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Ho, ho, ho

Robert Paul (right) plays Santa at local events throughout the holiday season. He is back to his jolly self after the treatment he received from Augusta Health neurosurgeon Clark B. Bernard, MD (left).

Neck surgery eliminates Robert Paul’s pain in time for holiday season

Before Robert Paul, 67, scheduled spine surgery at Augusta Health last summer, he had one request for Clark B. Bernard, MD, neurosurgeon at Augusta Health: “Don’t cut my beard, because I need it to play Santa Claus!”

Paul, who lives in Staunton, Virginia, and is retired from the military, plays Santa Claus each year because of his uncanny resemblance to St. Nick. He dresses up as Santa for various events throughout the Christmas season.

Quick action

A week after falling in the shower, Paul began feeling a tingly sensation in his hands, and he started to lose his balance when he walked. He visited the Augusta Health Emergency Department and was admitted for testing. An MRI done the following day showed Paul had a massive disc herniation between the C3 and C4 vertebrae.

“He had lost the ability to walk and was beginning to lose sensation and function,” Dr. Bernard notes.

Paul was diagnosed with cervical myelopathy, a condition that can lead to paralysis if not treated in time. Dr. Bernard immediately recognized the gravity of the situation and urgently scheduled Paul for cervical spine surgery.

Fast relief

Paul’s surgery, which took place on Sept. 19, 2018, consisted of a single level discectomy and fusion. “Almost immediately he was back at normal strength,” Dr. Bernard says. “Since the surgery, his recovery has continued and now he is essentially back to normal.”

Dr. Bernard, who has treated many patients with this condition, notes that most are able to return to their normal lives.

“Robert is back to work, back to driving and getting ready to be Santa Claus to help out hundreds of kids,” Dr. Bernard states.

Paul can’t say enough good things about the care he received at the Augusta Health Spine Clinic.

“I was very impressed from the day I walked into the emergency room until the day I left with the overall care I got,” he offers.

The best part?

“Dr. Bernard didn’t even touch my beard,” Paul says. “I was so happy.”

The Augusta Health Spine Clinic has offices in Fishersville and Lexington. Learn more about the clinic.