Belinda Dacey, Minimally Invasive Surgery

Belinda Dacey is back riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle again.

"It takes the bumps better than our pickup truck," said the 50-year-old Mendon woman who works for Stryker Corp. in Portage.

Bumps are something that remains a minor concern, but nothing like a year ago when severe hip pain prevented her from standing for even a few minutes.

Her husband even built a bathtub seat for Belinda so that she could take a shower with less discomfort. She had to sit just to brush her teeth.

Today, however, she's back at work, goes for walks almost every day, rides her bicycle, even plays a little volleyball without any pain at all.

The turnabout came in February 2009 when she underwent a unique minimally invasive lower back surgery at Borgess Medical Center that involved both a backbone fusion and implantation of an artificial disc.

Dr. Sonia V. Eden, a neurosurgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, performed the surgery. She is with Neurosurgery of Kalamazoo, part of the Borgess Brain & Spine Institute.

"After the surgery my hip immediately felt better," Belinda said. "Dr. Eden told me to be careful, but I have no restrictions."

Belinda had never previously had back problems. But once the hip pain began, things went downhill quickly. She delayed seeking medical help until "it got to the point where I couldn't stand for even two minutes," she said.

Her general practitioner referred her to Neurosurgery of Kalamazoo where they recommended physical therapy and, later, cortisone injections. Various treatments lasted about three months.

"Nothing helped," Belinda said.

Internet research led her to Dr. Eden. "When I found out that she did minimally-invasive surgery, she was the one I wanted," Belinda said.

An MRI ordered by Dr. Eden revealed a deteriorating lower back disc.

Surgery was performed on February 3, 2009. Dr. Eden said that Belinda's disc was allowing the bone in two lower back vertebras to rub and pinch a nerve.

"The pinched nerve caused pain to radiate," Dr. Eden said. "I did a decompression to un-pinch the nerve. I removed the disc and replaced it by packing bone between the vertebra."

She also implanted screws and rods to hold the two vertebras in place to allow the packed bone to slowly fuse and heal over time. The screws and rods will likely remain.

Dr. Eden said that she performed the procedure through a small tube and inserted the screws and rods through the skin.

"The minimally invasive procedure is becoming more popular," Dr. Eden said, "because it decreases blood loss, shortens the hospital stay and patients require less pain medication."

Belinda was discharged less than two days later. "My back was a little sore, as you would expect after surgery," she said. "I had to wear a back brace, which I hated, but at least it was a soft one and not one that went all the way around my lower body. The hip pain went right away."

She wore the brace every day for eight weeks and slowly weaned herself from the extra support.

"My quality of life is so much better than before," she said. "I can stand as long as I want without any pain."

"Dr Eden is a wonderful surgeon,” Belinda said. “Before the surgery, everybody told me to avoid surgery. Now I tell them that I wouldn't hesitate to do it again."

As she reflects on the surgery and care afterwards, Belinda had high praise, too, for the Borgess staff. "Everybody was so nice both at the hospital and Borgess Spine where I had my physical therapy," she said. "The nurses, the physical therapists were all really good.

"You feel at home when you are at Borgess."