Back to Painting
“Thankfully I had an overwhelming feeling that everyone at the hospital knew what they were doing. They were all very professional, and everything went like clockwork.”
At age 69, lifelong professional artist Professor Alan Burner is pursuing
his passions for painting, sculpture and travel. He is having a ball as
international director for the Art Institute of California, organizing
art workshops for hundreds of visiting international students. Alan credits
“a really nice repair job” for alleviating hip and back pain
and restoring his active lifestyle.
Spinal scoliosis (curvature of the spine) had caused Alan lower back pain
for years. Standing for more than 15 minutes was uncomfortable. Severe
pain set in last fall while scouting out a park location for a school
event. He jumped down from 3-foot-tall wall, jarring his spine.
His general practitioner was concerned about Alan's debilitating symptoms.
They needed to be addressed without delay.
Alan had a complex, multi-level problem in his spine that caused several
areas of compression on his nerves. His primary doctor asked whether Alan
wanted a “tried and true” traditional surgery that would require
a longer recovery period; or a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who performs
newer techniques that have a potentially faster recovery. Alan opted for
the newer method. Through incisions in his side, belly, and back, his
spinal asymmetry would be corrected into proper alignment and his nerves
decompressed. Once aligned, metal rods and titanium screws would be inserted
to hold the spine in place while the bone mended.
“What my surgeon methodically told me made perfect sense,”
says Alan. “I had done my own research and didn’t seek a second
opinion because of the trust I had in the entire Hoag system and him as
a sharp and widely respected back surgeon.”
Alan was hospitalized at HOI for four and a half days for a multistage
spinal surgery and recovery. “I was terrified of having surgery,”
he admits. “Thankfully I had an overwhelming feeling that everyone
at the hospital knew what they were doing. They were all very professional,
and everything went like clockwork. It wasn’t fun, but it sure helped
to feel like everyone was rooting for me.”
Back at home, Alan started his recuperation with frequent walks around
the house. The next week he strolled around his property and went back
to his studio to paint. By the third week he was taking walks down his
street. He tired easily, but the searing neurogenic hip pain was gone,
and gradually as the weeks went by his post-surgical back pain subsided, too.
“Now I’m able to stand for an hour or more while painting,”
he says six months post-operatively. “I’m not able to lift
heavy weights, but I can drive, shop for hours or sit at my computer without
Now that his standing and walking problems are solved, Alan and his wife
are looking forward to their upcoming trip to Europe.
“This was a radical surgery and my body will need a year to fully
heal,” says Alan, “but I just keep feeling better and better.”