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Mark's Story

Mark's Story
Posted on: 07/20/2021

Fifty years ago, Mark consulted with a doctor about back surgery for the curvature in his spine. The doctor told Mark he’d have a 50/50 chance of living through the surgery and another 50/50 chance that the surgery would do any good. Oh, how times have changed!

As a retired police officer and all-around tough guy, Mark Leonardini has experienced his fair share of physical ailments, but constant back pain slashed his quality of life.

Every night he slipped out of bed, grabbed his vest, a jacket and wool cap and snuck into the garage to sleep in his Jeep.

“I couldn’t sleep in bed for more than a couple hours. The only place and position that worked was sitting in my front seat,” Mark said.

Unrelated to his spine’s curvature, this pain had started in his hip, and grown in location and severity. Just before moving from California to Idaho, an MRI revealed the problem: arthritis of the spine.

“It took too long to get that diagnosis … and by the time I unpacked boxes and moved furniture around our new home in Caldwell, the pain was just awful,” Mark said. “Thankfully, my new primary care doctor referred me to West Valley Medical Center’s Orthopedic and Spine Center.”

Back pain affects about 80 percent of Americans at one time of another. The Orthopedic and Spine Center at West Valley Medical Center provides in-depth education and individualized treatment plans for patients.

“During my time at the hospital and spine center, everyone genuinely cared about my welfare and wellbeing. I’ve had previous medical experiences where I’ve felt like I was on an assembly line – but not here.  They listened and made sure I understood everything to the level I wanted to,” Mark said.

Dr. Samuel Jorgenson, spine surgeon at the Orthopedic and Spine Center, walked Mark through his surgical journey which lead to a spinal fusion to correct problems with small bones in the spine by permanently connecting them. As the surgically-joined vertebrae heal into a single, solid bone, the fused vertebrae segments provide stability and strength to the back.

Ortho and Spine Ethos Program

Before the procedure, Mark attended West Valley Medical Center’s brand new Ortho and Spine Ethos program to learn what to expect before, during and after his procedure.

The Orthos and Spine Ethos program combines in-depth education, registration, an introduction to rehabilitative services, surgical clearance and more – offering patients the preparation, knowledge and encouragement for optimal surgical and healing experiences.

“It was an extremely informative four-hour class. I especially appreciated learning what would come in handy after surgery. Plus, they did a pre-surgical EKG and lab work that same day, so it was like a one-stop solution. It was excellent,” Mark said.

Spine Robotics

During the spinal fusion, Dr. Jorgenson and his team used cutting-edge robotic technology to increase surgical precision and reduce trauma to the body.

“They’re doing this with robots, and I’m all for it!” Mark said. “Think about it: In half a century we’ve gone from a 16-year-old kid who might die in back surgery to a 68-year-old guy having two back surgeries and sailing through like it’s nothing. So, I have no problem with making medicine more modern!”

Though recovery from surgery didn’t happen immediately, Mark says it’s completely worth it.

“It’s been three months now and you can’t even tell I’ve had spinal surgery. I can fall into bed and sleep all night. I can walk 5 miles or bicycle 7 miles a day – these are things I couldn’t do for  years. It’s a huge improvement in my quality of life. In fact, it’s not too far short of miraculous,” Mark said.

To those suffering from back pain and considering steps toward recovery, Mark encourages people to move forward.

“It’s not like we’re going to suddenly find the fountain of youth. If you want the pain taken care of, find doctors who come highly recommended and inspire confidence in you,” Mark said. “That’s why I say, ‘Take me to West Valley’s Orthopedic and Spine Center.’ Go get it fixed. Get your life back.”


If you would like to learn more about Back Pain and Spine Robotics options, view Dr. Samuel Jorgenson’s ON DEMAND SEMINAR, here.

Mark's Story
Posted on: 07/20/2021

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