Zaira Di Natale
From Michelle T.:
I had spine surgery in 1991 on my L4/L5 vertebrae. For the next 10-15 years my back was great – going out every so often for a day or two and returning to normal. I was extremely athletic going out for a run or playing tennis daily. My spine issue started in 2015 when my back became much more painful and unmanageable. Through the last six years I’ve quit jobs because I couldn’t sit very long or stand on my feet very long. I went to the same orthopedic practice for over 10 years and this last year I had so many sessions of Physical Therapy, MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays alongside multiple rounds of cortisone/facet joint injections in my back. It got to the point where nothing was helping with the pain anymore. My doctor recommended I go to a surgeon, which I did in the same practice. I was advised that surgery wouldn’t help. My lifestyle at this point had completely changed. I could only function until about noon, in pain, and then would have to lay down for a couple of hours. Laying down was my only time of relief. I became a slug. And I also started becoming depressed. I prayed daily for God to lead me to a doctor that could help me.
I was told about Dr. James by a friend at the same retail business I was currently employed in. I quit that job due to the constant pain and I waited a couple months before contacting Atlanta Spine Institute. My prayers were finally answered!
Working with Dr. James and the staff at Atlanta Spine Institute was INCREDIBLE. The front office is easy to work with on appointments, billing, etc. They were always so friendly when checking in. His nurse Grace is the absolute best! She put in extra time to help me get insurance approval for my upcoming surgery. Their office is very well run. There were no long waits! The excellent x-ray tech and their PA, Jason, are amazing and you can tell they enjoy working together. Well-oiled machine! That only comes from great leadership!
Dr. James is a remarkable doctor and even better human. I’ve never had as thorough an exam as I did with him. He spent over 45 minutes with me, really listened to me and I could feel his compassion when I was trying to hold back tears about my pain and how my whole life has changed. My back issues have taken away my jobs, my social activities, and my athletic adventures. Dr. James suggested that a fusion is the best way to stabilize my spine. He went through every scenario with me, posterior/anterior, recovery, and more. I was scheduled for fusion on my L4/L5/S1 three weeks later.
The surgery went great! No problems! I had excellent pain management throughout my hospital stay as well as when at home. The Emory St. Joe Hospital staff was top notch! I was discharged as scheduled (two-night stay) and went home with good instructions. I had several follow-up appointments with Dr. James, where again, he was so thorough and truly cared about how I was feeling and recovering! I’m currently 4 months in and doing very well. My pain level is low and not every day. I have a couple more months to go for my fusion to be complete and would love to touch base again then for a more complete recovery summary! So far, this procedure has been a life changer.
I am doing great now. I caught myself singing out loud and “dancing” the other day. When I realized what I was doing, I literally started crying. I have been in pain for so long, I forgot what it was like not to feel bad every day. I still have some soreness in my back, but not every single day anymore. And it doesn’t cripple me from doing social activities with my friends. I’m so hopeful that after it’s completely fused, I’ll be able to return to working in retail and go on hour long hikes again! My mind is in a much better place. I’m almost back to my old self! And that alone is a gift! I realize my back will never be like it was when I was 30, but what Dr. James has managed to do in four months has given me such hope!
Lastly, I honestly believe it was a Godsend meeting Dr. James. He is the most caring, experienced, professional, knowledgeable doctor I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I adore him. It’s truly his mission to help people and make them feel better. And he’s humble. I didn’t realize he worked with our city’s professional athletic teams until I went to his office and saw it first on the door. What a sense of relief it was knowing he was entrusted to top athletes that make a living with their bodies!! If those teams trust him for their players and staff – I certainly would too! I can’t speak highly enough about Dr. James and have passed along his name to many. I thank God for him each and every day.
Wanted to also mention – everywhere during the process at Emory/St. Joe – from the check-in desk to the nurse prepping me for surgery to the Anesthetist to the recovery nurses – every single one of them was so positive regarding Dr. James. Said his surgeries are always well run, on-time and that he prays for each patient before he starts. I personally knew the Anesthesia tech – my daughter did a rotation with him – and his respect and love for Dr. James made me know I was truly in the best hands possible for my back surgery. He is an incredibly well loved and highly regarded spine surgeon.