On a Mission to Move: Total Joint and Spine Patient is Fit and Fabulous at 70


Whoever said retirement means slowing down hasn’t met 70-year old Helen Akers of Geneseo. “If I’m not working out at the gym, then I’m on the move, driving to one sporting event after another to cheer on my 10 grandchildren,” she says. “I just love going to their games, so we put a lot of miles in and around the Quad Cities.”

ORA-NMahon06-This self-appointed family cheerleader has regained both her strength and stamina after undergoing two separate orthopedic surgeries for pain in her spine and knee. “No one has time for pain in their life and that included me,” recalls Helen. Although young at heart, as with many Baby Boomers, Helen was experiencing the pains of aging with deteriorating disk cartilage in her neck and osteoarthritis in her knee — both which threatened to put her on the sidelines during her best years with her family.

“My neck and shoulder were the first to give me trouble. I had numbness in both arms and then the pain just got worse.  I went from doctor to doctor for treatment and the pain was just limiting my life. It hurt so much I couldn’t sleep,” Helen recalls.

Michael Berry, ORA Orthopedics
Michael Berry, ORA Orthopedics

Dr. Michael Berry, a fellowship-trained spine surgeon from ORA Orthopedics, discovered Helen suffered from a pinched nerve in her neck that required surgery. “Pinched nerves caused radiating pain down her arms. I performed what’s called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, which is the common procedure to treat Helen’s condition,” he explains.  Dr. Berry removed Helen’s bulging disk and deteriorated cartilage between her vertebrae and took the pressure off her nerve. He then fused her bones together with a small plate and screws to lock in place.  “When patients wake up, they typically feel instantaneously better,” says Dr. Berry.

Same day surgery, faster recovery
It isn’t unusual for seniors Helen’s age to experience joint and bone pain and her knee was no exception. Deteriorating cartilage from arthritis meant a total knee replacement that has restored strength and movement as well.  “Wear and tear over the years can cause the loss of cartilage around a joint like the knee,” explains Dr. Mark Stewart, an ORA surgeon specializing in sports medicine, arthroscopic and joint replacement surgery.  To get Helen moving again, Dr. Stewart performed a total knee replacement, removing the old cartilage and inserting a high-grade implant into her knee joint — all while preserving the majority of her ligaments, muscles and tendons. The surgery requires small incisions, a short hospital stay, and Helen was up and moving the same day.  “I tell my patients they are able to return to biking and swimming very quickly.” Helen is fully recovered now and back to her routine of gym workouts and attending sporting events.

Dr Mark Stewart, ORA Orthopedics
Dr Mark Stewart, ORA Orthopedics

ORA Orthopedics – the QC leader in orthopedic care
From active seniors like Helen to amateur, elite and professional athletes, to even the smallest child who will overcome bone and muscular challenges, more than 10,000 patients are treated each year by ORA’s trusted 27 physicians in a practice that now serves a large part of the bi-state region.

ORA mobilizes its team of physicians and staff to put their diverse expertise and vast resources to work and get patients back to life.  “Our mission is simply to ensure our patients reach their fullest potential and restore as much strength and movement as possible, all with the least amount of risk,” says Joseph Martin, MD, President.

ORA has become the region’s leading orthopedic practice after more than 50 years of building on the expertise and the community commitment of its physicians. “Most of our physicians grew up in the Quad City region and have come home to raise their families and improve our area’s quality of life,” says Ken Brockman, CEO.

Total Joint Center of orthopedic excellence
ORA’s Total Joint Center is growing and offering treatment that puts patients on their feet and back to life.  Adds Dr. Stewart, “better diagnostic and imaging technology, as well as minimally invasive surgical techniques like arthroscopy, have transformed the way surgeries are performed. When I started practice, incisions were about 6-8 inches, and it’s now about half that or less.” The result — the majority of ORA’s patients undergo same-day treatment and surgeries, smaller incisions, and faster recovery – all while enjoying the highest standard of care in the region.

Just ask Helen Akers, who represents a generation that is aging more healthfully and staying active longer than ever. “I often wonder why I endured pain for so long, when both of my surgeries have left me stronger. I am so grateful to both Dr. Berry and Dr. Stewart for getting me back on my feet. Life is too short to live with pain, and family time is too precious to waste.”