Dr. Matthew Gerlach
Patient Reviews and Testimonials
Surgeon: Dr. Matthew Gerlach
Physical Therapist: Katharina Altgelt
Reason for orthopedic care: spinal fusion
Alex Shelly is lucky to be alive, let alone walking.
On July 5th, 2014 Alex and her grandfather were vacationing with a group of friends at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho.
There were six riders spread across five off-road vehicles, two of the drivers were blinded by the sun and drove off a cliff. “When the light hits the sand a certain way you can’t see the shadows. My grandpa thought the sand kept going but that is when we went off the 20 foot cliff,” Alex explained.
When the vehicle went airborne it also inverted causing it to land on the roof, crushing the roll cage along with the driver (grandpa) and passenger (Alex). When they hit the ground they bounced so hard the vehicle flipped back over onto its wheels.
Alex doesn’t remember the accident, “All I remember was lying on my side,” Alex explained. “I looked down and there was a big gash on my leg. I could see the RZR (vehicle) and I could see my grandpa’s feet.”
The duo waited in the hot sand for help to come. After four hours, Alex and her grandfather were sent to the closest hospital via Flight for Life. They spent the next four days in ICU where both were diagnosed with multiple fractured vertebrae and broken ribs. The driver of the other vehicle was in better condition: she was diagnosed with a crushed jaw.
When the duo was released from the hospital they came back to Colorado and Alex sought out the medical guidance of Dr. Matthew Gerlach. Alex was in a back brace and checked in with Dr. Gerlach every two weeks so he could monitor her progress. “They sent her home in a brace because her vertebrae were stable,” Dr. Gerlach explained. “Putting her in a brace was the right thing to do initially. I continued her in a brace but as time passed her pain wasn’t getting any better and her curve (in her back) was showing progression.”
“My spine had a 60 degree curve,” Alex said. “The curve was originally a genetic issue (known as Scheuermann's disease) but increased because of the accident… I would eventually have to have surgery (to correct the disease), the accident made that surgery happen sooner,” Alex explained.
On September 3, 2014 Dr. Gerlach fused 13 vertebrae (T2-L2), yet less than two weeks later, Alex insisted she return to her senior year of high school.
Today Alex is out of her wheel chair, graduated high school and is working toward her goal of becoming a hair dresser. She hopes to return to off-roading in the future.
Alex’s grandfather is still in physical therapy; nonetheless his spirits are high and he has returned to almost 100% of the life he had prior to the accident.
*Scheuermann's disease, or Scheuermann's kyphosis, is a condition in which the normal roundback in the upper spine (called a kyphosis) is increased. Many people with Scheuermann's disease will have an increased roundback deformity (e.g. a hunch back or hump back) but no pain. *www.spine-health.com
Surgeon: Dr. Matthew Gerlach
Reason for orthopedic care: spinal fusion
Jackie loves the outdoors, but felt limited, “I didn’t want to be active because I had so much pain… I had pain all the way down the back of my leg to my ankle.”
Jackie did her own research on Dr. Gerlach and quickly discovered that “he is whip smart. Dr. Gerlach graduated at the top of his class and is paving the way in the orthopedic spine injury,” Jackie said matter-of-factly. “He is the cat’s meow.” Jackie started her pain management with a chiropractor and then advanced to spinal injections. After several medical providers, from different offices, suggested she ‘go see Dr. Gerlach at Front Range Orthopedics & Spine’ she made an appointment.
In January 2011, Dr. Gerlach discovered that Jackie had a cyst as well as degenerative disease of the spine. “Discussing the surgery was much scarier than the surgery itself,” Jackie said. She felt like the decision of a fusion was obvious. It was the right step in getting her active lifestyle back.
Dr. Gerlach fused Jackie’s spine at L4 & L5.
When Jackie talks about her recovery, her response is simple, “it wasn’t hard.” After the surgery, Jackie was totally recovered in less than six months, “I was very compliant to my therapy.”
Jackie once thought walking and bike-riding was a thing of the past. Today she walks at least two miles a day and rides her bike 7-10 miles, “I’m almost to the point that I need to increase my distance when I walk and ride my bike. This (the fusion) made life a whole lot more pleasant,” Jackie said with a smile.
“Dr. Gerlach is a shining star.”
Lieut. Col. John McCutchon served as an Officer in the Army Airborne Infantry for 24 years. “When I was in the army I injured my back, but I didn’t realize it,” John said. “Due to the physical training the muscles did a lot to alleviate a lot of skeletal pain.” When John retired in 2009 he continued his physical fitness, however, the pain was worse after a work-out than before. “I tried physical therapy but that didn’t do much. I also went to a chiropractor, but I would only get temporary relief.”
John was referred to Dr. Gerlach by his primary care doctor. The diagnosis: age and genetics. John had lived with scoliosis his entire life, but now his spine was degenerating. As if his spine wasn’t enough to deal with, John also needed a double hip replacement. “I had pain all the time and I couldn’t sleep,” John said.
John decided to move forward with spine surgery. “The first surgery was pretty easy and it alleviated a lot of pain. The second surgery was 12 hours on the table. Dr. Gerlach worked 12 hours on my back. I’m fused from the top of my back all the way down. I have two titanium rods and 36 screws in my back.”
The great news: “I didn’t have any pain in my back after the operation.” Even more great news: four months later John was able to go back to the gym to start strengthening his upper body and legs.
Five months after John’s spine surgery, Dr. Gerlach cleared him to go see Dr. Cooney about his hips. “The way Dr. Cooney described the condition of my hips: he’s seen bad hips, he’s seen worse hips and then there are my hips… It was age and deterioration. A lot of it had to do with being in the infantry for 24 years and running in combat boots, jumping out of airplanes, etc.”
John had his first hip replaced in May and the other in July. “I have absolutely no pain in my hips. I can walk. I can work in my yard. I can even participate in volunteer activities, which I couldn’t do before.”
John talks about life before his surgeries, “I had to decide whether or not I could volunteer for a project, plant a tree, cut the grass or walk the dog.” He couldn’t do it all because the pain was too bad. Post-surgery is a completely different story, “I’m not limited anymore. I decide what I want to do based on my schedule, not my pain levels... And I can sleep. That is a huge difference in quality of life.”
“I would absolutely recommend Dr. Gerlach and Dr. Cooney. Both of the surgeries were spot on.”
Local “Bombshell”, Christie Marcotte (AKA: “Give ‘em Elle”), broke her ankle during a Roller Derby bout last July, “It was the last two minutes of the bout and a bunch of girls fell in front of me, I jumped over them and when I came down I felt my ankle break,” Christie explains. “The day after I broke my ankle I thought I would never be able to skate again. It was traumatic.”
Christie broke her fibula and tore all her ligaments. She chose Dr. Gerlach to fix her ankle, “Dr. Gerlach was the doctor on call the night I broke my ankle,” Christie said, “so I decided he was the right doctor for my surgery. Dr. Gerlach is awesome. He listens. I would go back to him again if I had another issue.”
After surgery, Christie was non-weight bearing for six weeks, “As time went on I was becoming more determined to heal and get back to skating. My physical therapist, Katharina, was so sweet. She was wonderful and I’m so grateful for her.”
Today Christie is skating again, “The first few weeks of skating were scary physiologically.” In a recent scrimmage Christie was faced with the same scenario: a group of girls fell in front of her... without thinking about it she jumped over the pile of skaters, landing on her once-broken ankle. “After I did it, I couldn’t believe it. Everything turned out fine… I think I will have a long career in roller derby.”
"My daughter has been seeing Dr. Gerlach for nearly two years and he performed her surgery. I am so thankful for him and the care he has provided. He listens to us and takes our concerns seriously. Her surgery was a very big deal for us. He treated us with such respect and care - and did an amazing job on her surgery and follow up care. We are eternally grateful to him."
"Dr. Gerlach was exceptional. He was knowledgeable, caring, and spent all the time necessary to answer all my questions about my back injury and surgery.
"I have seen Dr Gerlach three times beginning with a herniated disk. He has been very helpful explaining and treating my condition. I appreciate his friendly and conservative approach and explanation of available options and treatment paths."