Richard Balaban, 75-year-old Laguna Niguel resident, struggled with neck pain for years. He also began having weakness and numbness in his arm. Richard was planning on just getting an injection to help numb the pain, but the team wanted to order an MRI. The results were alarming.

“The MRI revealed severe spinal stenosis, among other issues. Basically, I was warned if I ever received a sharp blow I could face paralysis,” said Richard.

In addition, if Richard continued to only use traditional methods to subside the pain, without actually treating the issues, he would eventually lose total arm function.

When you are 75 and you hear you need spine surgery and there is no other option, you think ‘Well, I’m going to ask my pain management physician who is the best in the field,’ and that’s how I met Dr. Robert Jackson.

Richard Balaban

After examination Dr. Jackson, neurosurgeon for MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center recommended a microsurgery called anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Richard had spinal cord compression, and his cervical spine discs had collapsed, and he had bone spurs on his vertebrae pinching his spinal cord.

“It’s a relatively common surgery for neurosurgeons,” says Dr. Jackson. “We make a small incision in the neck crease, to keep scarring at a minimum, and dissect down medial to the carotid artery jugular vein complex and remove the bone spurs impinging the spinal cord. We then replaced the damaged C5-C7 discs with titanium coated PEEK spacers to replace the collapsed disc. With careful technique, patients generally have good long-lasting results.”

The surgery took less than two hours and Richard did spend one night at Saddleback Medical Center, just as a precautionary measure, but he was ready to go home the very next day. The electric shocking sensation he felt in his arm and hand previously had vanished.

“The recovery was easy,” says Richard. They prescribed muscle relaxers and pain medication for me, but I never needed to take them. Dr. Jackson and the team at Saddleback are top notch.”

Upon discharge, he had to wear a neck brace for two weeks, and a stim collar for four hours a day until his next visit at end of January. But Darin, the physician assistant in the group, guided Richard every step of the way, always answering his questions or concerns timely and efficiently. He was a source of support throughout the entire surgical process.

“I’m doing everything I want to do now, and my surgery was just on Oct. 11,” says Richard. “The only thing I can’t do now and have to wait until the end of January, is run, but otherwise I’m participating in all my favorite hobbies again. I would recommend Dr. Jackson, Darin and Saddleback Medical Center to anyone.”