My story began on the evening of March 12, 2006 when we experienced a ferocious storm. My wife and I heard water dripping over our heads from the attic.The next morning the storm continued to rage and water continued to drip, so I decided to go up into the attic to find the leak.
When I got up there, I noticed that the stairway opening was in my path. Instead of crawling around the stairway area, I tried to jump the 40 inch space. Big mistake! The hard soles of my tennis shoes offered no traction on the rafters and I landed, very unbalanced, on the other side of the stairway. I grabbed for something to keep myself from falling through the wallboard, but alas, there was nothing there except air! I felt myself falling and then must have blacked out.
I soon awoke, discovered that I was sitting on the bottom basement step, and realized that I had just fallen approximately 30 feet! I was numb and felt as if I was in a trance or something. Carefully raising myself up, I slowly struggled to our small freezer to support myself and stand.
My wife heard the commotion and came downstairs. She said that she was going upstairs to call 911. I said no because I could still walk and there was something I needed to do. I had told my oldest sister that I would be with her on the first anniversary of her husband’s death on March 17th of the previous year. Three days later and in constant, overwhelming pain, I flew to be with my sister in Virginia as I had promised.
Upon my return to Kentucky, I saw my primary care doctor. He ordered x-rays and told me to take Tylenol and lie on my back until the pain went away. This activity brought no relief.
Treatment & Recovery
I soon went to a new primary care doctor who referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. He reviewed my tests and stated that I had multiple injuries to my spinal column (L4, L5, and S1 areas) and that, with no intervention, I would most likely lose the ability to walk. The surgeon performed a fusion surgery in October 2007. Afterwards, he prescribed physical therapy as a follow-up. There was no improvement in my condition after the surgery or therapy that followed. My primary care doctor referred me to the pain clinic for five epidural shots to my spine. The first shot provided very brief pain relief, but the other four shots did not accomplish anything.
My primary care doctor sent me for a consult with a neurosurgeon at a local hospital. He reviewed my tests and stated that nothing was cracked or broken so he could not do anything for me. He also told me that after surviving such a fall, I should feel very lucky to be alive. The declaration by the neurosurgeon was the lowest point of my life. Instead of feeling lucky to be alive, I felt defeated, hopeless, and worthless! I knew then that I would remain debilitated with unbearable pain for the rest of my life.
In 2009, my wife happened to be talking with a wonderful woman she had become friends with while volunteering at one of our local elementary schools. My wife confided to her friend about my misfortune and how depressed I had become over the ordeal with my back. We were feeling very desperate and didn’t know where to turn. My wife’s friend thought that her son-in-law knew someone who might be able to help us. The woman’s son-in-law had been Dr. Rouben’s lab partner in medical school and highly recommended his old friend, now a highly renowned orthopedic surgeon, as the doctor for us to see.
My wife called to make an appointment with Dr. Rouben, and the two of us went to find out if he could give us any hope. When Dr. Rouben reviewed the x-rays performed at his facility, he told us that my back was a mess and that the spine looked like a crushed pop can! He realized that I must be in severe pain. He definitely thought that he could help me by using a technique that he had developed and perfected. He explained what the surgery involved in great detail and I told him that I wanted to do it. My wife and I left Dr. Rouben’s office that day feeling more optimistic than we had since the accident.
In October 2009, I arrived at the hospital and waited. Dr. Rouben, as busy as he was, actually took the time to come and see me before the operation. He went over the entire procedure again and wished both of us good results.
My operation was quite long and during the procedure Dr. Rouben inserted two titanium rods and eight titanium screws into my back. After the surgery, Dr. Rouben emerged from the operating room and talked with my wife. He informed her that he had to tear out everything the previous surgeon had done because it was not correct. Dr. Rouben said that it was a challenge but that it was FUN! I stayed in the hospital for three days. I was fitted for a back brace and an electronic belt (stimulator) to wear every day for at least six hours.
The surgical wounds took several weeks to heal. During this period, I was sore but able to walk around the house. Dr. Rouben prescribed pain medication to assist with any discomfort I felt. I was soon able to begin water exercises and then physical therapy. Later, I began to walk around the track at the YMCA.
In a year’s time, I was able to do many activities that I could not have accomplished before Dr. Rouben’s healing hands touched me. He gave me my life back and I will be forever grateful for this supremely talented and dedicated physician. I am thankful every day of my life that God put Dr. Rouben in my path and that He guided Dr. Rouben’s hands as he performed my surgery.
I have something to look forward to each day. I am a man of worth instead of being depressed and defeated. I am able to work part-time, by choice, stocking beverage shelves and waiting on customers. This position requires me to stand for seven hours at a time. I am also able to ride my tractor to cut grass and was happily able to have a garden last summer.
The best way to find a doctor is to talk with your primary care doctor and your friends to get a recommendation. Follow your doctor’s instructions completely and healing will happen for you.
The most important thing that I will tell you is this: Please don’t give up. There is a gifted doctor out there who can help you lead a normal life once again; I am living proof of that!