A Pinched Nerve

It was a sunny day in September 2022. The weather in Macon, Mo. had consistently been in the 80s and Roger Cathey was outside soaking up the sun. Not one to sit around, Roger loves being outdoors, whether he’s mowing, fishing, gardening or planting his wife Pat’s flowers.

As Roger was mowing, he got his riding lawn mower stuck highcentered on a stump. Roger shrugged his shoulders and thought, “Well, I’ll just pick it up and get it off this stump so I can finish mowing.”

Once he reached down and grabbed the front of his mower and pulled up, he felt a sharp pain that he says “hurt like crazy,” but Roger didn’t think that any serious damage was done. He had his grandson help move the mower so he could finish mowing and took some pain medicine that night.

The next night was worse. Roger says the pain was so intense, he thought he was having a heart attack. “It hurt clear down that arm and into my chest. I couldn’t lay down flat without my whole side hurting. I have never felt pain like that in my life.”

Roger Cathey by his trophies from football and baseball.

Being active throughout his life – playing both football and baseball – Roger was no stranger to pain. And he stayed active as he got older.

“But I tell you what,” Roger says, “This kicked my butt. I had never, ever in my life felt pain like that before.”

Roger was suffering from cervical stenosis – a narrow space in the vertebrae of his neck that compressed his spinal cord and nerve roots. This tightened space caused one of Roger’s nerves to become pinched. The cervical stenosis also caused pain and tingling that radiated down his left arm and into his hand.

Thinking it was muscular pain at first, Roger’s primary care provider sent him to Moberly Regional Medical Center, where an MRI was done and the pinched nerve was located.

In December 2022, Roger was referred to Boone Health MidMO Neurosurgery where he met with Pamela Smith-Evans, NP. At this point, Roger still had pain and tingling down his left arm and into his hand. He also had difficulty extending his fingers and his wrist, and decreased grip strength in his hand which caused him to drop things without realizing it.

Pamela first tried to treat Roger’s issues with less invasive options, including Epidural Steroid Injection, or ESI, which did help some. When Occupational Therapy and additional testing for some of the concerning symptoms still hadn’t resolved his pain, Roger was scheduled to return to see Terrance Ryan, MD, a neurological surgeon at Mid-MO Neurosurgery.

Roger’s first appointment with “Doc Ryan,” as he calls him was in February 2023. Roger was experiencing several symptoms that still had not resolved. Dr. Ryan discussed surgical options with Roger, and surgery was scheduled later that month.

Post-surgery, Roger was on the Neurology-Oncology floor at Boone Hospital before being transferred to the Inpatient Rehab unit, where he was taught back-health exercises.

“I’m doing the exercises the folks at Boone taught me,” Roger says. “Those nurses and therapists need a lot of credit. They were so sweet to me. All of them.”

Since the surgery, Roger’s still doing his exercises and hopes to regain full use of his left hand. “My hand is better than it was, but I just want to be well today,” Roger says. “I’m that kind of guy. Doc Ryan said I may not get all of it back.”

As for his pain level after surgery, after a day of mowing, Roger can feel it. He says he gets tired more quickly than he used to. Roger followed up with his primary provider in Moberly who assured him that surgery on his neck was a tough procedure and that it may take him a while longer to get his endurance back.

Thinking back to his time at the hospital, Roger says, “I had a young nurse named Arin. She said ‘We had a meeting about you at the nurses station. Me and all the nurses want to know if we can adopt you as our grandpa?’ That meant a lot to me.”

By Erin Wegner