For Earl Rogers, well-known mechanic and friend to many in Thayer, Mo., this summer has been all about getting his life back.
After suffering from severe back pain for a stretch of time, Rogers reached the point earlier this year of what he thought was no hope.
“Over a year ago, my pain started in my legs – of course, people like me kind of let things go,” Rogers said. “It gradually got worse and went to my back, and eventually, I couldn’t sleep. It affected my work and my social life and about drove me crazy. The pain took over – my mind and my body.”
Having worked at Rogers “Buddy’s” Service Station in Thayer for over 40 years, Rogers has made many lifelong friends who become return customers to service their transportation. Rogers describes the back pain he experienced as something that affected not only his life but that of his friends and community:
“My day begins at 7:30 in the morning and ends at anywhere from 5:30 to 7 at night on concrete, pumping gas, all day long. We service a lot of cars and do a lot of mechanic work – there’s a lot of pulling, tugging, lifting – it’s all physical labor. So many friends saw me going downhill. When I started having back trouble, we started closing the station one day a week. I just couldn’t take it. I had a lot of my friends and customers worried about me.”
At this point, Rogers decided he had to get medical help. Earl visited his primary care physician and was referred to see Dr. Edwin Roeder at Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine. After conducting X-rays, Roeder sent Earl to his colleague, Dr. Troy Caron, orthopedic surgeon at Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine. Caron suggested treating Earl with pain injections first before visiting the next option – surgery. Into his treatment, Earl agreed injections weren’t the fix-all – surgery was the answer.
“I told him I had reached my limit,” Rogers said. “Dr. Caron said, ‘Earl, I can help you get back to at least a 90-percent better life.’ I told him to set the surgery up as soon as we could. And on June 3, I had the surgery and walked out of there the same afternoon with feeling back in my toes.”
Caron diagnosed Earl with spinal stenosis, which is one of the most common conditions he sees in patients at his clinic.
“Earl had moderate to severe spinal stenosis,” Caron said. “This is when the spinal canal where the nerves travel gets narrow and starts to pinch off the nerves. I performed a minimally invasive decompression, which opens up the space where the nerves are getting compressed.”
A little over a month out from his recovery, Rogers is taking it easy and continues to check in with Caron to make sure he’s progressing with healing properly.
“I feel better than I have in over a year,” Rogers said. “My mind is back – I’m getting what I call my old Earl back.”
Rogers says he has a mission now of fixing more than just his friends’ cars – he wants to help others feel as good as he does post-procedure.
“I was scared and never had surgery – I know others may be scared too to get help,” Rogers said. “I go with my gut. I didn’t have any doubts with Dr. Caron – he was dead-on positive and knew what was wrong. I know a lot of people who have pain like I did, and if I can help one person to not go through all the pain and misery, telling my story is worth it.”
Caron can attest to patients not seeking help soon enough – while understandable, fear is a concern he wants to address quickly with his patients when it comes to procedures like Rogers’s.
“I’m glad to see patients get better from this procedure,” Caron said. “It can make a significant difference in their quality of life. People like to lump all spine surgeries together – this is not a fusion procedure where rods and screws are placed. Minimally invasive decompression is still spine surgery, but it is done in the out-patient setting, and patients are up on their feet the same day of surgery.”
“Stories like Earl’s mean we are growing our medical group and serving our purpose of helping patients get medical care they need close to home, without having to interrupt life,” Tom Keller, Ozarks Healthcare President and CEO, said. “Adding to our infrastructure of physicians and specialties helps us accomplish just this. Being focused on our community’s health means we are focused on growing for our community.”
Now back to his “normal Earl,” Rogers says he is nothing but full of gratitude for Caron and his help in getting his life back.
“I thank God I went to see him,” Rogers said. “I’m not pushing myself to overdo it like he told me, but I’m feeling so good and love it.”
Ozarks Healthcare Orthopedics and Spine offers complete bone and joint care through surgical and non-surgical care. For more information, visit https://www.ozarkshealthcare.com/services/ortho/.