Injury, overuse and chronic medical conditions can cause pain and suffering of the spine, neck and nervous system. If you’re hurting, turn to the experts at the Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center at Sugar Land.
For more than a decade, our multi-disciplinary team has helped residents of Fort Bend and surrounding areas lead the healthiest, most active lives possible. Our staff includes:
• Nurse practitioners
• Orthopedic spine surgeons
• Pain management specialists
• Primary care sports medicine specialists
• Physical, occupational and speech therapists
The Neuroscience & Spine Center offers expedited, timely appointments; access to world-class specialists and sub-specialists; customized, coordinated care from a dedicated team that works together on your behalf; and comfortable, accurate diagnostic testing with state-of-the-art technology.
Learn how the integrated care teams at Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center helped three local patients overcome their challenges.
Robert Sparacino: From Skeptic to Believer
In March 2020, long-time cyclist Robert Sparacino of Sugar Land received the diagnosis that explained why he’d been struggling on the bike in recent months. He was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center physician Toby Yaltho, M.D., a board-certified neurologist who specializes in movement disorders, told Sparacino the news following a series of diagnostic procedures, including a nuclear brain scan. Yaltho started Sparacino on medication and also prescribed another specialized treatment.
“Dr. Yaltho suggested I participate in a type of physical therapy called Big® and Loud®, which is specifically designed for patients with Parkinson’s,” said Sparacino. “At that point, I was still coming to grips with my diagnosis, and I really wasn’t sure it would be helpful.”
Over time, however, Sparacino recognized that he would eventually need assistance with balance and stability, and he began Big and Loud Therapy in February 2021. But his first few sessions weren’t convincing.
“When I started, I thought it was silly,” he said. “I didn’t understand how the exercises we were doing could help. But one day I was walking back to my car after a session, and I noticed that my right arm was swinging normally, which was one of the movements I had lost. Right then, I could see real progress. And since then, I’ve had a number of significant improvements in my mobility.”
Sparacino credits physical therapists Dan Kershner and Mfon Isong with his development.
“They are both very compassionate and understanding but they aren’t afraid to challenge you,” he said. “I’m finding muscles I didn’t know I had! I also like the way they talk to and work with me. They’ve gotten to know me as a person, and they treat me as an individual, not just another patient.”
Now, Sparacino is an outspoken advocate for Big and Loud Therapy and his care team at the Neuroscience & Spine Center.
“I was skeptical, but I get it now,” he said. “I recommend Dr. Yaltho and Big and Loud Therapy to anyone who is dealing with Parkinson’s.”
Cheryl Kloefkorn: Pain-Free Without Surgery
Music teacher Cheryl Kloefkorn was no stranger to back pain, having undergone surgery years ago for degenerative disc disease. So when the Missouri City resident slipped in a parking lot in December 2018 and injured her back, she knew what was coming.
“I had parked my car and was walking to the trunk when I lost my balance,” she explained. “I caught myself from falling, but I knew I had hurt myself. I rested over the weekend but by Monday, I could barely move.”
A month later, she was still in pain and went to see Jinal Shah, MD, board-certified neurologist with the Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center at Sugar Land.
“Dr. Shah believed that my symptoms would improve with physical therapy,” said Kloefkorn. “I did eight weeks of therapy, working with Monique Dillard and Michelle Heebner and they were fantastic. When my therapy was completed, I was so much stronger, and my pain had disappeared.”
The therapists taught Kloefkorn how to manage day-to-day tasks – such as vacuuming and unloading her instrument case from her trunk – without putting pressure on her back and causing pain.
Because of Kloefkorn’s positive experience, both of her parents underwent physical therapy at the Neuroscience & Spine Center when they experienced sciatic pain. “My dad was 90 when he went, and he was so grateful for the care and attention he received from the therapists,” she said. “They helped him so much. He is absolutely a fan of Houston Methodist Sugar Land.”
In September of last year, Kloefkorn slipped again, and once again, she received physical therapy at the Neuroscience & Spine Center to recover; this time, working with therapists Dan Kershner and Mfon Isong.
“When your physical therapists are really good, it makes a big difference,” said Kloefkorn. “And the group at the Neuroscience & Spine Center is top notch. They are really your best bet if you want to live without pain and without an invasive procedure.”
Patrick Layhee: Surgery, Therapy Restore Mobility
Patrick Layhee never had pain in his neck or back before.
But the Sugar Land resident realized there was something wrong when he began having balance, walking and coordination issues.
The one-time avid runner – who had successfully completed two half-marathons – slowly shifted his activities in response to his worsening condition. He gave up running, and eventually found even walking from room to room was a problem.
“I was constantly looking for something to hold on to so that I wouldn’t fall,” he said. “For example, when I would leave a restaurant, I would plan my route so that I could reach out and hold on to counters or the backs of chairs to brace myself.”
Layhee’s primary care physician recommended that he see Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center at Sugar Land physician Toby Yaltho, M.D., board-certified neurologist who specializes in movement disorders. After a series of tests, Yaltho diagnosed Layhee with cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, between the vertebrae in his neck. That narrowing was compressing Layhee’s spinal cord, creating a condition called ataxia – a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements, such as walking.
Yaltho referred Layhee to Jeffrey Wood, M.D., board-certified orthopedic surgeon at the Neuroscience & Spine Center.
“Dr. Wood said my cervical stenosis was serious and could lead to even more significant issues if left untreated,” said Layhee.
In November 2020, Wood performed a procedure known as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) on Layhee. ACDF surgery involves making an incision in the front of the throat to reach the spinal column to remove bone spurs or spinal discs that may be pressing on the spinal cord.
After a short recovery, Layhee began physical therapy to regain his balance and improve his mobility.
“From the very first day, the physical therapy at the Neuroscience & Spine Center was on target,” said Layhee. “The two therapists I worked with — Dan Kershner and Janice Nkrumah – made a great team. Dan challenged me physically, and Janice worked with me on balance and mobility. Together, they absolutely made a difference.”
In total, Layhee had 16 physical therapy sessions, but he supplemented that work by going to a local gym regularly and walking on the treadmill – at first, holding on to the handrails, and later, without any need for assistance.
“I was feeling confident so one day I just decided to try and jog,” he said. “So I went into the racquetball court and – hallelujah! – I could run again. Not fast, but I was running!”
Layhee credits the multi-disciplinary team at the Neuroscience & Spine Center with his amazing progress.
“I have total faith in Dr. Yaltho and Dr. Wood because they really took the time to explain things to me and answer my questions,” said Layhee. “And my therapy team dramatically improved my balance and mobility. Everyone I worked with at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital was caring and compassionate.”
Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center
at Sugar Land
16605 Southwest Frwy.,
Medical Office Building 3 Suite 115
Sugar Land, TX 77479