fusion - and awoke to horrible pain.
"I was in extreme pain," Ruby
remembered. "I had this terrible pain in my foot. Like an
electric shock, it would just pulsate. I was in tears. They
discharged me and I just kept calling the doctor, saying, 'Please
help me, please help me.'"
After checking for a blood clot -
which she didn't have - and completing many rounds of steroid
injections, which didn't help, the only solution offered to Ruby
was more and more pain pills. She saw other physicians to try to
get answers, to no avail. In a foggy haze and still experiencing
pain after 18 months, Ruby had had enough.
An Answer from the Skies
The solution came not from the
physicians Ruby had hoped would help her, but rather, an
Texas Health Plano
has a dedicated neurosurgery program that offers minimally
invasive brain and spine surgery.
"I'll never forget: we were on a
plane to go see my sister in Mississippi, when my son, who is a
personal trainer, read in a magazine about
Rob Dickerman, D.O., Ph.D., being voted one of the best
neurosurgeons in the country."
Ruby's son, Dustin, who has
studied muscle activation technique, suggested to his mother that
maybe since her nerves seemed to have been so affected that
perhaps it was a problem that could be solved by a
Dr. Dickerman, neurosurgeon on the
medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, is one
of a few neurosurgeons in the country with a fellowship in brain
and spinal surgery. They flew to Dallas to meet the man that Ruby
hoped could relieve her debilitating pain.
"Ruby exhibited a Trendelenberg
gait, a classic L5 nerve root injury, with foot drop," recalled
Dr. Dickerman. "She had excruciating pain in her left leg. Ruby
and her husband have a hill behind their house that she couldn't
climb - she couldn't even wiggle her toes."
Ruby chose to have her surgery at
Texas Health Plano with Dr. Dickerman who began with a myelogram.
Dye was injected into her spine to see which nerves were
compressed by filling the nerves' sleeves with fluid. It was
immediately apparent that it was the L5 nerve root, which
controls the muscles that lift the foot, was crushed by a
Dr. Dickerman knew that utilizing
direct neuromonitoring with microscopic guidance would be key in
achieving surgical success for Ruby, allowing him to navigate
through the scar tissue and to assess the severity of nerve
Also at Dr. Dickerman's disposal
was the newest Brainlab technology that provides neurosurgeons
with a live navigation system intraoperatively to minimize
surgical incisions. This technology, introduced to North Texas by
Texas Health Plano, improves accuracy when surgeons are placing
hardware or removing brain or spinal tumors.
In surgery, Dr. Dickerman
dissected the nerve root from the bone and then used the
neuromonitoring technique to stimulate the nerve root and ensure
he had the right one. Because it had been crushed for so long, it
took a lot of stimulation to get the nerve to move. Dr. Dickerman
then decompressed the nerve root, removing bone and scar tissue
underneath Ruby's herniated disc.
The good news came sooner than
expected: Ruby began wiggling her big toe in the recovery
Recovery for Ruby
Three months after
spinal surgery at Texas Health Plano, Ruby Keary enjoyed a
stroll with her son, Dustin, on the rolling hills behind
her Colorado home. She also enjoys caring for horses
Ruby is recovering at home in
Colorado, overjoyed at the smallest movements most would take for
granted and enjoying relief from back pain.
"Before Dr. Dickerman performed my
surgery, I couldn't lift my left leg off my right leg if I laid
on my side," she noted. "The other night I tried it out of
curiosity - and lifted it six inches! I was so excited, I woke up
everyone in the house to come see it. I was tickled to
Ruby continues to work with
physical therapists to get muscle movement back from tissue that
had atrophied when she wasn't able to move it. Wiggling and
lifting toes and her leg and walking straighter than she has in a
long time, Ruby is already pleased.
"She has a long road ahead because
of the muscle atrophy," said Dr. Dickerman. "I believe she can
make a complete recovery and live a life without pain and with a
normal gait. When she left the hospital, I thought to myself,
'She'll make a good recovery.'"
Ruby is quick to point out that
not only is Dr. Dickerman a talented surgeon, but also a good
human being. "He took such good care of us, just as people," she
said. "He saw to it that my son had a place to stay while I was
here; he made arrangements when I had to go the ER for a stomach
virus - he even called the airline to help rearrange my ticket
when our schedule changed. I can't even imagine someone as
accomplished as he is being willing to take on all these other
problems. He's just wonderful. He's really a godse
Dr. Dickerman eschews the praise
but points out that Ruby is the same age his own mother would
Dr. Dickerman has a devoted fan in
Ruby Keary. "Dr. Dickerman has given me a new lease on life and a
lot of hope. I know I have a long road to go, but I'm determined
to get there."
Ruby's next stop? "There's a hill
behind my house I can't wait to climb," she said.