Brandie’s story: Rare disk surgery is ‘amazing’

Monday, January 8, 2018

By: Jeff Ash

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When Brandie Robinson heard her back pop, she knew it was bad.


She’d been bothered by sciatica and near-constant back pain since giving birth in May 2016. She was diagnosed with a herniated disk in January 2017. A month later, it got worse.


When Brandie lifted her 1-year-old daughter into a high chair, her back gave out.


What followed that pop was “pain that I’d never experienced before,” she says. “It made me want to pass out. It was hot sweats, cold sweats. I was literally on the ground and couldn’t move.”



Brandie, who is in her early 30s, received pain medication and a steroid injection. Within a couple of days, her right side started going numb. Brandie went to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. An MRI was performed, but Brandie drove away from the hospital not knowing the results.


But within a few minutes, Dr. Gerald W. Eckardt, a neurosurgeon with BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons, was on the phone. It was serious.


“Dr. Eckardt called me and told me to turn around,” Brandie says. He told her to go straight to the emergency room.


“He said, ‘You’re having surgery right now,’” Brandie says, tearing up at the memory.


Brandie had cauda equine syndrome, or CES, a rare condition. A large herniated disk in her lower back was putting intense pressure on the lower nerve roots at the bottom of the spine.


A key clue for Eckardt was that Brandie experienced urinary incontinence. That suggested CES.


Without immediate treatment, “she could have had permanent loss of control of her bladder or loss of function of her legs,” says Eckardt, who marvels that Brandie was able to walk into the hospital for treatment, given that rare condition.


Herniated disks occur when a portion of one of the disks that separate the bones of the lumbar spine is pushed back toward nerve roots or the spinal cord. Typically, there’s a small tear in the covering around the disk, allowing the center of the disk to be pushed back.



Eckardt performed two procedures during surgery in early March 2017, four days after Brandie heard her back pop. The first was a laminectomy to shave a portion of spinal bone to reach the herniated disk, followed by a discectomy to remove two large pieces of the disk to ease the pressure on the nerve roots.


“It’s awesome. It’s beyond words – amazing – when you don’t have to wake up in extreme pain every single day,” says Brandie, who lives in Lena. She spent four days in the hospital, then returned to work within a month. She had physical therapy for two months and exercises to maintain her core strength.


“She’s made an excellent recovery,” Eckardt says.


Dr. Gerald W. Eckardt sees patients by referral in Green Bay, Kaukauna and Oshkosh. For information, call 920-288-8350 or 888-376-3876.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.