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Michelle’s story: Fusion surgeries ‘gave me my life back'

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For years, Michelle Zink had lived with excruciating neck pain.

She did therapy, got regular massages and even practiced cervical traction at home to try and help. In 2020, her neck pain became so bad she was unable to use her right arm for daily activity. She couldn’t vacuum, she couldn’t lift anything above her head, and she couldn’t sleep, she says.

“No matter what position my neck was in, it was painful,” says Michelle, who is in her early 50s. “It was the worst it ever felt.”

Michelle turned to Dr. Paul Baek, neurosurgeon at BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons.

“I just wanted to see if there was anything that he could do for me, again,” she says.

In October 2019, Dr. Baek treated Michelle’s lower back pain with a lumbar fusion. For Michelle, that procedure was a ‘life-changing” experience.

“I had had problems for about three years (before my lumbar fusion),” Michelle says. “It got to the point where I couldn’t even sit, I had to lay down in the back of my car when we took long trips, I would even have to stand on airplanes… it was brutal.”

She heard about Dr. Baek from a co-worker and decided to meet with him.

After a series of tests, he recommended, and performed, a lower lumbar fusion.

“It was amazing,” she says. “The next day he personally called and talked to me. I just love that. No matter what I needed I just felt like they would be there.”

Michelle was looking for the same level of treatment when she returned for her neck pain just a year later.

She couldn’t live with the neck pain anymore.

“I really just wanted to see if there was anything he could do,” she says.

Baek recommended another fusion surgery. This time it was performed as an outpatient surgery.

“I went in in the morning, and came home later that day,” she says. “The cervical fusion, in comparison to the lumbar fusion was really easy… They didn’t have to cut through any muscle, and I was just surprised at how easy it was.”

Michelle lived with the pain in her back and neck for a long time but wishes she hadn’t.

“Go see Dr. Baek. He’s the best… and there’s no reason to suffer,” Michelle says. “I feel like I got my life back. There’s nothing that stops me from living life at all now… It was an excellent experience for both surgeries and I just feel like I’m good to go for any kind of activity.”

Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Author: Alysha Schertz