Patrol officer back on the job after devastating injury

A devastating injury stopped a local member of law enforcement in his tracks - forcing an initial surgery, months of physical therapy and then another surgery that finally brought him relief.

In the dark of night, patrol officer Michael Flurry took off on foot after a suspect, wanted for a serious disturbance. "I was in a full sprint and struck the clothesline," said Flurry, "and it picked me up and pretty much dropped me straight on my back."

The pain to his neck, head and back was shocking. "I felt an instant pain, granted my body was full of adrenaline and I was able to get up and actually catch the suspect," he said, "but a few minutes later, I really started to feel the injury set in."

The impact of hitting the ground caused a rig belt to rupture a vertebra in Flurry's lower back, locking it up and causing intense pain.

The first surgery involving an artificial, implantable disc was meant to preserve motion, but it did not nix the pain. Neurosurgeon Dr. Gregory Rubino at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital did not perform the initial surgery, but explains why it was not successful. "By preserving motion, you're preserving some of the factors that generate pain in the back."

A second opinion brought Flurry to Dr. Rubino, where conservative methods were first implemented. Months of physical therapy, injections and pain medication showed little improvement.

Dr. Rubino decided to take a fairly aggressive last ditch effort to fix Flurry's spine: a spinal fusion, keeping the artificial disc implanted because of risks. "We fused it from behind, so we put screws at each level and then put a little bone toward the back of the spine and allowed the fusion to occur," he said.

The fusion freezes that particular segment of the spine, stopping the movement and therefore the pain.

Flurry had the procedure in December 2011 and says the recovery has been tough, but he is finally back to doing what he loves. "I think patrol is where my home is," he said, "I like being on the street and interacting with the people. I think that's the area where you're able to do the most good and help the most people."

Spinal fusion has been around for about 50 years and because of the extent of the surgery, is typically a back-up if more conservative options fail.

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