Paul Wood Deep Dives Back to a Full Life with SMOC
During my 8 years in the Navy, I was a deep-sea diver. For 5 years, I went diving about 3-4 times a week, carrying a 40-pound helmet and backpack filled with heavy tools. Although being in the water makes you feel weightless, constantly carrying over 100 pounds of this combined weight caused daily pains in my back and shoulders. A year after I served my term, I became ill and was diagnosed with T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was told by my doctor I had five years left to live, as there is no cure or remission.
Rather than fall into despair, I decided to live life to the absolute fullest! I put all my energy towards my deep-sea diving career and even started my own commercial deep-sea diving business. Although my back pains were still there, I knew every second was precious and I wouldn’t let that pain stop me. Every day, I was diving with my heavy tools and headwear, without worrying about the havoc I was doing to my body. Finally, after 5 surgeries on my shoulders, I had to retire from diving. Being on land more than in the water, gravity took hold, and my back and sciatica issues came back, full force.
When living in Texas, I decided to visit a doctor to get a hold of the pain in my back. He took an MRI (of my back) and the damage was incredible; much worse than expected! I received a three-shot series of epidurals to help manage the pain. I tried physical therapy at another facility. I traveled to California and Nevada, seeking additional treatments, trying to figure out how to be alleviated from the pain. Each time, it was a different doctor, and no one seemed to be able to get a handle on how to get me some relief!
I moved back to Virginia, still in search of a doctor who may have some answers for me. An acquaintance suggested I visit SMOC – Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Chesapeake, VA. I made an appointment and was seen by Dr. Richard Guinand. Dr. Guinand was a breath of fresh air compared to the other specialists I had seen. He practiced dive medicine, so we knew the same people and he understood what I did and the affects it had on my body. As a non-surgical doctor, he educated me on what was going on with my back with realistic expectations. We decided to try the epidural shots, followed by physical therapy, which would all be done in-house. Dr. Guinand even brought me over to the physical therapists, Riza Robles and her assistant Sarah Hobbs, to work out a plan! Having everything done in one place, with specialists communicating directly with one another was a huge relief and I knew right then, I was in great hands.
I received the three epidural shots and felt some relief. Physical therapy helped me to feel even better, but I couldn’t be as active as I wanted and still relied on support to move around. Dr. Guinand decided to consult his peer and spine specialist, Dr. David Goss, for a more surgical approach, as he worried the extent of the damage of the nerves would be permanent.
After reviewing my charts and speaking with both Dr. Guinand and my physical therapist, Dr. Goss decided I needed to have disc decompression surgery. He would perform a laminectomy on 4 of my discs. Dr. Goss warned me it could take up to 3 months before I could be active, so I would need to come in for multiple checkup appointments to see how I was healing. After working with Dr. Guinand and the physical therapists, I felt confident in surgery being the next best step.
Before this surgery, I couldn’t walk up the stairs without a cane or using a railing for help. Three days after (surgery), I was climbing stairs without ANY support or worry that I would fall! I was off pain medications after a week and before my 2-week appointment, I was able to walk a mile and seldomly used my cane. Three and a half weeks after my surgery, I could honestly say was the first time since I was in my 20s that I didn’t have back pains. I was back to swimming and was cleared to do yoga and Pilates, which I do every other day.
I have traveled to many places, seen many different doctors, and no one has come close to giving me the relief of being pain – free like SMOC has. They’ve given me the ability to truly live life to the fullest. Without the constant pain and discomfort, I feel even more confident in my continuing fight against cancer. I know without challenges, there can be no victory. Thank you, SMOC.