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Back in the Swing After Spine Surgery

April 30, 2014

Baseball coach Pete Shankle's minimally invasive spine surgery made him pain free for the first time in a year. “That surgery gave me my life back,” he says.

Pete Shankle of Durham has been athletic his whole life. In fact, he has coached baseball for more than three decades, most recently at Voyager Academy. He never had any major physical ailments, until one day while traveling he suddenly experienced debilitating back pain.

“I went to Boston to speak, and afterwards I just collapsed in bed,” he says. “I was in a hotel room for four days because I couldn’t move. Finally I got up, got on an airplane and flew back to Durham. I was thinking I would never coach baseball again.”

Shankle sought help at the Duke Spine Center, where he began physical therapy and a series of steroid injections to quell the pain. “But they discovered that I had a broken vertebrae, which would not allow the fluid to get where it needed to go. So the shots were not going to help,” he says.

Shankle was scheduled for neurosurgery on his spine to remove the fragment of bone that had broken off. The bone fragment was putting pressure on a nerve in Shankle’s back.

Years ago, surgery to correct a problem like this was one required a long incision, stripping of muscle, and a significant recovery period. Today, neurosurgery specialists at the Duke Spine Center use a minimally invasive approach, involving a tiny incision and a much quicker recovery.

“Before the surgery, I was walking like this, dragging my foot around,” says Shankle, demonstrating his previous gait. “My lifestyle was gone. It was just gone. But right after the surgery, I felt so much better. I was walking up and down the stairs at Duke Hospital.”

Shankle says that the surgery made him pain free for the first time in a year. “That surgery gave me my life back,” he says.

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