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BackerNation Success Stories: Alexis Brinkmeyer

Published October 11, 2019
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Jerry Nichols, MD

EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD ALEXIS BRINKMEYER is a high school student and former competitive volleyball player who recently underwent surgery to fix degenerative disc disease.

What problems were you having before you reached out to the Center for Disc Replacement at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery? 

The pain was so bad that I withdrew from school because I couldn’t sit for more than two hours. I had to be home-schooled. My pain stemmed from the center of my lower back, right above my pelvis, and extended toward my hips; it was unbearable. 

What caused/attributed to your pain? (sports, accident, etc.)? 

A combination of degenerative disc disease and seven years of competitive volleyball. 

How did your pain affect your life and future? 

My pain affected my life by making me withdraw from a normal secondary education and I had to discontinue all impact sports. College was a question due to the fact that we didn’t know if I would be able to sit through my classes. 

Why did you choose to travel for your medical care? 

I choose to travel to Texas from Missouri to receive care from Dr. Jack Zigler, who is one of the Center’s medical directors. He made me feel like I was in trusted hands and could actually live a pain-free life. The Center for Disc Replacement is one-of-a-kind and the outstanding staff there have helped change my life for the better.

Why did you select the Center for Disc Replacement?

The surgery plan was customized just for me and Dr. Zigler was the only one who suggested that I may be able to live a pain-free life.

When you first arrived at the Center for Disc Replacement what was your first impression?

Everyone was shocked to see an 18-year-old seeking surgery, but they made me feel very comfortable, and I felt relived.


When you left the Center for Disc Replacement what was your assessment of the treatments and care?

I felt confident that I had chosen the right place to have my surgery. From scheduling appointments to surgery and recovery, I felt very well taken care of.

Was there one specific experience that stood out for you?

One specific experience that stood out to me was when I walked into the office after my surgery for my one-week checkup. Everyone was just so excited and pleased with how well I was moving. The staff felt like my family, all rooting for me and pleased with my results. 

How would you describe the Center for Disc Replacement at the hospital?

The care was incomparable. I had my appendix out prior to the disc replacement surgery at another hospital in Missouri and was able to compare the two. The staff at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery were much more caring and accommodating. They were there for anything and everything I needed and they were prompt. They made me feel comfortable even with the pain I was experiencing. 

Did the Center for Disc Replacement leave a lasting impression on you?

The Center for Disc Replacement left a lasting impression on me more than they could ever know. I have always wanted to be involved in the medical field, and I am a premedical student at The University of Alabama. I would like to do for others what they did for me and hope to enter the spine field after medical school.

How has this experience affected your life?

The experience has changed my life for the better now that I am almost 100 percent pain-free. I am able to sit through a class without pain. I can ride in a car for more than an hour without needing to stop. I have been able to attend yoga classes without having to leave. I am now able to look towards the future and my career after college.

What do you look forward to the most, now that this is behind you? 

Now that the surgery has passed and I am mostly healed, I am looking forward to completing school and being able to do for others what the doctor and staff did for me. They have changed my life for the better and I hope that I can one day help another like they helped me. 

Meet the Surgeon: Jack E. Zigler M.D., F.A.C.S.


With Alexis being so young, what is the benefit of disc replacement over fusion?

Since Alexis is so young, all efforts should be made to avoid, or at least delay, surgery if at all possible. By the time she came under my care, it was clear that all efforts had been expended, and that Alexis was at a junction point in her life. She could not move on to college, which was her dream, unless she had surgery.

Two level fusion surgery in someone this young would unfortunately change the mechanics of her spine, so that in 10-15 years, while in the most productive part of her life, Alexis would likely have to deal with more surgery for wear at the levels above her fusion.

Although disc replacement does not have a known lifespan (granted no implants have been revised for normal wear for over 30 years), the certainty of increased degenerative disease above a fusion made the decision to use disc replacement a much easier one for Alexis and her family.

Due to her surgical experience, Alexis has decided to study medicine in college with an emphasis in spine. How does that make you feel as her doctor?

I am delighted that Alexis’s experience as a patient has motivated her to enter the health care field. I am certain that this bright and motivated young woman will have special empathy for her patients, since she has been in their shoes.

Helping motivated people who have taken such an active role in their care is always even more rewarding to me. Being able to provide lumbar disc replacement as a better technological option than fusion, and seeing Alexis now able to realize her dream of attending college at Alabama, is a huge reward to me. I’ve spent a good part of my professional career studying disc replacement as an alternative to fusion, and using that work to now change the life course of a wonderful person validates the time and work that have been done by so many people to bring lumbar disc replacement to its current level.

Updated: November 10, 2019

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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