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e-Health Essentials Issues

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TO SERVE AND PROTECT.. IT’S AN OATH  Tracy Wheeler gladly and enthusiasti-cally accepted 15 years ago when he became a North Carolina State Trooper.

“For me, it’s the high-est calling there is to be able to serve the citizens of this state, keep them safe, and help improve their lives,” said the 36-year-old.

But it’s a calling that almost ended late last year when Wheeler suffered a weight-lifting injury to his neck.

“I was in the gym doing shoulder shrugs, and something just didn’t feel right,” said the father of two small daughters. “The next morning I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow.”

A consultation with his family physician followed, including an MRI and medications, but still the pain persisted: “By this time it was beginning to affect my ability to use my right arm and fingers,” said Wheeler, “and that’s when my family physician referred me,” to Dr. Adam Brown.

“Mr. Wheeler’s MRI revealed that he had a ruptured disc between the sixth and seventh vertebra in the neck with compression of the nerve root that serves his right arm,” said Dr. Brown, a neurosurgeon at the NHRMC Spine Center. “Symptoms of this common condition include neck and arm pain, numbness and weakness. If disc compression is large enough, then the spinal cord can be compressed and the legs may be affected as well.”

For Wheeler, relief came in the form of a surgical procedure called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

“In this procedure we microscopically remove the ruptured disc and associated bone spurs to gain relief of the spinal cord and nerve roots.


The spine is then fused. Alternatively a disc replacement is now available, Wheeler said the speed at which surgery was scheduled was one of the things that impressed him most: “Dr. Brown said we needed to act quickly, and within six days I was scheduled for surgery. I was a little anxious, but I had great faith in Dr. Brown’s expertise.”

As for the speed in which Wheeler learned the result of his surgery, it was even faster: “Once I awoke from anesthesia, I immediately had full use of my arm and fingers again, and the pain was gone. I just couldn’t believe the difference. I was so thankful.”

As for Wheeler’s long-term prognosis, Dr. Brown said patients benefiting from this procedure can return to normal activities within one to two months and expect a full recovery in six months.

“I feel great, and I’m able to continue the work I love to do,” said Wheeler. “But most of all, I’m able to once again lift, hold and hug my daughters, and that’s the best result of all.”

Join NHRMC spine specialists for a free back and spine seminar on Thursday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the NHRMC Surgical Pavilion. To reserve your space today call VitaLine at 815.5188 or go to:


In Need of Back, Neck or Spine Care?

The following is a list of local neurosurgical and orthopedic spine practices that can advise on a range of back, neck or spine treatment options.

  • Atlantic Neurosurgical and Spine Specialists
  • Atlantic Orthopedics PA
  • Coastal Neurosurgical Assoc. and Spine Center PA
  • Port City Neurosurgery & Spine
  • Wilmington Orthopedic Group
  • Independence Back Institute


"I'm able to once again lift, hold and hug my daughters, and that's the best result of all."

Tracy Wheeler, North Carolina State Trooper


The Physiatry Connection  Often, a back, neck or spine patient’s first course of treatment is physical medicine and rehabilitation. Here, physiatrists – or medical doctors specializing in treating the body’s musculoskeletal system – implement a range of non-surgical techniques to help reduce pain and restore function to bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Options include pain medications, spinal injections, electrotherapies, body braces and referrals to Physical Therapy.

For patients with pain or mobility limitations that may interfere with daily living, the NHRMC Rehabilitation Hospital is available for follow-up care. An interdisciplinary team led by a physiatrist works with the patient and their family to provide intensive therapy and medical management, with the goal of the patient’s safe and functional return home. In addition, NHRMC Rehabilitation Services provides a diverse and comprehensive array of outpatient therapies at conveniently-located outpatient sites.

For a list of local physicians specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, visit

2131 S. 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401  |  910.343.7000