Domenic Certa felt like he had been hit by a truck.
With excruciating back pain — to the point where he could barely move some days — he felt his life slipping away.
Now 60, the Hammond resident led an active life. He enjoyed walking, riding his bike, lifting weights and playing tennis and had considered himself to be in great health.
That changed three years ago.
“I was out in the garden turning dirt,” Certa said. “I did something. It was one of those deep aching moments in my back. I stopped, turned the dirt over and then came in the house and chilled out for a while.”
A little bit later, he set out to do what came naturally to him for many years — playing tennis with his wife.
But when he couldn’t finish the game, he knew something was very wrong.
‘Like a jelly doughnut’
A week later, Certa drove to Nashville to attend a graduation and found himself in the emergency room with intense pain moving down his leg. When he returned home, doctors informed him that he had a disc extrusion in the L3-L4 spinal segment.
“That means the center of the disc came out like a jelly doughnut,” Certa said.
In July 2017, Certa underwent surgery to repair the herniated disc at a laser spine institute in Florida. But any small relief was short-lived. During a trip to the Dominican Republic, he re-injured himself.
After he arrived back home, he turned to Dr. Robert Watson, a chiropractor in Highland, for help. Watson assessed him and recommended that he see a spine care specialist because his case was so severe.
Certa’s pain didn’t stop at his physical limitations, however.
“I went through several layers of being upset, angry, depressed, sad, and cried a lot,” he said. “I think I cried almost every day because I couldn’t get it done fast enough.
“I have always been a happy person, and I couldn’t figure out why I was always so depressed all the time, and couldn’t shake it. It was the chronic pain. I would tell my wife that I don’t look forward to waking up in the morning. I wasn’t suicidal. It was just desperation.”
A long-needed correction
After visiting with Dr. Dwight Tyndall, Certa’s hope renewed.
Tyndall, a spine care specialist with Orthopaedic Specialists of Northwest Indiana in Munster, says the several treatments Certa tried, from medication to injections to surgery, did not relieve his pain.
Tyndall’s main concern was whether the surgery Certa underwent in Florida had caused permanent damage, he says.
Tyndall diagnosed Certa with two spine issues — a persistent herniation of the L3-L4 segment and spondylolisthesis of the L5-S1 segment with a L5 pars defect.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebrae slips at the base of the spine. A vertebrae can slip backward, forward or over a bone below. A pars defect occurs when there is a stress fracture in the bones of the lower spine.
In December 2018, Tyndall operated on Certa to correct these issues.
“Sometime in my life, these weren’t connected,” Certa said. “So my L5 disc was starting to fall forward and put pressure on nerves on both my legs.”
Tyndall says he sees patients such as Certa often.
“These are very common conditions in my practice, so I felt very comfortable that I could help him,” he says.
A new beginning
Just a few months after undergoing surgery for a second time, Certa says he feels like he’s moving toward what life was like three years ago.
It wasn’t too long ago when he found the only way he could move was to shuffle his feet across the floor. Since the surgery, which took pressure off both his nerves, he has started relearning how to walk.
“I’m still healing and I still have muscle atrophy because the nerves were pinched for so long that my legs experienced a lot of atrophy,” he said. “I’m about 80 percent where I was before.”
Besides helping patients including Certa, Tyndall wants to make sure Northwest Indiana residents know state-of-the-art spine care is available in the Region. “In fact, I often see patients who are coming to see me for care from as far as Ohio, central and eastern Indiana, and from the Chicago metro area.”
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