Patient Stories

Gary's Story

Dr. Angevine had apparently done his homework before he saw me. He had already looked at the spine x-ray in his office, so when he saw me in the examining room, he gave me his undivided attention.

Gary Layton wouldn’t let pain slow him down. The 75-year-old high school substitute teacher says despite the sharp pain he had been experiencing in his left leg, he was dedicated to working to the end of the school year.

I was tilted to the side and had difficulty walking but somehow I powered through, he recalls. People would stop and ask, ‘Are you OK?’ I would say, ‘Yeah. I’m just a little stiff today.

But Gary wasn’t OK. Because of the pain in his leg, he could not lie down and was forced to sleep in a recliner chair each night. Concerned about what could be causing the discomfort, his primary care doctor ordered at MRI to confirm the diagnosis, which showed spinal stenosis — compression of the spinal cord and nerves within the spine — and scoliosis — a sideways curvature of the spine.

The doctor referred Gary to a neurosurgeon and as an initial treatment, Gary began receiving epidural injections to quell the pain.

“The shots weren’t doing anything. When he saw that there was no progress with the shots, he said I need to go to New York,” Gary’s neurosurgeon referred him to Dr. Peter Angevine, a neurosurgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital. “When the neurosurgeon referred me to Dr. Angevine, he said specifically that Dr. Angevine handled the age group from 64 to 84, which a lot of doctors were not willing to touch.”

Within days of receiving the referral, Gary was traveling from his Jersey Shore home to meet with Dr. Angevine and the team at NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital.

He apparently had done his homework before he saw me. He had already looked at the spine x-ray in his office, so when he saw me in the examining room, he gave me his undivided attention. [My wife and I] had prepared a series of questions to ask him. The great thing about him was that he answered every single one of them without us even having to ask him, Gary remembers.

Just two weeks later, Gary was brought in for an eight-hour surgery. After the procedure, he began recovery in a private room, where his wife was able to stay overnight. The day after surgery he began physical therapy and was released to an inpatient rehab facility near his home after five days. Three weeks after the operation Gary was back home.

After more than six months of sleeping in a recliner Gary was finally able to sleep in his bed. More importantly, he was able to meet his goal to return to work the next school year. “When I went back to work, and people would ask me, ‘How are you feeling?’ I’d say, ‘I feel wonderful.’ They’d say, ‘Well you look terrific. You’re standing straight and we haven’t seen you stand straight in months!’”