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I recently met a Teller County resident who tells me that these days, he doesn't take the simple things in life for granted. Things like walking to the kitchen in the morning to get a cup of coffee, because for many years for Mike Kern, even a simple task like that was a monumental feat.
Mike says, “I've always been active, and when you can't be active and you're used to being active, it doesn't do your psyche any good.”
Mike also says there's no mystery as to where his back pain and other joint problems started.
“It probably was from abuse. I played college football at Weber State (in Utah), and I used to heavyweight train and power lift. There's also some genetics involved; my dad had bad joints and a bad spine, so I also inherited it.”
In 2018, with his son stationed at Fort Carson, Mike and his wife moved to southern Colorado. He says that at the time, many of the simple tasks in life were a struggle. “When we moved, my spine was really a mess. I was the kind of guy you would see in the grocery store leaning over a shopping cart. I couldn’t straighten up. I often just stayed home and did nothing because of the pain. I would have to shuffle to the kitchen you know, just like ice skating with little short steps and half bent over and trying to simply get a cup of coffee. Then I would just go sit somewhere and do nothing. I lost my incentive to do anything because it was so miserable. I wasn't a pleasant person, and I was a little grouchy.”
Mike was used to having pain issues pop up in his joints and spine, and always sought treatment to get better, whatever it took. “I've had many surgeries, probably 19 or 20, and the majority of them have been related to my joints or spine.”
But in 2018, his back pain had gotten so bad that Mike tells me he got to the point that simply existing was in question. “I believe if I hadn't met him, I wouldn't be here. I was in so much pain,” he said, referring to orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Sergiu Botolin with UCHealth, who specializes in complex spine cases. “It was just a blessing.”
“My primary physician recommended I see Dr. Botolin in 2018. At that point, I was kind of useless. I was really a mess anatomically and I was in a lot of pain, and I had been that way for several years.”
Dr. Botolin tells me he clearly remembers his first consultation with Mike. “Mike Kern presented to us in 2018 with several major problems. He had a history of several spinal surgeries and now with an inability to walk any significant distances, or to stand upright.”
So was there anything Dr. Botolin could do for Mike's back to lessen the pain and give him back his quality of life? We'll talk about the surgery he proposed in our next story.
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