Mr Rodney Laing

Consultant Neurosurgeon

David Wright - From Spinal Surgery to Marathon Man...

My advice to anyone in pain is this: don’t let the fear stop you from living – if nothing else, go to Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital and see a consultant – really, what have you got to lose?
David Wright

Spend five minutes with David Wright and you can’t help but be inspired – not only by his enthusiasm and energy, but by his absolute appreciation of all that he is now capable of achieving after spine surgery at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital.

Here is David’s story...

At almost 50 years old, I am now living life to its fullest, thanks to Mr Laing, an incredible neurosurgeon at the Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital, who helped me in a way that has affected my entire existence. His work did far more than just deal with the pain I was suffering; it gave me the confidence and strength to regain my fitness, which in turn led me to lose six and half stone in six months. This man has changed my life in many ways.

I admit that I have always been a habitual yo­-yo dieter with an addiction to food, but being able to recognise it is one thing, dealing with it is quite another, and I often struggled to keep my weight in check. I played a lot of football when I was younger so had always kept pretty fit, even though I was fat, and I could still workout for a decent amount of time without any problems. Until one day...

I woke up with searing pins and needles in my right leg, they came from nowhere and very quickly got progressively worse. I tried everything to live with it; from taking a lot of painkillers to doing continual stretching exercises, as I thought the problem was muscular, but the crippling pain became so intense to the point that I couldn't even go to the supermarket with my wife. It was unbearable and I knew I had to see a doctor. My GP was great and suggested I visit a consultant, luckily we had private healthcare.

It was then that I visited Mr Laing at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital who arranged for an MRI scan immediately. By this time my weight had ballooned to over 19 stone. I was embarrassed for myself and frustrated with life. I wasn't able to exercise and started ‘stress eating’ in an attempt to combat both the pain and my inability to do any activity. This was a nightmare for everyone, especially my wife and kids. Not only had I started self­-depreciating and joking publicly about how fat I was, but I also knew that I just couldn't do enough for my family, or indeed with them. I was so very unhappy and felt that everything was a facade.

Once Mr Laing saw my MRI results he diagnosed Spinal Stenosis, which is when the spinal canal becomes narrow due to thickening of ligaments and bulging of disc material. This was putting pressure on my spinal nerves and causing pain. Mr Laing also explained that it can run in families. That in itself was a big shock for me, I come from a large very close family, but it made me realise how many of us don’t actually know our family medical history. Needless to say, my weight didn't help matters, but I felt so safe in Mr Laing’s hands that I booked my surgery straight away and knew it was the right thing to do.

My back surgery was a great success and I just can't say enough about the incredible treatment I received at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital, everyone was fantastic. From Jay, the guy that wheeled me to theatre, the anaesthetist, and of course, Mr Laing, who is absolutely amazing – when he says ‘I know’, he knows! I have such incredible respect for Mr Laing – he is a legend.

Just a few weeks after my operation all the pain had gone and I felt fantastic! I was so happy to have my legs back, but I now weighed over 20 stone and just didn’t know where to start. Encouragement from my wife got me into boot camp training, and although I didn’t like it, who would at my weight? I knew I had to get going and this kick­-started something within me. Everything changed from there...

It was mind over matter and the confidence that Mr Laing gave me. He was never in any doubt that if I really wanted to exercise regularly again then I could, and he was right! Before last year, I hadn't been on a bike since I was a kid, I hated running and couldn't really swim a proper stroke. Now I compete in triathlons, marathons and so much more. I finished my first triathlon – a 426 metres swim, a 21.5 kilometre bike ride and a five kilometre run – in one hour and 21 minutes. Completing the triathlon was quite emotional, a culmination of how far my journey has come from being so unhealthy to being able to call myself a triathlete.

Me and my wife train together now and my fantastic family are unbelievably proud, in fact, my son has my before­-and-­after pictures as his Facebook profile and is now a fully­-qualified Personal Trainer, we've even run on the beach together. As for my daughter, I’m now able to have so much more fun swimming with her, which is something I had never dreamed of doing before my surgery.

My advice to anyone in pain is this: don’t let the fear stop you from living – if nothing else, go to Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital and see a consultant – really, what have you got to lose?

In David’s case it was a third of his body weight and walking without pain. This dedicated and determined Dad has not only achieved a personal best, but he has become an ambassador and fundraiser to help and inspire others. David says: “If my story can make a difference to just one person’s life, then I want to share it.”

Having become something of a celebrity in his own right, David has since appeared in the media for his achievements and is currently training better than ever. This year he is undertaking a half marathon, a full marathon, and is about to take on the Ironman, known to be one of the hardest challenges around, which demands a 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 mile bike ride and a marathon to finish; 140.6 miles in total! As living proof, David concludes: “I now realise that there is nothing I can’t do!”

Mr Rod Laing comments on David’s case: “David’s story is truly amazing and I was fortunate to play a role in returning him to full fitness. If you have both back and leg pain, which gets worse when you are active, then you may have a trapped nerve in your spine. There are many causes of this and as David points out a consultation with your GP is the right place to start. Investigation is usually with an MRI scan and if this reveals a potential explanation for your trapped nerve then onward referral is appropriate. Minimally invasive surgical techniques result in many of my patients having their operations as day cases and only needing to have a short time off work.”

David before surgery

David after surgery

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