Giving back pain the red card

A young Conference League referee who was struck down by crippling back pain is about to head back onto the pitch following spinal surgery at Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre.Thomas Nield

Thomas Nield, aged 25, was enjoying a successful career on and off the pitch. As a Registered Nurse and Clinical Educator at Barnsley Hospital’s A&E department he was helping colleagues to develop their medical and managerial skills, training healthcare assistants to progress in their careers and supporting nurses to maintain their registered status.

But suddenly, things began to change. “I had a pain in my leg that did not go away,” he explained. “At first I thought it was a strain from training and matches but it got worse, until in the end I could not stand for more than 10 minutes at a time. Work and refereeing became impossible.”

Consultant neurologist Mr Jark Bosma said: “The base of the spine is made up of the intricate L5-S1 vertebral segment, also called the lumbosacral joint. While degeneration of the joint is not uncommon a bulging disc on a healthy 25-year-old is not so common.”

An MRI revealed Thomas’ bulging disc: within four weeks of the decision to operate, he arrived as an inpatient at Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre. “I was impressed from the moment I arrived,” he said. “The team were excellent. The nurses were cheerful, polite and professional and they did all they could to preserve patients’ dignity.”

The team performed a spinal microdiscectomy: this removes the herniated disc material that is pressing on the nerve root or the spinal cord using a special microscope to view the disc and nerves. Thomas said: “I was in significant pain after the surgery. Nurse Deborah Palsey was exceptional and was caring and very effective.

“The centre was very clean and it had a good atmosphere. As I stayed overnight I can say I was also impressed by the food. I am now pain free, which is wonderful, and three months after surgery I am about to referee my first match, which is a great feeling.”

Hospital Director Steve Booker said: “We are always delighted to hear such positive news from patients, but the fact that Thomas is a Clinical Educator is particularly rewarding. He has high standards and understands and trains colleagues in providing excellent care, so we were delighted that he was so impressed with the centre and the team.”