Dave O’Dell, 66, of Shorewood, Illinois, has always been an athlete. “No pain, no gain” seemed like a motivational mantra until he had to address the pain that literally knocked him down.
As a high school student in Wisconsin and at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, O’Dell swam competitively. Later in his 40’s, he competed successfully in the U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships. In addition to swimming, for years he also enjoyed barefoot waterskiing. Then, trading in water for the road into his 50’s, O’Dell began to cycle competitively, including century rides which include 100-mile courses. In a typical week, he rode 100 miles in and around his Joliet area home.
Recently, O’Dell was attending a client meeting with one of his three sons when low back and leg pain struck him hard. “As we were leaving the meeting, I couldn’t stand up and told my son that I had to lie down in the back of the car,” O’Dell explains. “The pain was so bad I thought I was dying.”
At the nearest emergency department, O’Dell underwent imaging which showed damage to his spine. “The ER doctor gave me pain medicine and told me to see a spine physician immediately,” O’Dell says. “I was really scared and immediately needed to figure out what was happening and what could be done to relieve the pain. It felt like my nerve was on fire.”
“Dr. Sayari saw me within 24 hours, and I really liked him,” O’Dell explains. “He was very up to date on the latest surgical techniques, was responsive, and he really listened to me.”
After an exam and a thorough review of O’Dell’s imaging, Dr. Sayari confirmed that O’Dell was experiencing a herniated disc in the L3-L4 region of his lower spine, which explained the excruciating pain radiating down his left leg. As a conservative, minimally invasive spine surgeon, he first recommended non-surgical treatment techniques. When ultimately these failed, he recommended a minimally invasive, outpatient microdiscectomy.
“Using an incision smaller than an inch, I use the newest tools and minimally-invasive techniques to access the disc herniation without removing bone, speeding up recovery,” Dr. Sayari explains. “In Dave’s case, he had a massive, far lateral disc herniation which is often extremely painful and was causing him quadriceps weakness. Even in recovery, he could already tell his pain had improved, and his strength has been steadily improving with time.”
With adequate pain control, O’Dell was discharged home within a few hours of surgery. Just three days following surgery, O’Dell was pain-free and walking between three and five miles daily around his neighborhood. “Now, four months later, I would say I’m back to 90% in terms of strength in my affected leg, but I’m still working on getting to 100%,” he says. He is happily back on his bike riding an average of 70 miles per week.
As for waterskiing? He says he’ll be ready to try it again soon, but probably not barefoot.