Image of patient Harley Lang finishing the Ironman Triathlon

From the OR to the Finish Line

Kirkland resident and outdoor enthusiast Harley Lang embraced endurance sports and physical exercise to combat a corporate lifestyle. So when the 41-year-old began to experience pain in his neck, he wasn’t ready to slow down.

Once the pain was serious enough that it began impacting his work-travel plans, and he wasn’t able to enjoy swimming or riding his bike, Lang knew he may need to consider surgery and he needed a partner who would understand his desire to recover quickly and fully return to his active way of life.

In the following Q & A, Lang shares his journey—all in the span of a year— from disc-replacement surgery to the finish line of his first full Ironman triathlon.

Q: What treatments and interventions did you try before surgery?

After trying physical therapy, cortisone injections, massage, and a microdiscectomy, over a period of two years, I was still having reoccurring flare-ups of pain, numbness and even muscle atrophy due a disc degeneration in my neck. It was limiting my ability to work, live and play the way I wanted to.

Q: What made you choose EvergreenHealth?

I had several friends who recommended EvergreenHealth, and particularly Dr. Scott Price, and I knew I didn’t need to look beyond my own community when we have great surgeons right here where I live. I had seen Dr. Price at a half marathon in Kirkland and had run into him at my gym, so I knew he understood and respected my desire to get back to training as soon as possible.

Q: What was it like to learn about your options for treatment?

I liked Dr. Price's transparent, straightforward way of discussing my options. He has a quiet confidence about him that made me feel that he trusts in his own abilities and knowledge. He met with me for over an hour multiple times and we reviewed X-rays and MRIs together. I’ve never had that kind of interaction with a doctor. He treated me with intellectual respect, was clear and concise with answering questions, and didn’t pressure me with recommendations or opinions. In the end, he was supportive of my desire to get an artificial disc instead of fusion surgery.

Q: What did your recovery look like?

The morning after the surgery—on Aug. 15, 2013— Dr. Price came to check on me early in the morning and encouraged me to get moving. Once I went home, he personally called me to see how I was doing and to remind me to get outside and walk. Then we got together after a couple weeks to discuss my rehab and training plan. By then, I was already doing short indoor rides on my bike trainer and he confirmed that my goal to resume racing in long distance triathlons within 6 to 8 months was realistic.

Q: Can you tell us about your comeback?

My comeback began with short swims and indoor bike rides, and then progressed to outdoor running. By December, I was ready to take on serious training again. It was a joy to be able to push myself physically without major pain episodes or setbacks. On May 31, 8 months post-surgery, I completed my third half Ironman triathlon. I was able to race, train, and travel for work all summer without neck pain, and on Sept. 7, 2014, one year and three weeks after disc-replacement surgery, I realized my goal of finishing my first full Ironman triathlon in Wisconsin.


For More Information about Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery 

VIDEO: Dr. J. Scott Price talks about minimally invasive spine surgery


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