Let’s Move Quad Cities: Local Serviceman Back In Action After 2 Back Surgeries

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For Andrew Gregory, moving is a mantra - you just keep going.

"My main message, as well as what the military speaks to, is - Never quit. Never stop."

That message is how the 31-year-old survived five military combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as two separate back surgeries.

"You have to be ready for the unknowns and that really requires a top physical aspect of your lifestyle," said Andrew.

Andrew's first surgery happened after his fourth deployment, when he injured his neck while training on the Rock Island Arsenal.

"The disc in between my six and seven vertebrae had slipped out of the actual bone and was pinching a nerve to cause numbness and tingling down my left arm," Andrew explained.

"It was causing pain radiating down all the way to his arm and into his hand," added Dr. Michael Berry, a Spine Surgeon at ORA Orthopedics. "What we had to do was actually go through the front of the spine into the neck and take the shock absorber, the disc, out in between the bones and that takes the pressure off the nerve and then we have to lock those bones together, which is called a fusion."

"Dr. Berry did great work," said Andrew. "Never having major surgery before, I was really worried whether or not I would be able to provide for my family, will this be a career-ending type of injury. Dr. Berry took all that stuff into account."

It was not the last time Andrew saw Dr. Berry. Three years later, during his fifth deployment, Andrew hurt himself again.

"I just heard a pop noise in my [lower] back," recalled Andrew. "I immediately went to the military doctors there in Afghanistan and they said - you need to go home."

"He had pain running down his leg and he wasn't able to lift his foot," added Dr. Berry. "They told him he was going to need an operation and he asked if I could take care of that."

Andrew traveled from Afghanistan to Germany to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the Quad Cities for the surgery. Andrew said many doctors were not optimistic about him making a full recovery.

"They said I needed to be prepared to possibly not only be able to ever run again, but I may need to exit my military career," said Andrew. "My response was - I have a really good surgeon back in Rock Island who's done phenomenal work and it's noted, but I don't see that happening with him and here I am today no issues."

"It's humbling to know that he thought so much of us here in the Quad Cities and the medical care that we provide," said Dr. Berry. "I like to do surgeries to get people back to the level of function that they want to proceed with. It's not to become more sedentary, it's to improve their quality of life and he's the perfect example of that."

Today, Andrew continues to serve our country and is stronger than ever before. He says his family - his wife and two kids - are what keeps him going, doing what he loves doing, and inspiring others to MOVE and do the same.

"If you have an injury or an limiting factor, don't let that stop you," Andrew said. "There's always something you can do, always better yourself, and keep moving forward."

Dr. Berry says disc degeneration can happen to anyone at any age.

"I see the gamut of ages and activity levels," he said. "More often than not when these come up, people don't know why it happened or when it happened, they just kind of insidiously start to get this discomfort that radiates into the arm or radiates into the leg."

*Let’s Move QC is a monthly segment on WQAD. It’s all about being the best version of you by introducing viewers to real people in the Quad Cities who are doing just that, with a little extra help from the surgeons at ORA Orthopedics. The stories air every month (usually the last Monday of the month) during News 8 at 5 p.m.