Dr. Shiau Gets Afghanistan Veteran Back on Track!

Left to right - Bobbi Pellegrino, PA-C, Eric Varela, John Shiau, MD.

"Being in the military was the greatest time in my life," said Ret. Staff Sergeant Eric Varela who joined the U.S. Army in 1997.

But the long military career Eric envisioned was sidelined.

On combat operations in Afghanistan, Varela suffered a herniated disc from carrying excessive weight. The fact is a US soldier in combat can carry anywhere from 70-150 lbs. at any given time.

When Varela returned to the States, he underwent a micro-discetomy: a neurological procedure in which the herniated disc is shaved back into place.

Varela went back to active duty convinced he had put the matter behind him. "I was smarter about my recovery and close to 100% recuperated." But the back problem recurred.

In a second surgical procedure an artificial, Charite' Disc, was place in his spine and on his 2nd deployment to Afghanistan was medically discharged, because the pain returned once again. As a result, Eric lost his medical benefits and after a long appeals process and dealing with his pain, his benefits were partially reinstated.

As Varela began to explore options for treatment, his research led him to Dr. John Shiau, a neurosurgeon at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH.)

"I was confident that Eric's problem was a result of the disc that was placed by the military,' explained Shiau. "The x-rays showed that the Charite' disc was off-center and the cause of his considerable pain."

Dr. Shiau removed the disk and fused the spine choosing a minimally invasive lateral approach due to scar tissue from Eric's previous surgeries. "SIUH is known for being on the leading edge of minimally invasive procedures," according to Shiau. The hospital's highly skilled and staff routinely performs complex minimally invasive and robotic surgeries that often lead to faster recovery and reduced to risk to infection.

Today, recovering from surgery, Varela is excited that something was finally successful. Since Eric's insurance denied the procedure recovering from the procedure pro bono by Shiau, Eric is getting his pain-free life back is looking to get back to work.

"Dr. Shiau is awesome, I'm able to play with my children and I'm enjoying my new born baby. All's well that ends well."

To see how we're using minimally invasive procedures, click here.

Categories: Minimally Invasive Surgery

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