Glen Rose resident finally pain free after more than 10 back surgeries

Ashley Inge Staff Writer
Michael Williams after his back surgery.

Glen Rose resident Michael Williams has been through tremendous pain.

The 59-year-old former high school wrestler/long distance runner and rodeo competitor has put his body through the wringer, but nothing could have prepared him for the pain he experienced in 2016.

Williams owns a deer hunting and fishing business and one afternoon, a deer trampled him, hitting him in the center of his back and knocking him unconscious.

He was hospitalized for seven days and told he needed to see an orthopedic surgeon.

“[They told me] ‘you have four disks that are messed up in your back.’ They protruded inward instead of outward when the deer hit me,” he said.

He was transferred to a hospital in the Fort Worth area where he had his first surgery on July 5, 2018.

A few days later, he was in excruciating pain.

“It felt like someone took a baseball bat and beat the snot out of me,” he said. “They didn’t tell me that they severed a nerve. I was losing spinal fluid, and they had to repair my back, take out the ‘hardwire’ and replace it with new screws.”

Williams eventually had to undergo more than 12 back surgeries - those that were supposed to address his back injury – followed by corrective back surgeries.

“After 10 surgeries with that one doctor, it was time to change,” Williams said.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Williams was eventually taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth where he met with neurosurgeon Dr. Cyrus Wong in July 2018.

“He had surgeries done by multiple other surgeons and unfortunately, had some pretty serious complications in the past. Essentially, he had a couple of issues but one of them was he had a bunch of infections that required going back to surgery,” Wong said. “One of my partners had treated him for one of his infections and had referred him to me afterwards because of how complicated his case was but he had a few things going on: one was the infections, which he was treated for, but the main thing that he had was what we call flatback syndrome.”

Flatback syndrome is a condition in which the lower spine loses some of its normal curvature.

“He was basically miserable the whole time,” Wong said. “His pain was unbearable. He was not able to stand up straight, so when they’re not able to stand up straight and their center of gravity isn’t over their tailbone and their hunched over all of the time, it’s very tiring. He wasn’t able to walk far at all.”

Due to Williams’ infections, Dr. Wong would not operate on him.

Williams had to wait from September 2018 to Aug. 30 until he was 100 perfect infection-free before Dr. Wong could perform the surgery.

Wong performed a pedicle subtraction osteotomy – a complicated procedure where the spine is realigned and stabilized.

"There’s really just a handful of surgeons in this country who do this more specialized procedure,” Wong said. “Essentially, I'm reshaping the bone where he’s had a fusion in order to bring his spine back, to restore that normal curvature in his lower back which allows him to stand up straight.”

Williams first walked into Wong’s office using a cane and slumped over with his back at a 30-degree angle. After Dr. Wong performed surgery, Williams ended up walking on his own, a day after surgery, with a straight back and without having to undergo any physical therapy.

“Dr. Wong, it’s amazing what that man does,” Williams said. “It’s a miracle for what that man did for me. It’s amazing. I was slumped over, like a hunchback. I was bent over from September 2018 to August 30, 2019. I was in pain every day. Right now, I have zero pain in my back.”

“This is actually the best part of the job is when I can see them at six weeks and they look so much better,” Wong said. “Michael is one of those great stories where he looks like a completely different person now than he did when he first showed up in my clinic. He's pretty much off most of his pain medication. He’s able to live his life, function well and even his whole outlook, his personality, his mood, everything is so much better. It’s extremely gratifying when you can turn someone’s life around like that.”

“I wish I would’ve known about him (Dr. Wong) from the first surgery,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be going through what I'm going through now.

“When you’ve been through the pain I’ve been through and go to zero pain, that’s what I call a miracle.”