Degenerative disk disease kept William from living a full life. He’s now grateful to his brother for telling him about the surgeon who could get him on his feet.

Finally walking again

Image William Gray Srmh Back Surgery Image William Gray Srmh Back Surgery Image William Gray Srmh Back Surgery

For more than five years, William Gray felt his legs going numb. Sometimes he’d fall while walking. 

“I couldn’t get around,” William says. 

His jobs had often been physical: He had been a construction worker, a carpenter and a delivery driver. With his body giving out and other health concerns, William struggled to work. 

Finally he had enough and he listened to his brother, who also had back problems and had suggested he see Dr. Mark Coggins at Sentara RMH Medical Group. 

William had known for years that he had degenerative disk disease and that part of his back was out of line by 1.22 centimeters. Dr. Coggins delivered the bad news: The then-34-year-old’s back was worse than that. 

“It had gotten 25 percent worse,” William recalls. “Dr. Coggins took time to show me the MRI and explain everything. He gave me the option of getting shots or having surgery. I had tried shots before and they hadn’t helped.” 

A month later, William underwent an eight-hour surgery. 

Up and walking

He faced two surprises the day after his surgery. 

The first: He learned his L4 vertebra was shattered. Neither he nor Dr. Coggins knew until the surgery. The doctor inserted a three-inch spacer during the surgery to replace it. 

The second: William could walk. Already! 

The nurses’ thorough care and the gentle guidance of his physical therapist put William at ease during his stay at Sentara RMH Medical Center. 

“Everyone was so helpful and kind. They were funny, too. They explained things to my wife,” he says. “The care was great. I healed fast. I headed home with a cane two days later.” 

In two months, William didn’t need the cane, and his back brace was optional. He was walking, exercising and strengthening his back. 

“I’ll take a while before I can ride the tractor to cut the lawn,” William says. “That’s OK. I’m still doing more than before the surgery and what I could do for the last five years. My brother decided to have a similar surgery, too.” 

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