An In-Depth Look at Mayor Martin's Back Surgery - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/19/08

An In-Depth Look at Mayor Martin's Back Surgery

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For years, Tom Martin has dreamed of leading the mayor's office and sitting in this seat. Now that he is the mayor, first on his agenda is going to the doctor's office and sitting on this seat. It's not his blood pressure that's the problem, it's his lower back pain.

The mayor explains it like this: "The pain starts in my lower back area on the left side and down my left leg. Right this second, I'm hurting moderately. But five seconds from now, it could hit a spasm and hurt excruciatingly."

The mayor adds that it was during the chamber debates with then Mayor David Miller that he could hardly take the pain because he was standing for an hour. Again, he was hurting when he took the oath of office.

Now, before the work begins, Tom knows he must first get rid of his back pain.

With an x-ray of his spine on the wall of his doctor's office, he pointed to the lower vertebrae and explained the problem like this: "As Dr. Carr explained it to me, the 2nd lower vertebrae, 2nd lower disc are degenerating. The vertebrae tends to collapse a little bit. The space gets smaller cause the discs wears out. That's why they're hitting these nerves."

Video animation shows the discs between the vertebrae act like a cushion.

But when the disc starts to wear down, the vertebrae on either side get closer together, pushing the cushion out to the side.

In this case, that cushion is pressing against a spinal nerve which sends pain shooting down the leg.  But Dr. Carr says a bigger problem for the mayor is bone spurs, probably from arthritis, are also pushing against that nerve.

Dr, Carr explains, "There's no metal we're putting in. No screws. No fusion being done. It's strictly to restore him to more of a normal state to what he once had before which means we're going to remove bone, remove bone spurs, and if necessary a small amount of the disc to take the pressure off the nerve."

Karen Martin, the mayor's wife, says "We felt like if he had delayed this, you know waited, waited, waited, waited, it could have been more intensive type surgery, more invasive type surgery than this."

With a reassuring pat on Tom's shoulder in the pre-op room, Dr. Carr tells Karen, "We're gonna take care of him in the next couple of days."

And after that, the mayor was rolled into surgery at Covenant Lakeside Wednesday morning, June 18th. Karen stayed just two hours in the waiting room before the news that the surgery was a big success and the mayor was in recovery.

Dr. Carr says, "The success rate is very high. In fact, most patients wake up from surgery and already feel a definite improvement in that pain they've had down the leg."

Coincidentally, just 24 hours later, we found the Mayor walking in the halls of Lakeside.

He smiled and told us, "It was the most amazing thing when I woke up. I had no pain in my legs. And I'm so happy about it, I can't stand it."

Happy enough to convince visitors, like Councilman Floyd Price, that back pain is worth checking out. We heard the Councilman tell the mayor, "Yes, I need to get that done too."

So, as Tom Martin was wheeled out of the hospital Thursday, he gave his public a very different kind of statement from the Mayor's Office.

He wants everyone to know... "You have to go to the doctor. You can't just say 'oh well, it'll go away' or 'I'll just live with it'. The state of the art in back surgery is such that they are doing amazing things. You know, I had this yesterday, and I'm going home today!"

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