Great-Grandmother Conquers Excruciating Neck Pain That Brought Her to Tears Due to Cervical Disc Issue

Great-Grandmother Conquers Excruciating Neck Pain That Brought Her to Tears Due to Cervical Disc Issue

Ruthie Evans is the kind of energetic senior who loves to stay active. Part of her routine is walking three and a half miles around the Rose Bowl three times a week.

But things began to change when she started to experience excruciating pain in her neck. When Ruthie would turn her neck a certain way, especially when reading in bed or working on her computer, she would feel as if the bones in her neck were rubbing against each other. She and her husband knew it was time to seek professional medical help.

“Every way I moved my neck, it would bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes, it would wake me up in the middle of the night,” Ruthie recalls.

Her doctor referred her to Raymond J. Hah, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Hah diagnosed the problem as a cervical disc issue and recommended surgery on her upper spine. The successful procedure took about two hours and only required a two-day stay in the hospital.

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Despite a six week recovery, the surgery was life-changing for Ruthie.

“Dr. Hah asked me if I wanted to go to physical therapy for my neck, but I told him that I didn’t need it. I didn’t have any pain,” she says.

Ruthie Smith

During her time at the hospital, Ruthie really enjoyed getting to know Hah.

“When I first met him, I found out that his wife was about to have a baby, so we started talking about that because I’m a great-grandmother,” she says. “He was so wonderful and cared a lot about what I was going through. After we got the X-rays, he showed me exactly what was going on and what he was going to do during the surgery. I really appreciated that.”

Hah continued to follow up with her after the surgery. When Ruthie brought up a concern with her medication, he made sure she was okay. Unrelated to the pain in her neck, Ruthie began to experience lower back problems. She turned back to Hah for help.

“He looked at my MRI and the X-rays, but he didn’t think I needed more surgery. He’s not going to operate on me just because he’s a surgeon,” she says. “He gave me other alternatives, but when it comes time to do the surgery in the future, I will go back to Keck Medicine of USC.”

In September of 2016, Ruthie and her husband celebrated their third wedding anniversary. Her son, who is a pilot for a commercial airline, bought them plane tickets to go back to Hawaii, where they spent their honeymoon.

by Ramin Zahed

If you’re experiencing back pain, make an appointment with a spine specialist. To learn more about the USC Spine Center, visit

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