Former law enforcement officer back in action after neck rebuild

Health

After undergoing a neck rebuild, Georgetown resident Ivan Holden is back enjoying many of the activities he loves.

Ivan Holden knew something was wrong. He was losing his balance, struggling to lift his feet when he walked and his hands were routinely going numb.
“I was in my garden picking cayenne peppers, and I fell – that happened three times,” says the former law enforcement officer and farmer who lives in Georgetown. “If I was just sitting in my recliner, my hands would go numb.”
Even though his symptoms were growing worse, he held off seeking medical care.

Holden's neck condition made working on his small farm increasingly difficult.

“I just figured it was old age and that I’d had a rough life,” says Holden, 76, whose lengthy career in law enforcement for the state Department of Natural Resources and in narcotics enforcement led to his involvement in numerous car crashes and physical altercations.
Eventually, he struggled with activities he loves such as playing with his Rottweiler, fixing tractors and working on his small farm. Washers, bolts and other small items became difficult, if not impossible, to pick up.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t tell what I was doing with my fingers unless I looked at them,” he says.

New direction

That’s when he made an appointment with Tidelands Health neurosurgeon Dr. M. Daniel Eggart, who told him discs in his neck were out of place — perhaps due to trauma such as a car accident.
“Ivan is by nature an active person, and his condition was having a very detrimental impact on his life,” says Dr. Eggart, who practices at MUSC Neurosciences at Tidelands Health in Murrells Inlet. “When he first came to me, he was really struggling.”
When Dr. Eggart suggested he consider surgery to address his condition, Holden didn’t hesitate to agree, even though he had previous health issues, including a mechanical heart valve implanted in 2005.

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“I told him, ‘I’m tough as whit leather, and I’ve got faith in you. Let’s give it a try,’” Holden says of the surgery.
Immediately after waking up from the surgery in 2018, Holden knew his physical condition had improved.
“When I came to, Dr. Eggart was holding my hand and I could feel his fingers,” Holden says.
Recovery from the procedure required Holden to spend several weeks at the hospital, and Dr. Eggart visited him frequently.
“He came to see me two times a day, and the day he didn’t do that, he came three times,” Holden says.
At every step before, during and after surgery, Dr. Eggart took the time to explain what was happening and why, said Holden’s wife, Ann.
“He explained everything on a level we could understand,” she says. “He always asked me if I had any questions.”

Ann and Ivan Holden

Ann Holden says her husband's quality of life has improved significantly since undergoing successful neck surgery.

Given the significance of surgery, and especially any surgery involving the neck or back, communication between a surgeon and patient is essential, Dr. Eggart says.
“As a surgeon, it’s important to understand everything that’s going on with the patient so I can provide the best possible care,” Dr. Eggart says. “And likewise, it’s a top priority for me that patients are fully informed about the process and that I’m here for them afterward, too, to help support recovery and make sure things are proceeding as expected.”

'He's so much happier'

Although the prospect of neck surgery can be daunting, Dr. Eggart’s skill and personal attention helped put the couple at ease throughout the process, Ann Holden says.
“I’d recommend him to anyone for anything,” she said. “He was really great.”
Her husband agrees.
“He’s a gem of a physician, but more than that, he’s a gem of a person,” Holden says.
The success of the surgery has allowed Holden to get back to many of the activities he loves, such as tending to his lawn.
“At the first of the year, I was able to start cutting my grass again if I wore a neck collar,” he says.
His wife is also happy to see him returning to his old self.
“It’s wonderful. He doesn’t just have to sit around in a chair anymore,” she said. “He’s so much happier.”

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