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Published on September 18, 2017

mike wilson fishing

After Neurosurgery, Iowa Man Gets Back to Fishing and Building

When Mike Wilson and his wife, Kim, started the summer of 2016, they had big plans and much work to do. They found a Spirit Lake, Iowa cabin and bought it, and since it’d sat unused for several years, they knew they’d have plenty of refurbishing to do.

But a tingling, radiating pain that descended from Wilson’s shoulder to the fingertips of his right hand made that work nearly impossible. At times, Mike felt waves of pain ripping through his shoulder and neck. His elbow would go numb, then feel like it was aflame, then tingle. It was robbing him of a lot of life’s joys.

“I went up to the lake to fish, and the pain was so bad, I couldn’t even flip a jig with my normal rod and reel,” Wilson said. “I tried another smaller pole, but the pain was just too much. I ended up having to go home.”

Wilson accessed his medical doctor for pain relief but nothing seemed to really help. He and his wife wondered if they would even be able to get that cabin in good shape and enjoy it. But when his wife’s coworker shared information about her husband's positive experience with an Avera neurosurgeon, Wilson scheduled an appointment.

“Kim’s coworker’s husband had seen Dr. Maggie Carmody, and while I had concerns about the risks that would go along with a surgery of this sort, I was really suffering,” he said. “I did some research and while I had some shots in the neck that helped, I really felt like I needed more care.”

Dr. Carmody’s recommendations for less invasive treatment were helpful in the beginning in hopes of alleviating symptoms and the need for surgery. Wilson said that she was up-front and knowledgeable, sharing her experience as well as discussing the risks and benefits of the procedure. He also appreciated the fact she wasn’t rushed.

“She took plenty of time to walk me through all aspects of what she wanted to do, and we went over the images together, and she explained what she’d do during the surgery,” Wilson said. “The shots had helped, but the pain would just return. This offered a chance to have it fixed.”

Maggie Carmody, MD, a neurosurgeon with Avera Medical Group, said Wilson’s case was one that is pretty common. Degeneration in some of his vertebrae led to pinching of nerve tissue and that pinching is what led to the numbness, tingling and pain. Since a more conservative approach – therapy and steroid injections – had come up short, she said Wilson was a good candidate for the procedure.

“He had a lot of right-arm pain and issues with his arm, and we suspected the nerve roots coming off the spine and the bone’s pressure on them was causing the numbness and pain,” she said. “I proposed that we use bone and a plate to relieve the pressure. We needed to address two herniated disks that we noted on the images.”

Just a day after the 2½-hour surgery, Wilson said a majority of the pain in his arm had vanished. After his few-days stay in the hospital, he had some residual pain from the surgical incision, but none of the sidetracking pain and discomfort that had wrecked his plans for fishing and renovating the cabin.

Six months later, Wilson is back at it – working hard on his cabin with his wife. He also proudly showed off some pictures of a slew of walleye he caught – so that right arm is back in angling shape as well. He can again flip a jig. He will return to work this fall in Spencer, Iowa, where he serves as a school resource officer.

“I’d encourage anyone who faces what I did to ask a lot of questions – I’m really pleased with the professional care I had with Dr. Carmody,” Wilson said. “The condition I had could have become permanent, but the neurosurgery has me back to 100 percent.”

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