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Tuesday, July 07, 2009 - Neurosurgery at MMC Gets Patient Back on Her Feet, Out of Grizzlies’ Path

Within a few short months after neurosurgery, Criste Tiegs regained her ability to walk more than a few steps without pain and has returned to biking and fishing
Whether she's picking up a riding lawn mower at her home or escaping from bears in Alaska, Criste Tiegs of Lenoir City lives an active life. Sometimes it gets her into trouble, as it did the day one of her boys lifted the family's riding lawn mower to remove grass caught up in it, and she decided to help.

"The mower weighed more than I did, and as I started to set it down, I went flying over it and an upturned rake, and landed on my bottom," the 53-year-old said. The fall compressed her spine. Spinal compression can cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness and unsteadiness, and in severe cases, paralysis and problems with bladder and bowel function.

Given the seriousness of her injury, Tiegs decided to have surgery in a large city hospital and chose a surgeon in Nashville.

She did fairly well for about three months after surgery. "Then the pain came back. It was sharp. I'd walk about 20 feet and just cry."

"I should have done my research more carefully," Tiegs noted wryly.

For her additional surgery, she chose Dr. John Whitley and Methodist Medical Center based on the excellent outcome a family friend had experienced. Dr. Whitley performed two procedures on Tiegs. The first was to remove the scar tissue that developed following the initial surgery and the second was to decompress her spine.

Tiegs spent two nights at Methodist after surgery.

"Now, I'm back fishing, hiking, riding my bike and running from bears in Alaska," Tiegs said. "There was no way before my last surgeries."

Her escape from a grizzly bear occurred one day this spring as she fished off the bank of the Russian River. "Suddenly, people around me began to yell, 'BEAR!' A large bear was eating fish that other fishermen had caught and strung on a line, and it was walking right towards me. I couldn't see it, but my husband, who was fishing downstream from me, could.

"Terry reached my side, and we grabbed our gear and climbed up a seven-foot gravel embankment to the road. When we reached the top, the bear was on another embankment directly across the road. He looked down at us for just a moment and then walked away. We gathered up our fishing gear and headed straight to the car just as some rafters spotted another bear."

That isn't bad for someone who recently had a compressed spine.

"Our goal is to restore you to the fullness and quality of life that you enjoyed before you ever needed our services," Dr. Whitley said. "In short, we want to get you back to normal."

To learn more about neurosurgery services at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, call 1-800-468-6767 or go online to