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"Those surgeries were well done. It turns out they were the best thing I could have done for myself"

Procedure: Spinal fusion

Jonathan Dibiasi and his family love spending time at their cabin in Vancouver, Canada. Last summer, when everyone else was outside having fun, Jonathan was sitting it out, popping pain pills.

“I was scared of having surgery, but that was the last straw,” says the business and family man. “I’m used to always staying busy with work and I hated the thought of having others do things for me while I recovered from surgery, but if I wanted to walk, there was no other way to fix this.”

In October 2018, and again in January 2019, Jonathan had procedures to fuse part of his spine (C3 - 7), from his neck to his upper back.

“Those surgeries were well done. It turns out they were the best thing I could have done for myself,” he says.

Jonathan thinks his chronic, bone-on-bone back pain stems from his early years of “wear and tear,” including damage done while on his high school football team and body building. “When I was young, I didn’t think about what shape I’d be in later in life,” he says.

In spite of having a bad back for more than 25 years, Jonathan never sought help because “I’ve never been a doctor person.” By the time he visited an HOI spine specialist at age 55, he could barely walk due to excruciating pain.

“When my doctor told me that I needed surgery, I was very scared,” admits Jonathan, a

Huntington Beach resident and Brooklyn, NY native with a slight accent. “I’d had a tonsillectomy at age 7, and surgery after breaking my arm in a car accident. Both times my heart stopped. The last time, when I woke up the doctor said to me, ‘We almost lost you.’”

About his HOI doctor, Jonathan claims he “didn’t beat around the bush – he told me exactly what he would do, which was exactly what I needed to hear.” Encouraged by his HOI physician to get another consultation, Jonathan met with five more orthopedic surgeons before returning to his HOI spine specialist and scheduling his first procedure. His wife, Nicole, also talked with two women in his community who knew his doctor and spoke highly of his first choice.

“I had all of my affairs in order to be sure my family was taken care of in case I didn’t make it,” he says. “But this time, my medical team figured out exactly what caused my heart to stop – I have sleep apnea. The anesthesiologist was awesome and kept me safe. My wife and two kids were prepared for me to die because of my history, so they were very relieved that I came through surgery so well.

“I came out of both procedures feeling no pain, just kind of uncomfortable,” he recalls. “Even though I was treated really well at the hospital, I like my own bed. Since I was doing good, my doctor let me go home after just one day the first time. The second procedure, on my neck, was more complex, so I stayed for two days. I went home on Percocet and muscle relaxers, and within a few weeks I was only taking Tylenol. I was surprised to receive personal calls from my doctor in the weeks after both procedures.

“I went back to work after two weeks, with Nicole driving me around. She’s been my rock,” says Jonathan, who owns and builds car washes across the state. “Four weeks after my procedures I’ve been able to drive. I went from not being able to walk around the block before my first surgery in October, to walking four miles down the beach every other day starting in early March. Being a native New Yorker, I love crowds, so I like going to Costco. I used to make it halfway into the store and have to sit down until Nicole was ready to go – not anymore.

“I’m Italian and love to eat,” says Jonathan. “I went into my first surgery weighing 233 pounds, which is huge for a guy who is 5’3”. Now that I’m walking and have cut my portion sizes in half, I’m down to 210 pounds, and plan to keep losing weight. Originally, we thought I might need a third surgery, but once I lose the weight and get stronger, I may not need any further intervention.

“I’m looking forward to becoming more active, like taking hikes with my wife,” he says. “I just wish I’d done this earlier.”

Photograph compliments of Jonathan Dibiasi