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Steve Dovey - Getting back to living

After numerous surgeries, Steve Dovey had given up hope of truly enjoying life. Then he met Dr. Kuklo at Denver International Spine Center.

October 17, 2022
Steve Dovey holding a child on his shoulders standing on a football field
Steve Dovey with his family.

Steve Dovey, 60, enjoys being active. A (mostly) retired electrical contractor, he was keeping busy with a remodel of his home when his life came to a screeching halt. “It all started with knee pain,” Steve explains. “I’d had this type of pain my whole life — the first time I went to a doctor for knee pain, I was probably in elementary school.” But about ten years ago, the pain affected his life to a point that he needed to seek help. At the suggestion of a friend in the medical field, he discovered the knee pain was originating in his back. “I went to a neurologist, and he did some testing, and they found my spine was really, really tight. There was a lot of arthritis and disc issues, and that’s when it all started,” he recalls.

“They went in to clean it up and said I should be good in a week. But it ended up just completely blowing out and I couldn’t move,” he shares. The next several years consisted of more than a half dozen surgeries. His surgeons fused level after level of his back, and eventually had to tie into the sternum. After one particularly difficult surgery, Steve went in for a post-operative checkup and became extremely weak, unable to walk and as he recalls “unable to do anything.” As someone with a high pain tolerance, Steve’s wife, Beth, knew something was gravely wrong. His medical team discovered an infection, which they were able to clean and stabilize, but his mobility remained poor. At that point, Steve began feeling hopeless. Simple tasks like walking up the stairs became difficult — at times, impossible — and he began to feel like a burden on his family.

A close friend’s sister heard about Steve’s struggles and wanted to step in to help. She knew of a team of providers who were experts in spinal revisions and might just be able to give Steve the hope he needed. Soon after, Steve’s case was shared with the team at Denver International Spine Center (DISC) at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (P/SL) and Dr. Timothy Kuklo stepped up to take on Steve’s complex case. A board-certified, fellowship-trained spinal surgeon, Dr. Kuklo has more than 25 years of experience and specializes in complex spinal conditions.

“In cases like Steve’s, the patient often hears ‘it’s in your head’ or ‘it may not get better with another surgery’ or even find providers who think it’s too complicated to take on,” Dr. Kuklo explains. “We do a lot of these types of revisions, and the key is listening to him — finding out his symptoms and seeing what needs to be done to get him solid and healed.”

Steve Dovey sits on a staircase with several children above and below
Steve Dovey on the sideline with his grandson.

Steve recalls things moving very quickly after Dr. Kuklo agreed to help. “He made room for me in his schedule and was very, very kind with his time,” Steve remembers. A plan soon was developed for Dr. Kuklo to meticulously revise and repair Steve’s spine at P/SL. “I remember he said, ‘I'm going to get you back. We’ll get you a hiking, golfing and playing with the kids — all the stuff you want to do.’”

"Steve’s previous providers had performed an extended fusion, which led to — what we call — flat back syndrome, meaning he was leaning forward too much due to the fusion,” Dr. Kuklo details. “Additionally, some of the hardware in his back was loose in areas that hadn’t fused properly. So basically, we did a revision — getting him solidly fused, adjusting screws to the right place, allowing areas to heal.”

While the recovery period was significant, Steve has found himself in a place where he is better than ever. “I played my second or third round of golf a couple of weeks ago. It’s as close to pain free as I thought I could ever get,” he exclaims. “I feel rock-solid now. I still have some pain but it’s controllable now — it's never been that before. I'm exceedingly grateful.”

Steve’s family sees finding Dr. Kuklo as nothing short of miraculous. “He obviously changed my life but it’s more than that,” he shares. His close-knit family was also changed. He and Beth, his junior high sweetheart, have three grown children and 10 grandchildren who they love to host at their Franktown home. He’s able to hunt, fish, golf, travel and even take on a few (just a few, he emphasizes) side projects and part time work.

“Dr. Kuklo has changed my wife's life, and he's changed my kids’ lives, and my grandkids’ lives. I was even able to see my father before he passed which I hadn’t been able to do. It’s four generations he has impacted. It is truly amazing.”

Find out more about Dr. Kuklo and spine surgery at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. To make an appointment with Dr. Kuklo, or to refer a patient, call (303) 762-3472.

October 17, 2022

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