Brian Snyder was gradually losing his physical motor skills. Despite diagnostic test results that came back normal, William Washington, M.D., knew something wasn’t right. Brian considers his first meeting with Dr. Washington a divine appointment.
A divine appointment. That’s how Bolivar resident Brian Snyder describes his first meeting with William Washington, M.D., physical rehabilitative medicine physician and medical director of Mercy Regional Rehabilitation Center. It was January 31, 2016, and Snyder was at Mercy Medical Center for an Electromyography (EMG). The diagnostic procedure, which assesses the health of muscles and the nerves that control them, came back normal, but after observing Snyder try to get ready to go home, Washington knew he needed further evaluation. His experience and intuition proved to be correct.
Snyder’s symptoms started last year as numbness in his legs, stumbling, loss of motor skills and foot drag. He enjoyed his physical work with a fencing company, so at first, he thought he must have just overexerted himself. But instead of getting better, his symptoms continued to get worse. He made an appointment to see his family doctor, and the EMG was scheduled. While waiting for his EMG, Snyder’s symptoms got so bad, that on New Year’s Eve, he went to an area hospital’s emergency room. Snyder says an X-ray of his lower lumbar was performed, and he was told he had a degenerative disc.
Unable to work, Snyder had to leave his job. He and his boss both knew there was more to this physical problem, and it needed to be cared for.
“It’s difficult not knowing and seeing a little worsening each day,” Snyder says. “For a person like me, that’s generally active all the time and used to being able to do things for myself, to go to not being able to do basic things that you take for granted, it was just very difficult. It was a struggle.”
Experienced Doctor Recognizes Condition Was More Than Pinched Nerve
The day Snyder met Washington was the day he started to get answers. Washington says that during the test, his nerves looked okay, but Snyder wasn’t moving well. “It seemed he was having a more significant problem than a pinched nerve in his back. He was unsteady, unstable,” Washington says. “I really didn’t want him to go home and didn’t think it was safe for him to be driving, so I made a phone call to the emergency department at Mercy. He was transported to the ER.”
Snyder underwent an MRI, was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with thoracic spinal stenosis with myelopathy. Peter B. Letarte, M.D., neurosurgeon, explained the condition. Snyder says his options were to have physical therapy and probably lose the use of his legs and feet, or surgery, which comes with a slight risk but would help him get his life back. Snyder chose surgery. Two days after that EMG, Letarte performed Snyder’s surgery. He recovered for a couple of days on a medical floor and then was transferred to Mercy Regional Rehabilitation Center for therapy.
An Opportunity to Return to Normal Life Again
Snyder says at Mercy he met wonderful people, from the nurse aids to nurses to housekeepers and dietitians, to the people who delivered his meals. Since he was not able to work, Snyder no longer had insurance. “Mercy’s financial staff got things in motion for Medicaid,” he says. “Everyone’s just been so polite.”
Washington says cases like this remind him of why he decided to go into the field of health care. “You spend your life doing health care because of a chance of maybe helping someone in this way,” Washington says. “Sometimes it’s unexpected. You never know when an opportunity to really help someone presents itself. It’s the reason we do it.”
Today Snyder is continuing with outpatient therapy, enjoying time with his daughters and granddaughter, and looks forward to the day he can get back to work. “From the time I came in (to Mercy) until now, I feel 100 percent, although I know I am not 100%, but that’s the way I feel,” Snyder says. “I’m just overwhelmed with the way things have transpired and just moved along so quickly. God has taken good care of me.”