News13 Special Report: Patients coming to Grand Strand for breakthrough surgery

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – People from all over the Carolinas are coming to Myrtle Beach for a breakthrough, minimally invasive spinal surgery.

Strand Orthopedic Consultants’ Dr. Gene Massey, who is on staff at Grand Strand Medical Center, is the only doctor in our area who performs the surgery through the Mazor Robotics Renaissance® System.

“It’s a less invasive surgery than traditional techniques,” said Dr. Massey. “So what that means for patients is usually a shorter hospital stay, it means less blood loss during surgery, it also means less radiation in the case of the Mazor system and usually a quicker recovery.”

Dr. Massey said Mazor is the leader of robotic surgery and Grand Strand Medical Center is the only hospital in South Carolina with the upgraded Mazor X system.

Ramona Carter-Miller was one of Dr. Massey’s first patients. She had severe pain after she broke her back two decades ago and it didn’t properly heal.

“I was getting in the situation to where I could not have quality of life,” said Miller. “I was in pain all the time.”

Miller could barely walk 30 yards without stopping in pain and it was affecting not only her life, but also her husband, Butch Miller’s life.

“Knowing that kind of pain existed in her, it was hard to even enjoy a meal knowing she was in pain,” he said. The couple was married in October 2017 and loves to travel but her pain was making it difficult.

“I did everything and anything to stay out of surgery,” she admitted. “Because, you know, everybody’s heard the stories. And they’re scary.”

After physical therapy and injections stopped working she knew she had to make a change. Miller was referred to Dr. Massey and he made her feel comfortable about the surgery by explaining the accuracy and safety of the Mazor Robotics Technology.

“Mrs. Miller came to me with a couple of complaints, she had pain in her back and she had radiating pain down into her leg,” added Dr. Massey. The technology allowed him to plan the entire procedure before Mrs. Miller was even in the operating room.

“I get a CAT scan of the patient’s anatomy before surgery,” he explained. “How they’re different, how their bone alignment is different. So when I’m putting instrumentation, for example in Mrs. Miller’s case, putting screws into the spine, it allows me to do that safety and accurately.”

Miller was walking with no pain after just a few weeks and said it has been the biggest blessing. She and her husband traveled to Australia and New Zealand for their honeymoon and were able to walk anywhere and everywhere.

“The fact is, we’re able to live a quality life now,” said Butch Miller. “We might not bungee jump like she used to do, or skydive, or deep sea dive or, you know, things like that but short of that we can do anything we want to do. That’s awesome.”

Ramona Carter-Miller said she is excited to start this new chapter with her husband and has been loving life ever since the surgery.

When asked what’s next for the couple, Miller said, “I just want to grow old with him and whatever we decide to do wherever we want to go I just want us to live our lives and enjoy the things there are to do.”

Dr. Massey, who encouraged the CEO of Grand Strand Medical Center to offer this type of surgery, said Mrs. Miller had a great recovery but explained how a patient’s willpower make a difference.

“A patient’s recovery is based on many things, but it also depends on how motivated they are,” he explained. “A very motivated patient like Mrs. Miller is going to get right up and walk and push yourself to get better and that’s a major part of it.”

He also said out of 117 surgeries he’s performed, no patients have required a trip back to the operating room for misplaced hardware, which is one of the most common reasons people go back after a typical surgery.

“It’s been a big deal for us,” Dr. Massey explained.

If you would like to read more about the surgery and who qualifies click: here.

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