Spine Patient Story

How MedStar Health Solved Richard's Pain

Richard Figeruoa is a retired foreign service officer living in Washington, D.C. who still leaps into action when the State Department needs his expertise.

In 2013 he was diagnosed with lumbar stenosis, a condition in which pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that travel through the spine can cause leg pain, cramping, and numbing. Opting against surgery, Richard’s treatment plan included steroids and physical therapy. He recovered fully.

In January 2018, he noticed a strange weakness in his legs. He exercised daily to build his leg strength. By April, Richard decided to seek help from his primary care physician, Nicholas Kohlerman, MD. Fearing a return of his lumbar stenosis, Richard requested a prescription for the steroids that had helped him recover.

New and Unfamiliar Symptoms

The steroids helped at first, but then Richard began experiencing tingling in his arms that quickly progressed.

“By May, I noticed the steroids were not working,” Richard says. “I was having difficulty walking and getting tingling in my arms that was progressing rapidly. It went from no tingling to tingling from the shoulders down in a couple of weeks. I was in a lot of pain.”

Concerned, Dr. Kohlerman referred Richard to Edwin Numsuwan, MD, a MedStar neurologist. Recognizing the severity of Richard’s symptoms, Dr. Numsuwan advised Richard to get updated MRIs right away to best evaluate both the lumbar and cervical areas of his spine.

“The MRI was done the next day because his office was able to intervene with our health insurance carrier to expedite the process,” Richard says. “And, instead of waiting the five days required, they were able to get it approved in one day. I had the two MRIs for the cervical and lumbar area. It was incredible quick, which I’m very grateful for.”

The Culprit: Cervical Stenosis

The MRIs revealed the true problem behind Richard’s symptoms: cervical stenosis, a condition in which Richard’s spinal canal began to narrow. The tightness can pinch the spinal cord or surrounding nerves, causing pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs.

Dr. Numsuwan’s office staff knew the urgency of the case and how vital it was to get the MRI results quickly. They intervened with Richard’s health insurance carrier to expedite the approval process, bringing the wait time from five days down to just one.

The MRIs were completed the next day, revealing the true problem, cervical stenosis- a pinching of Richard’s spinal cord, causing his pain.

Aware that Richard needed help quickly, Dr. Numsuwan consulted with MedStar neurosurgeon Robert Bryan Mason, MD. They agreed he needed immediate surgery.

“Dr. Numsuwan said ‘you need to get surgery right away because I’m afraid if you have another fall or have an accident where you get whiplash, you could end up in a wheelchair.’ It was getting progressively worse very quickly,” Richard said.

It took less than a week from the first consultation, to the diagnosis, and then a successful surgery. During the surgery, not only did Dr. Mason correct the cervical stenosis, but he also discovered a herniated disc in Richard’s spine and fixed that too.

Richard regained his sense of balance right away. In just a few months, the tingling and pain started to disappear, and he began to recover the strength in his legs.

“The tingling in my arms has largely gone away, there’s still some in my hands,” Richard says. “The tingling from my shoulder has gone away. It had become so bad that I couldn’t even button my shirts at some points, but now I’m back to dressing myself normally.”

Today, not only can Richard walk and live confidently, but he is running and scoring aces on the tennis court.

Why Richard Chose MedStar Health

“What impressed me was the amount of sympathy, care, and concern for my condition, and the way the doctors and the staff turned everything around very quickly so I could be operated on on an urgent basis,” he said. “That was very impressive. I’m very, very happy with MedStar.”

Richard says had it not been for the assistance of Dr. Numsuwan’s staff, he doesn’t think the insurance would have approved his MRIs in time.

“Dr. Numsuwan took great care and took a lot of interest in my case, which I found exceptional, especially since I had just met him the day before. He and his staff did everything possible to get me medical attention as soon as possible.”

After the surgery, Richard spent one night at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He said the surgery and nursing staff were fantastic.

“I have no complaints at all, just a lot of goodwill and praise for everyone at the medical center. They were very diligent. When I went into the recovery room, the nurses and everyone there were fantastic.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our spine specialists, call our scheduling line: 

Phone: 855-605-BACK

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