CROOKSTON, Minn. — After years of pain and partial paralysis, the University of North Dakota women's basketball coach is back on his feet, and he credits surgery he got at a hospital in Crookston for his recovery.
Travis Brewster had suffered from debilitating back pain for the last few years, which at times forced him into a wheelchair.
"Some of it was partial paralysis, a little bit of lost use of limbs,” he explained. “(I was) in a wheelchair for part of the time and crutches as well. I had a lot of burning sensations.”
Then, he heard about a procedure that could give him life-changing relief from his condition. Oblique Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or OLLIF surgery, was available at RiverView Health in Crookston, just 20 miles east on Highway 2 from Grand Forks.
The procedure can alleviate back pain and help with conditions including scoliosis and is much less invasive than traditional back surgery, explained surgeon Dr. Hamid Abbasi.
"The traditional way of doing this surgery is — for lack of other terms — filleting the patient open, cutting lots of muscle, lots of bone just to get to where the problem is," he said.
In OLLIF surgery, doctors are able to use small cuts to get to the problem without cutting through muscle. Abbasi said it's minimally invasive and can be done much more quickly than traditional surgery, which can take anywhere from 5 to 10 hours.
"We finished (a) surgery in 61 minutes because we didn't have to cause lots of damage," he explained.
Abbasi is now showing a doctor from Japan how to do OLLIF surgery, and the doctor will then be able to use the procedure to help patients at home.
"The likelihood of infection is smaller. And the surgery, the blood loss is smaller, and it's a very good procedure," said Dr. Phyo Kim, from Tokyo.
Abbassi has performed the surgery on nearly a thousand people in Alexandria, the Twin Cities and Crookston, and often for farmers.
"(We) let them do their job and let them get on with their lives," Abbasi said.
Brewster is beginning to do just that. Last April, he was operated on and was out of the hospital and back home 28 hours later. Now that eight months have passed, the coach says life is much different, though it has been a slow change.
"(There’s) a lot of improvement,” he said. “Being able to have feeling back in your feet again … is a big deal.”