Barbara Serafino longed to hold her husband’s hand once more.
It had been months since Barbara and Phil Serafino’s fingers interlaced — the loving gesture soon becoming more than Barbara could bear. Debilitating pain pierced from her neck, coursed down her triceps and into her forearm and wrist, creating a numbing, tingling sensation unlike any she had experienced before.
As she sat looking off to the right one April afternoon, unable to tilt her head upward or to the left without being in tremendous pain, Barbara and Phil knew something needed to be done.
“For four weeks Barbara wasn’t Barbara,” says Phil.
Nearly three weeks after the pain first intensified, Barbara made an appointment to see Dr. Eric Sundberg, an orthopedic spine specialist with Coastal Orthopedics. X-rays and an MRI revealed almost all of Barbara’s C6-C7 disc was gone and what little disc she had left was pushing leftward, causing the nerve to be compressed accounting for the pain on her left side.
On May 1, Barbara had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Following an unexpected delay when the Internet went down, causing Dr. Sundberg’s team to courier Barbara’s images directly to the outpatient surgery center, Barbara was in and out of surgery within an hour.
“It was just incredible,” says Phil. “It’s a modern-day miracle. Dr. Sundberg was the man. He made it happen. They got the job done, and they did a beautiful job.”
During the surgery, Dr. Sundberg removed the damaged disc and inserted a spacer filled with bone graph to form a fusion. In doing so, Dr. Sundberg was able to restore the height of the disc and alignment of the spine.
“Dr. Sundberg is a kind, gentle and caring soul,” says Barbara. “I could tell from reading his credentials that he would take care of me. He got perfect alignment in the spine and overall it was a great experience.”
Throughout her 25-year career in medical sales, the last 20 of which were spent as a spine specialist, Barbara had witnessed more than 1,000 types of these surgeries having sold implants for this particular procedure. While it was a little intimidating knowing it was her own cervical spine that was being worked on, Barbara had complete confidence in Dr. Sundberg and the procedure itself.
In addition to neuromonitoring, which is used to measure the physiological activity of the spinal cord and nerves, it gave Barbara an additional level of comfort.
“During the last five years of my career, neuromonitoring became more prevalent,” says Barbara. “It was nice to see he was utilizing that technology because that wasn’t always necessarily the case in operating rooms. It just provides an added level of safety.”
Following an hour in the recovery room, Barbara and Phil returned to their Waterlefe home.
“We were in and out the same day, which is just amazing,” says Phil. “I can’t believe it.”
Nearly 10 hours after returning home, Barbara woke up at 2 a.m. and clasped her husband’s hand with her left hand.
“I woke up and the first thing I thought was I’m pain-free,” says Barbara. “I hadn’t been able to hold his hand in months.”
Two days after her surgery, Barbara was back in the gym riding a recumbent bike and preparing for a Kentucky Oaks party and a Kentucky Derby party that weekend. Three weeks later, Barbara returned to Coastal Orthopedics for a follow-up visit, and by months end, she and Phil returned to their Connecticut home for the summer.
“It’s night and day,” says Phil. “Within hours she was back and feeling better than normal. My wife is a different person today. It has been a long road, and I’m glad I got my wife back. We’re very happy, appreciative, thankful and blessed.”