Rusty Hayes

Rusty Hayes

Rusty Hayes knows back pain. A former football player who has always lived a vigorous and active lifestyle, he’s had surgeries in the past to repair spine and disc issues. This time was different.

Working on his backyard deck last summer, he stood up and his back “seized up.” He couldn’t walk. For the Senior Pastor at First Free Rockford, this was a serious and unwelcome interruption to his ministry and his life that required immediate action.

A visit to his primary care physician, followed by consultations from both a pain management therapist and orthopedic surgeon, showed the severity of the injury. The diagnosis? Recurrent disc herniations with radiating pain, numbness and tingling, along with severe and intractable back and leg pain.

Unfortunately, physical therapy, pain medication and even electrical stimulation from a TENS unit brought no relief. A referral to Rockford Spine Center brought Hayes to spine surgeon Christopher Sliva, M.D.

“Seeing Rusty for the first time, it was clear he was suffering,” recalls Dr. Sliva. “He had difficulty even walking across the room before he had to stop and rest.”

The solution? Expedited surgery.

“From my first encounter with Dr. Sliva, I could tell that I was at a different place than what I’d experienced before,” Hayes recalls. “They have a tremendous team and it’s such an impressive facility. They spent time with my wife and me talking about the procedure and making a plan.”

A week later, Dr. Sliva and his team performed a transforaminal lumbar fusion on Hayes. The procedure removed two discs from between the vertebrae and then fused the vertebrae together, while “installing” two rods to stabilize the spine.

“Immediate relief,” was what Hayes felt when he woke up and he recalls being able to stand up on the same day following the surgery. For his surgeon, that brought immediate satisfaction as well.

“It’s gratifying to see how surgery can relieve the pain they were once experiencing,” says Dr. Sliva. “I see them right after the surgery and they have that initial relief. Then, I’ll see them again post-surgery and they’re progressing and back to doing the things they were unable to do because of the pain. That’s very rewarding.”

Hayes’ recovery has progressed quickly and he’s back in the gym and weight training again. If you were walking alongside him, he’ll point out, you couldn’t tell that anything is different. And, most importantly, he’s back preaching again.

“I’ve had procedures in Dallas and in Boulder, Colorado,” says Hayes. “This was by far the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s high quality and nationally elite. It’s such a blessing to be able to get that kind of care here.”