Intervertebral Tumor & Spondylolisthesis

At age 47, I began experiencing a dull ache between the shoulders which nothing, not heat / cold packs, exercise, chiropractic treatment, nor rest, seemed to relieve. Then, the pain moved to the left shoulder and settled in. Gradually I noticed the left side of my neck was also starting to ache. “Arthritis,” I thought, “I will just have to live with it.” My PCP concurred after getting x-ray and MRI reports which showed mild/moderate arthritis in the neck.

My neck and shoulder pain continued to get worse. My “wake up call” was when I began to experience numbness and tingling in the last three fingers of each hand. Now I knew it was something more serious. Additional x-rays and another MRI still did not identify the cause of these symptoms. “It’s time for a specialist,” said my Topeka PCP.

Because I had a friend in Florida who had received THREE extremely successful surgeries, two neck surgeries and one lower back surgery, with Dr. Moreno and he couldn’t say enough good things about Dr. Moreno, I made an appointment and flew from Kansas for a consultation.

After a CT-scan with dye (contrast) was done, the cause of my pain and numbness was discovered. I had a rare intervertebral tumor growing on the left side of C3-C4 in my neck. Dr. Moreno recommended surgery as soon as possible because it was “aggressive”, meaning it was causing destruction to the surrounding bones as it grew inside them. The tumor was dangerously close to the vertebral artery and could grow into it, which could cause me to have a stroke.

I was impressed that Dr. Moreno offered to refer me to a surgeon closer to my home in Kansas; however, I wanted someone with specialized experience with this type of unusual problem. Most of all, I wanted Dr. Moreno to do my surgery, because he took the time to pull his chair right up to me and looked me in the eyes while answering ALL of my questions. He did not sit there and write in your chart (like many other doctors do); he gives you his FULL attention and when you think you’ve asked all the questions you had, he says, “What OTHER questions do you have for me?” Dr. Moreno truly cares about his patients, and his staff does also (or I am sure they wouldn’t be working for him!).

In July 2004 I had 7 hour neck surgery with Dr. Moreno, which involved a second surgeon (a neurosurgeon) to assist him, so that EVERY precaution was taken. I am happy to say it was a COMPLETE SUCCESS. The tumor (which was benign) was completely removed, the vertebral artery is intact, I did not have a stroke, and I practically have full mobility of my neck, despite front and rear fusions, WITHOUT that horrible burning neck and shoulder pain (it was gone when I woke up in ICU). Oh yes, all of my fingers have full sensation, no more numbness or tingling.

I must say it was NOT FUN after the surgery to wear that neck brace for 23.9 hours per day for 6 weeks, but I did not want to mess up Dr. Moreno’s handiwork or go through another surgery to repair it! That thought made it easier to deal with.

I clearly recall my follow up office visit with Dr. Moreno, two weeks after the surgery. I had tears in my eyes as I said, “How do I thank you for taking away this horrible pain and finger numbness?” His response (which is typical Dr. Moreno) was to take my hand in both of his hands, look me in the eyes, and he said, “It is my privilege, with the good Lord’s help to be able to help people.” When was the last time you heard a SURGEON say that? Dr. Moreno is so exceptional; he has so many medical skills, combined with uncommon caring and dedication–and so is his staff.

When I began having low back problems a year later because of a slippage of L5 on S1 (a “spondylolisthesis”) with conservative measures no longer working, I needed low back surgery. Well, THAT was an EASY decision–Dr. Moreno! So I flew in from Kansas again with the utter confidence that comes from knowing you have a truly skilled and compassionate surgeon & staff on your side.

I am happy to report my TLIF back surgery in October 2005 at Mease Countryside Hospital was ANOTHER COMPLETE SUCCESS. I knew having Dr. Moreno as my surgeon gave me the best possible chance to have the outcome I wanted (especially if I followed his recommendations and precautions afterwards, which I did).

I am not a person of wealth, by any means. The multiple trips to Florida represented a significant financial expense, but they were worth every cent to have Dr. Moreno’s skill and compassion. He has other patients, who travel great distances to see him, and now you know why we do.

No reputable doctor will “guarantee” a patient an outcome, but if you have to have neck or back surgery, I know you will have the same confidence going into it as I did if it is Dr. Moreno & his staff who are handling your care.
God bless you, Dr. Moreno as well as your wonderful staff too! Thank you so very much for getting me out of so much pain TWICE!!!

P.H., Topeka, KS