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A Patient Story

My husband Steve had severe pain in his left shoulder in Feb. 2022. Ortho One’s Dr. Joseph Mileti, who had successfully replaced Steve’s left shoulder in Feb. 2020 during a very difficult surgery, realized at our second appointment that the problem was a pinched nerve. He referred Steve to Ortho One’s wonderful Dr. Alexandra Paraskos. After a year of non-surgical spinal treatments that didn’t solve the problem, she gave us the names of two spinal surgeons. We called Ortho One’s Dr. Vivek Sahai—one of the gods in our medical universe—who says that Ortho One’s Dr. Ryu is the best. Most of our favorite doctors are at Ortho One.

At our first appointment with him, Dr. Ryu assumed Steve wanted to have surgery and described what he’d do and how he’d do it. We asked if Steve could wait, since the shoulder pain was now manageable, and initially Dr. Ryu said it’s a quality of life issue. Then I asked what he’d advise if Steve were his uncle or relative. He paused to think and said, “I’d want a CT scan.” Dr. Ryu asked if we’d like to see him immediately after the scan to save us a trip! No one has ever offered us this before. For a handicapped person for whom every outing is exhausting, this was a huge benefit!

At our second appointment, Dr. Ryu showed us the CT scan results. Steve’s spinal cord was compressed at C6 & C7 but, in addition, four other pairs of Steve’s vertebrae have already auto-fused. Dr. Ryu said we need to do this now while he can fix it. If C6 & C7 auto-fuse, he can’t get to the problem. I asked a question about vertebrae and Dr. Ryu jumped up and said, “Come here and I’ll show you!” but he immediately realized that Steve wouldn’t do well walking to another room, and then said, “You stay here! I’ll go get the model,” which he did. We love Dr. Ryu because he’s a straight shooter, thorough, and patiently answers our many, many questions. Dr. Ryu suggested that we might want a second opinion (which is very rare!) and we said, no, if Dr. Sahai says you’re the best, that’s all we need to know.

Dr. Ryu’s Patient Care Coordinator Paige Plesich first suggested that we schedule at her desk in the hall, then immediately also realized that wouldn’t work for Steve. Instead, she came into the room with us to go over everything slowly, in detail, and taking time to answer our many questions. Paige always picks up the phone or gets back to you quickly. Dr. Ryu & Paige are a GREAT team!

On March 6, 2023 at Dublin Methodist, during the early attempts to start Steve’s IV, Dr. Ryu came in to see Steve. He was very forthright about how difficult the surgery would be due to Steve’s severely limited neck mobility, that he might not even be able to do it, and that even if he could, it might not do anything more than keep things the way they are. We prefer doctors and surgeons who tell it like it is, so we appreciated that.

During surgery, Dr. Ryu had to fight to access C6 & C7 because Steve has almost no neck mobility. He had to operate with his hands down against Steve’s chest instead of several inches above the patient’s chest as he usually does. He couldn’t tip Steve’s head back due to Steve’s severe arthritis and many auto-fused vertebrae. In the consult room, Dr. Ryu said it was a very difficult surgery—he quipped “My neck hurts!”—but as we expected, he got it done! Exhausted but happy, Dr. Ryu gave our son & me a thorough recap. He printed a number of images to show us, but also took photos on his phone because he knows how detail-oriented we are. Steve appreciates that Dr. Ryu is very creative, and knows what he can do.

I value that Dr. Ryu expects you to be a partner in your preparation & recovery ~ he’s the first surgeon to ask Steve to stay off his only arthritis medicine for 5 days post-surgery because the NSAID Mobic inhibits healing. It was painful & ugly, but Steve did it. Dr. Ryu also gave Steve groin-high TED hose, which we’ve never seen before, to wear for 2 full weeks and Steve did so. The day after Steve’s surgery, Dr. Ryu called Steve himself to see how he was doing, which is extremely rare. Also, even for a couple of Quakers like us, it’s pretty badass to have a Navy Flight Surgeon who operated in Kandahar during wartime as your surgeon!

Two weeks post-surgery, Steve felt ready to try lying on his left shoulder, which has been impossible for over a year due to a nerve that was pinched by spinal compression at C6 & C7. When Steve lay on his left side, he felt no tingling. No pain. Dr. Ryu’s surgery fixed the pinched nerve! This makes us incredibly happy because every night when we go to bed we snuggle against each other, and every morning we snuggle again (like newlyweds almost 42 years later). Due to his rheumatoid arthritis, for some reason Steve is able to sleep better on his right side on the edge of the left side of our bed. That means in order to snuggle with me, he rolls over to where I’m lying on my back, lies on his left side, rests his head on my shoulder, throws his top leg over my legs, and nuzzles his face against mine. We often fall asleep entwined this way and don’t reposition ourselves until an hour later, by which time I can’t tell where I end and he begins. We’ve missed this terribly due to the pinched nerve, and we’re absolutely euphoric to be able to snuggle again entwined with our faces touching.

Dr. Ryu is kind, thorough, a truth teller, keenly observant & considerate about his patient’s needs, extremely skilled even given a very difficult case, and takes as much time as you need. Steve has had rheumatoid arthritis since he was 13 years old, and this was his 21st surgery in 27 years. Anyone who makes my husband’s life easier is my hero. Kudos to you, Dr. Ryu!

- M. Hood