Although he has battled back pain for many years, Music Department Chair James Holleman is again standing and conducting after a successful back surgery on June 8.
“I first noticed something was wrong about five years ago,” Holleman said. “I had pain and numbness in my leg and an MRI showed spinal stenosis, which was pinching a nerve.”
According to Holleman, the pain in his back and leg would increase the longer he stood while conducting rehearsals and concerts.
“Treating that pain with therapy and injections helped, but not totally,” Holleman said. “I had to use a barstool to rest during rehearsals and it was hard to stand through performances.”
After the pain caused him to lose his place during a performance at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, and then led him to almost pass out while conducting a Parents Weekend concert, Holleman sought further medical care.
“Last fall I was in even more pain and in February an MRI showed two stenoses of my spine and a ruptured disc,” Holleman said. His doctor recommended spinal reconstruction.
“The outstanding surgical team gave me confidence even though the procedure was intensive,” Holleman said. “They took several hours to walk me through the procedure and answer my questions.”
“The fusion process takes six months, so I took it easy this summer,” Holleman said. “The first full week of classes wiped me out, but I am better this week. I just have to be careful until the fusion is complete.”
According to Holleman, he had a post-surgery victory on Aug. 15 when he finished a four-mile walk at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.
Students and colleagues were happy to learn that Holleman was recovering well and in significantly less pain.
“I’m glad that he is back to his walking routine, and that his conducting seems more free now with mostly pain-free days,” Artist-Teacher of Music Debbi Wyse said.
“He seems to be recovering well,” junior Stevan Lukich, orchestra concertmaster, said. “The surgery will hopefully let him be more dynamic while leading the orchestra and not have to sit during long pieces.”
“The timing of the surgery was good for me to keep working,” Holleman said. “I am glad I did the surgery. Rehearsals have been mostly pain-free and I hope to be totally pain-free by the October concert.”