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Laura Shopp – Anterior Cervical Diskectomy and Fusion

An Arlington teacher finds relief – and helps students – through minimally invasive spine surgery

Laura Shopp back in a classroom Laura Shopp found relief through spine surgery
and rehabilitation at Methodist Mansfield. Now
she's back in the classroom teaching physiology
and anatomy.

Arlington resident Laura Shopp found relief through spine surgery and rehabilitation at Methodist Mansfield. Now she's back in the classroom teaching physiology and anatomy.

From the fall 2011 edition of Shine magazine

Laura Shopp has taught anatomy, physiology, and math at Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington for six years. She specializes in preparing her junior and senior high school students for college and life's other challenges. Little did she know she soon would be using her own experiences to further her students' education.

While visiting family over a long holiday weekend, Shopp suddenly began to experience numbness and tingling down her left arm accompanied by intense neck pain. At first she thought she might have pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve, but the pain was so severe that she was unable to sit, stand, or walk.

"I had never felt such pain other than during childbirth," she says. "Every time I moved my neck, I felt my bones were ground together and the pain was really bad. I was in horrible shape and seeking relief, so my husband took me to the emergency department at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. I underwent an examination by neurosurgeon Nimesh Patel, MD."

Dr. Patel, an independently practicing neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, gave Shopp a thorough clinical examination and determined that she had ruptured a cervical disk. The diagnosis was confirmed with an MRI.

"Cervical disc ruptures or herniations can happen at any time as a result of aging or wear and tear on the disk," Dr. Patel says. "The outer portion of the disk tears, and the soft nucleus center squeezes out with pressure placed on the spinal cord, causing pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and sometimes the hands."

Laura ShoppHomework from the hospital

"Finding out that you need a cervical diskectomy is something you don't want to hear in the middle of the school year," Shopp says. "I wanted to know how quickly I would recover so I could get back in the classroom. We were studying the nervous system in class, so I involved my students, using creative learning techniques through the Internet. I sent them an anatomy assignment by email, instructing them to view the spine illustration and identify each vertebra along with the nerves affecting each.

"I also wanted my students to gain a deeper understanding of the common surgical procedures and attached a link to the dynamic medical animations on the Methodist Health System website," she adds. "While I couldn't be with my students physically in the classroom, I could still teach them remotely from my hospital bed."

'A world of difference'

Using some of the latest surgical techniques, Dr. Patel performed an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion in Shopp's upper spine to relieve pressure on her spinal cord. The procedure involves removing the ruptured disk and fusing a piece of bone to the vertebrae to provide relief.

"The surgery helped right away and was absolutely miraculous," Shopp says. "It made a world of difference. I only spent a day in the hospital after surgery and then began my rehabilitation and was back in school two weeks later.

"If you have back or spine pain, you owe it to yourself to talk to Dr. Patel about surgical treatment for bulging, herniated, or degenerated disks. He has helped me and numerous others who were suffering. The procedures are safe and extremely effective."

Shopp, known for her invaluable student guidance, is back to teaching full-time.

"The students in my class are taught not only anatomy, physiology, and math, but they also learn critical thought, logic, and reason," she says. "While the basics will always be important, it's not some test score that determines the success of a school or its students. It's how prepared they are for life and what kind of successful adults they can be."