Top Doctors 2016

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

(page 6 of 17)


Back on the Court | Fit for Life | Health at Your Fingertips | Cutting Edge | Above Par | Working Together
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Above Par

When Joe Asebedo fell and broke his neck last fall, he had to take a break from playing the game he loves. Dr. M. Ellen Nichols, a Top Doctors winner in neurological surgery, helped him return to the golf course as soon as possible.

Dr. M. Ellen Nichols helped Joe Asebedo make a full recovery after breaking several vertebrae in his neck.

You can usually find 85-year-old Joe Asebedo on the golf course. It’s his favorite sport, and he spent years coordinating a golf tournament to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. But in September 2015, Joe had to take a break from the links for a while. He fell backward onto a wall, and he broke multiple vertebrae in his neck. For the first time in his life, he was taken to Freeman Hospital in Joplin. 

There, he met neurosurgeon Dr. M. Ellen Nichols. In medical school, she listed neurosurgery as her last preference. She was placed in clinical rotations for it anyway and learned to love it. She’s been a neurosurgeon for 26 years. “I like that we’re able to make a real difference for our patients,” she says. “We can take care of pain, remove tumors, save lives and relieve suffering.” Relieving suffering was the main goal for Asebedo. He required two surgeries: an anterior cervical fusion and posterior cervical fusion. These surgeries can usually be performed together, but Nichols decided to separate it into two stages to limit the trauma. Each surgery was two hours long, and they were performed two days apart. Asebedo had to wear a rigid collar for about four months after his surgery to stabilize his neck and let it heal. Nichols and her team monitored him closely afterward, but she says he recovered quickly and easily. “He’s a very energetic, determined 85-year-old,” she says. “I would have been surprised if he didn’t.” 

After four months, Asebedo was itching to get back on the golf course, but he still had to wait. He learned to adjust to his rehab requirements. He had a five-pound lifting limit, and he had to make sure he didn’t twist his neck or bend down for too long. At first he even had to have a neighbor help him clean the house. “I gradually kept getting better, little by little,” he says. “When you break your neck, it’s no picnic.” 

Asebedo returned to the greens in March, and he’s thankful for everyone who helped him at Freeman. “I’ve had two back surgeries and two knee surgeries, but I don’t recall having the attention that I received from Dr. Nichols,” he says. “All the people who worked with me were very kind and courteous.” 



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