Neurosurgeon: Howard B. Levene, M.D., Ph.D.
Albert Araujo, a 71-year-old Ocala, Florida resident, experienced aching back pain due to age and weight related issues in early 2010. He noticed the pain spike after long periods of strain, specifically after operating his motorcycle.
Mr. Araujo received a referral from his primary care physician and visited a neurosurgeon near his home in Ocala. During his initial visit, Mr. Araujo learned that he had a compressed disc. This is a condition in which one or more discs have deteriorated to the point that the nerves exiting from the vertebrae are placed under a great deal of pressure. Upon this diagnosis, his doctor suggested he receive an initial surgery as soon as possible. Mr. Araujo’s doctor informed him that he would be cleaning away tissue around the nerves in the spine to decrease the pain. Mr. Araujo received his first surgery on April 5, 2010 which instead of alleviating his pain, only increased its intensity.
“Following my first surgery, I had severe pain 24-hours-a-day and I had to start taking percocet. I was very hesitant to take such strong pain medication, but I felt I had no other option to get through the day,” commented Mr. Araujo.
Mr. Araujo’s doctor recommended a second surgery, stating that the spinal area still needed to be cleaned further in order to decrease the pain. He underwent the surgery on July 19, 2010. Despite high expectations, the second surgery did not decrease his pain level.
“After these consecutive surgeries, my life was even more miserable. My pain was extremely sharp and intense. I told my wife and sons that I did not think I could go on living like this,” said Mr. Araujo.
After an exhaustive review of the available options, Aleida Araujo, Mr. Araujo’s wife, chose to call Dr. Barth A. Green’s group at the University of Miami (UM). She had read that the UM neurosurgery team was able to achieve positive results for complex spinal cases.
Mr. Araujo was referred to Howard B. Levene, MD, PhD. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Araujo traveled to Miami for his initial clinic visit at the University of Miami Hospital. Mr. Araujo recounted his first visit, stating that Dr. Levene spent over an hour thoroughly explaining the surgery and the potential severe risks because of Mr. Araujo’s weight and age.
“When a doctor tells you all the risks, including complications, like a potential stroke, you have to be desperate but Dr. Levene was so reassuring that I happily agreed to a third surgery. Dr. Levene is very calming and he gave me so much confidence,” said Mr. Araujo.
Mr. Araujo received his surgery with Dr. Levene on December 3, 2010. The surgery performed was an advanced minimally invasive spine surgery. Two lumbar disks were removed and replaced with medical plastic using an approach through Mr. Araujo’s side and one lumbar disk level was replaced through a small incision in the back. The surgery was completed with percutaneous placement of screws and rods into Mr. Araujo’s spine.
Mrs. Araujo was also impressed by Dr. Levene’s personal interaction with her family. Immediately following the surgery, Dr. Levene came to the waiting room and thoroughly recounted the details of the procedure and the status of Mr. Araujo.
“He explained everything to us. He even hand drew a diagram on a piece of paper so that we could visualize what he had done. You don’t normally find that. It is a blessing to have a doctor who will take the time,” said Mrs. Araujo.
Post surgery, Mr. Araujo noticed an immediate difference. He stated that when he came out of anesthesia, he still had pain but that it was only a dull pain, not the sharp pain he had experienced previously.
Upon the recommendation of Dr. Levene, Mr. Araujo was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center, where he received treatment until December 22. He is now receiving at home physical therapy and strictly adhering to the course of recuperation prescribed by Dr. Levene. This includes using a bone stimulator for 10 hours per day to aid in the growth and healing of his spine.
“I am following Dr. Levene’s advice. He views surgery as art and I don’t want to ruin his art. I want to carry out his instructions because I feel indebted to him. I want to respect the work that he has done,” said Mr. Araujo.
Mr. Araujo continues to improve and is looking forward to getting back on his motorcycle once he receives the approval of Dr. Levene.