Published on July 09, 2021

Retired Nurse Ready for New Adventures Thanks to Innovative Spine Procedure

With over one million spinal procedures performed in the U.S. annually, spine surgeons have worked tirelessly to develop the safest, most effective, and least daunting therapies to offer patients. We're honored to share how one local nurse is looking forward to an active retirement thanks to a computer-assisted navigational procedure now being performed at Ozarks Healthcare.

Kerry Lilly’s back problems began due to an everyday household chore. Little did she know doing laundry would lead to an unfortunate trip to the clothes dryer, resulting in pain and a severe damper on her active lifestyle. As a nurse, Kerry had always been active, working in a busy clinic, taking walks after work, and going on adventures with her family during her free time. She and her husband even enjoyed scuba diving into their 60s during several vacations.

All of that activity came to a halt after a fateful movement to remove clothes from the dryer one day. As she bent over to collect her clothes, she felt immediate pain. Thinking she had merely pulled something, she didn't immediately seek medical attention. Unfortunately, the pain increased over several days, sending her to the doctor.

Kerry learned she had some disc degeneration that had possibly been progressing since her laundry incident. She was referred to a surgeon and had her first surgery - a lumbar spinal fusion. Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more vertebrae in your spine. Metal plates, screws, and rods are used to hold the vertebrae together, allowing everything to heal into one solid unit.

After her six-week recovery, Kerry initially felt some relief but the pain soon returned, so much that she couldn't stand to put her shoes and socks on by herself. She feared her husband would have to help dress her for the rest of her life. She was now walking hunched over and could no longer sit up straight.

Not wanting to face another surgery, Kerry was referred to Dr. Ryan Roberts at Ozarks Healthcare Pain Management, hoping that he could use less invasive tactics that would alleviate her pain. Many cases of degenerative disc pain are manageable through a combination of pain management methods, exercise and physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

After trying several of these methods, Dr. Roberts told Kerry that surgery would probably be her best option for relief.

“Dr. Roberts told me he wanted me to visit Dr. Caron and just see if he couldn’t help me,” Kerry said.

Dr. Troy Caron is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon practicing at Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine. He diagnoses and treats ailments affecting muscles, bones, and joints. Hel also treats sports injuries, degenerative diseases, tumors, infections, and congenital disabilities. Dr. Caron regularly performs joint repair and replacement surgeries and specializes in spine surgery.

After an initial exam and review of her X-rays, Dr. Caron said she had additional disks that weren't looking well. Dr. Caron told Kerry he knew he could help – with surgery. Though she was nervous about having a second surgery, Kerry decided it was worth trying to get her life as she once knew it back.

Dr. Caron performed Kerry’s surgery with the aid of a robotic-assisted navigational system, which allows surgeons to access three-dimensional visualizations of the patient's imaging and reduce the size of an incision. Real-time image guidance increases the accuracy in which the surgeon can place screws. The system that Dr. Caron uses at Ozarks Healthcare is called the Stryker Spinal Navigation system, including the SpineMask Tracker and SpineMap software. With fewer revisions needed, lower infection rates, reduced length of stay, and shorter operative times, navigationally assisted surgery is a huge benefit to patients needing spine surgery. For Kerry, it was a life-changer.

“I spent three days in the hospital after my surgery but was walking the very next day,” Kerry said. “Dr. Caron has been a godsend to me, and I can't sing his praises enough. I would tell anyone suffering with back pain to see him.”

Now looking forward to enjoying her retirement, Kerry and her husband just bought a camper and are ready to hit the road as soon as she gets cleared to drive. Had she not received the care she did from Dr. Caron, she wouldn’t have been able to climb up the steps into her camper.

“Now, I feel like I'm a new woman,” Kerry said.

Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine is located at 1210 N. Kentucky Ave. in West Plains. Dr. Caron sees patients by referral Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call 417-256-1745. Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine provides an on-call physician 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After-hour orthopedic injuries may be evaluated at Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department.

Performing revisionary surgery via a computer-assisted navigational system, Dr. Caron was able to place additional screws and straighten Kerry’s spine, giving her relief from her nerve pain. 

Kerry Lilly is pictured with Dr. Troy Caron, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon at Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine. 

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