Today, former Air Force B-52 navigator Greg Bell is once again able to participate in athletic competitions; vigorously running, swimming and cycling. But, it wasn’t too long ago that Bell had trouble just standing and walking. “About two years ago I had an injury in my lower back. I thought I had pulled a muscle. It was very painful, but I kept pushing thru it. I could only walk about a quarter of a mile before I had to stop and stretch, but I kept walking. I had to back off on running, but I was able to cycle.”
Prior to this injury, Bell says he had always been very active and athletically competitive, so, being unable to walk and stand without pain affected all aspects of his life, except flying. “I was okay flying, because I was not in an upright position. I was sitting while flying, so I could do my job. But, I was in pain doing anything upright. And, it was debilitating.”
As the pain “got progressively worse” and his activity level diminished, Bell sought help off-base. He says he heard about spine surgeon Dr. Pierce Nunley from other people. “They said he was good and to check him out.” Bell says he was impressed with Dr. Nunley and the Spine Institute of Louisiana. “The experience there was very positive and very helpful. It worked. I’m glad that I went with them. The method they used helped me big time!”
The surgical method used to help Bell was spinal fusion. But, this surgical option was not selected until after diagnostic testing, conservative therapies, and consultations with his surgeon. Bell says spinal fusion was selected, because he had a spinal fracture.
Bell’s surgery occurred on May 9, 2011. “After surgery, I noticed that I didn’t have numbness in my leg. And, when the staples were out, that’s when the improvement was pretty astonishing. I was on a bike a few days later and racing in three months. I was happy with the results and happy to get back out there. I surprised a lot of people on the cycling team.” Bell says there was no pain within less than a month after surgery; and he has not taken any pain medication since.
Bell credits the surgical techniques used by Dr. Nunley for his speedy and pain-free recovery. “He didn’t have to cut thru muscle to get the cage in. The cage is a plastic disc, and looks like the letter “H.” Your own bone grows through it. It takes longer to heal if they cut thru muscle.”
In November of last year, Bell retired from the Air Force; but not from his love of high-level athletic competition. “When racing, I do very well. I’m one of the top athletes around here. Within three months of back surgery, I placed 2nd in my age group in the River Cities Triathlon.”
This Arizona native is grateful for his surgical recovery. “I went from something messing up my way of life to pretty much bringing me back to 100-percent. Thanks to Dr. Nunley and his staff I’m pain free and racing.”
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