Valencia Hospital Provides Quality Orthopedic Care and Hometown Convenience for Santa Clarita Valley Patients
By Stephen K. Peeples 
When Santa Clarita Valley patients face spine surgery, joint replacement and/or pain management, the specialists at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital  provide a full range of world-class orthopedic services.
“Our joint replacement and spine surgery program is completely comprehensive,” said Henry Mayo's Pam Geyer. She's been the Valencia hospital’s Joint Replacement and Spine Surgery Clinical Navigator and Pain Management Nurse Specialist for the past four years. Geyer has been a registered nurse for 30 years and earned her law degree 21 years ago.
"We offer the most current, up-to-date technology," she said. "Right now, there's a lot of talk of minimally invasive surgeries, which we do here. We have several extremely skilled orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons that practice at Henry Mayo, so whatever that orthopedic need would be, we have doctors able to take care of you.”
The last thing patients who live in the Santa Clarita Valley want to do is have to drive long distances for medical treatment — especially when there's a lot of pain involved.
"It's wonderful to be treated in your community, because then you can follow with any rehab, physical therapy or other post-surgical interventions you need when you go home, and your family's there to help you along that journey," said Geyer, a nine-year Valencia resident. "It's always a good choice to be able to have your needs met close to home."
On the pain management side, post-surgery medication is more than just about numbing acute pain from surgery to repair a broken bone. Geyer urges patients to be diligent about taking their pain meds.
"Our bodies are so smart and so wonderful that if we don't manage our pain, the body will make a choice between healing and pain," she said. "If it decides to send all of the oxygen, nutrients, everything to pain, you actually delay your healing, when you don't manage pain. You will not get farther ahead by gutting it out."
Spine Surgery and Joint Surgery at Henry Mayo
Most joint, back and spine problems are either genetic, the result of aging, or due to trauma from injury, like broken bones from a bad fall or traffic collision.
Geyer said a patient most often connects with Henry Mayo's joint, spine and pain management program through a referral from the patient's personal physician.
"[For] spine, where people maybe have a curvature, whether it's kind of a C-curvature or an S-curvature, we can also fix that if needed," she said.
Geyer noted there are several types of spine surgeries. "Microdiscectomy would probably be the least invasive, and that's commonly the treatment when someone has what people call a 'slipped disc,'" she said. "We can go all the way to (disc) fusion surgery, which is much more complex and requires more intervention."
Like many mechanical things, a body's joints can wear out. With age, arthritis often sets in, making movement more difficult, and in some cases, painful.
"We all come to aging in our life, and so those changes from aging, mostly arthritis, are things we're all going to have to deal with," Geyer said.
Heredity and/or lifestyle can factor in, as well.
"Maybe you just have an inherited bone weakness," she said. "Or joint repair or replacement could depend on how hard you've been on your joints throughout your life. Maybe you're an athlete or have been doing things that really are extreme. Whatever the cause, the joint replacement surgeries we do here are fantastic. We do every kind of replacement — knees, hips, shoulders. Our surgeons are extremely skilled to be able to do that."
Navigation from Pre-Op to Post-Op
As the division's Nurse Navigator, Geyer guides the patient through the entire procedure, from pre-op to post-op. Once surgery is scheduled, she signs the patient up for one of her pre-surgery education classes.
"When they come to my class — and it runs an hour and a half, free of charge — they get the expertise that I offer them, and I have all kinds of models and implant hardware," Geyer said. "They can sit there and hold and touch and see what it feels like, see how much it weighs. They can look at (the hardware) in place in my bone models."
Pictured: An x-ray of a hip replacement.
Geyer and the patient and the patient's family/caregiver(s) talk about everything from how to prepare for surgery, preparing the home ahead of time for recovery, what to expect in the hospital, and what to expect from the surgery.
"Surgery is trauma," Geyer said. "It's a controlled traumatic event, but it's still trauma to the body, so we talk about that.
"There is a significantly higher number of patients with spine surgeries than joint replacement surgeries that deal with chronic pain," she said. "So, we spend a lot of time talking with patients about different types of pain and how we manage that at Henry Mayo, so they don't have to be afraid of the acute, chronic surgical pain they're going to have from their procedure.
"This puts a lot of people very much at ease," Geyer said. "There's significant research out there that says when patients are prepared for a surgical experience, their opportunity for a great outcome increases."
Geyer checks in on all her patients after surgery. "I see them in the hospital just to be sure that all is well. They can contact me at any time via my cellphone, my pager. If something does go sideways or they don't understand something, they can contact me. I work with all of the staff in all of the units, all of the different surgeons, so we really provide that comprehensive care for the patient."
Pain Management and Recovering at Home from Spine Surgery or Joint Replacement
After a patient has recovered enough, he or she receives whatever information and medication necessary to manage pain and continue recovery at home.
"Make sure you take that (medication) consistently," Geyer said. "With oral medications, when we take it, it releases over time. So, there's always a little bit of that floating around in our bloodstream. We call that a 'steady state.' If you extend that time out too far, you actually start to deplete the reserve, and then it takes you that much longer to get that pain under control again. So, while you're still hurting, you need to take that (pain medication) consistently. I'd even say set your alarm if I you are going to sleep at night, so you do not miss that."
Pictured: Model of spine out of alignment.
As Geyer noted earlier, "gutting out" acute pain after orthopedic surgery without medication can prolong healing time. While she lauds the intent — to avoid developing an addiction to opiate-based painkillers — she says a very small percentage of patients actually become pain pill abusers.
"Less than four percent of the people who take narcotics for pain end up with an addictive disorder," Geyer said. "It's a very small population. As long as you have pain, your body will metabolize and break that medication down for pain. It's when you no longer have pain and you're still taking it — then you have to worry."
Originally from Ohio, Geyer is "a Midwest farm kid," she puts it. "I did some time in the Army, learned some good structure and opportunity through military training, and then came out here via a marriage to California about nine years ago."
How Having a Law Degree Helps Geyer Direct the Program at Henry Mayo
How does Geyer's law degree inform what she does overseeing Henry Mayo's joint replacement, spine surgery and pain management services?
"The law teaches you how to analyze processes, and there's a lot of regulation and structure that goes into developing a (hospital) program, so it has helped me tremendously." she said.
Pictured: Model of spine in alignment.
Prior to coming to Henry Mayo, Geyer worked for a time with a firm in downtown L.A. and performed a significant amount of defense litigation work. She has applied what she learned there to help Henry Mayo avoid potentially litigious situations.
"We've done a lot of work with our program in developing clinical pathways that are solid, that really follow the best practices," she said. "The choices we make and the care of our patients is evidence-based, which is always the best route to go. My training and experience in the law have very much helped to give (me) a proper frame of mind on how to develop and manage a center like this.
Public Invited to Free Monthly Spinal Health and Pain Management Classes
Henry Mayo also offers two free spine education classes to the general public each month, providing useful Information on how to take better care of your spine to avoid future back and neck injuries, and to improve pain management.
One class is at the hospital's Ambulatory care Center at 25751 McBean Parkway, #310, on the second Wednesday of the month from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The other class is at The Plaza at Golden Valley in Canyon Country, 19013 Golden Valley Road, #125, on the fourth Wednesday of the month (except December) from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information about the spine surgery, joint replacement and pain management program at Henry Mayo, call 661-253-8000 or visit www.henrymayo.com .
Photos: Wikimedia Commons.
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Henry Mayo Leads In Spine Surgery, Joint Replacement, Pain Management
Article: Henry Mayo Leads In Spine Surgery, Joint Replacement, Pain Management 
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Stephen Peeples