It all started with broken discs and cracked vertebrae from football injuries in high school. Rigoberto “Rigo” Ramirez, 16 at the time, felt numb at times from the pain, but doctors told him surgery would not relieve the pain. Resorting to painkillers and alcohol, he became addicted. He reached a turning point at age 19 – he turned his life over to God and gave up the medicine and drinking.
As the years went on, Rigo became a minister, got married and started a family, all while enduring excruciating pain. His lumbar discs were rubbing together, and he developed sciatic nerve pain as well as upper back pain from compensating for the lower back. He could not stand for more than 15 minutes, and his ministry work suffered. As a result, his weight ballooned to 410 pounds and he began to feel like a burden to his family.
He finally decided to see a doctor for his back pain, and was referred to Neurosurgeon Jaime Gasco, MD. On October 6, 2015, Rigo had his back surgery at South Texas Health System McAllen. Dr. Gasco placed six screws and two rods in Rigo’s back. “Two hours after surgery, I was able to walk with just a back brace and no assistance,” says Rigo.
"My pain level went from a ‘10’ to a ‘4 or 5’! It was unbelievable."
While the back surgery was successful, Dr. Gasco was concerned that Rigo’s weight would be detrimental to the healing and integrity of the back surgery. He provided documentation of medical necessity for Rigo to have weight loss surgery, and his insurance was approved. On March 29, Luis Reyes, MD, FASMBS, FACC, performed a gastric bypass on Rigo at South Texas Health System Heart Hospital.
Rigo has lost about 200 pounds, and says both surgeries have impacted his life in amazing ways. “Thanks to my doctors, my life has transformed not only for me, but for my family. My wife had to do everything before, but now I am able to contribute as well. I am filled with gratitude for their support and medical expertise. I put my life in their hands, and they gave me back the life I had been missing!”