He was doing something we all do this time of year - raking leaves - when something happened that required life-changing surgery.
Let's "back" up, though. Since he was in Junior High, Mark Ruebling has loved acting. The 57-year-old owns "Music Go Round" in Davenport, but always finds time to participate in several local productions every year. In fact, he met his wife while doing a show at Saint Ambrose University after graduating from college.
"I love being around theater people," he said. "It's never dull."
"You get to try and understand what it's like to be in someone else's shoes."
A few years ago, Mark was unable to stand in those shoes - much less act in them. After raking leaves for hours in the Fall of 2012, he started feeling back pain that would not go away.
"Anytime I tried to stand up straight, it just hurt," he explained. "I've had back problems off and on for decades because of all the crazy things I've done to myself, including shows where my wife threw me on the ground on the cement floor fives times a show for three weeks... but it got progressively worse. It got to the point where I really could not stand up straight. It was incredibly painful to stand up."
"I was to the point where I had to use a cane. I was starting to get a little numbness in my right leg and that was kind of the big warning sign."
A family doctor ordered an MRI and recommended Mark go to ORA Orthopedics. There, he met Dr. Myles Luszczyk who diagnosed him with spinal stenosis.
"Basically, that area where there should be room for the spinal cord had gotten to the point where it was literally being crushed and that was the reason why I was having the pain and the numbness," said Mark.
"It really means tightness on the nerves," added Dr. Luszczyk. "He had tightness at multiple segments of his spine and this is something that happens in all of us as we age."
In these cases, Dr. Luszczyk said they try to avoid surgery. Instead, they try physical therapy, injections, or chiropractic manipulation. However, Mark needed the surgery - not because of the back pain, but because of something else.
"It's really the leg pain that gives us as Spine Surgeons the most concern," he said. "They'll also notice some numbness down the legs. The back pain we actually can't fix with surgery. In fact, surgery has been shown to worsen the back pain. It's really to try to alleviate the leg symptoms that patients experience."
Mark got lucky. Since his surgery in January 2013, he said he still feels some back pain, but nothing compared to three years ago.
"I'm able to go golfing," he said. "I'm able to be in shows. I'm able to continue to work. There is pain involved. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, but I also know that what would have happened had I not had the surgery would have put me in a very unhappy place."
Mark is currently performing in his sixth production this year. Big Rock Candy Christmas is showing at The District Theatre through November 22nd. For information, click here.
"That is the focus of us as Orthopedic Surgeons and the focus of ORA," concluded Dr. Luszczyk. "We really want to try to get patients back to a state of activity, a level of activity that is safe and that can allow them to still enjoy their lives."
"I'm extraordinarily happy with the way surgery turned out," added Mark. "I am doing the things I love to do. I'm able to live a full life."
For more success stories from our monthly Let's Move QC segment, click here.