About Us

Patient Stories

The physicians and other health care professionals at Monterey Spine & Joint are touching new lives every day, providing preventive care and frequently relieving patients from years of pain and limited activity. There’s little wonder that these patients are deeply grateful, and many have formed deep bonds with the healers who helped them. Here’s a sampling of patient testimonials, vivid accounts of their life-changing experiences.

Yelp Review for Dr. Dimitrov and Hannah (MA)

What can I say. Dr. Dimitrov and Hannah are as good as it gets. No one wants to have surgery but when you do these are the people you want taking care of you. Every step of the way they took the time to explain the process answer all my family's questions. From the first visit all the way through surgery I had confidence that if anyone could repair my body it would be Dr. Dimitrov. I cannot thank them enough for giving me a second chance at living a normal life.

Matthew F.


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Hannah is an outstanding medical assistant

Hannah is an outstanding medical assistant. She responds in a timely manner to phone calls and or to filling out insurance/disability forms as well as keeps you informed about your surgery date. She is always there to help you in any way. Girl deserves a raise!

Dr. Dimitrov communicated well and took the time to explain things in detail. From my first meeting to my last appointment, he answered all my questions with knowledge and assured he could perform the surgeries successfully. I never felt like I was taking up his valuable time nor did he rush me while seeking information or making a decision.

Dr. Dimitrov is an exceptional Doctor. Overall I had a great experience with the care I received from Dr. Dimitrov and his medical staff. If I ever needed surgery again, I would definitely contact him first.

Great team!

E. Pelley


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Treating Surgery as a Last Resort

I have been taken extremely good care of by Dr. Dragan Dimitrov and his medical assistant/surgery scheduler Hannah Abrejera.

I have had one neck surgery due to a congenital spinal canal issue that was a complete success and will have another neck surgery soon for the same issue at a different level in my neck.

I feel  very lucky to be under the care of Dr. Dragan Dimitrov and his medical assistant/surgery scheduler Hannah Abrejera.

Dr. Dimitrov treats surgery as a last resort and is very helpful and caring if the journey ultimately leads there.

Dr. Dimitrov was referred to me by three different doctors.

Hannah is very organized and professional as well. All of my messages to Dr. Dimitrov are promptly addressed every time.

Matt C.


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Back Surgery ‘Improved My Quality of Life’

Dr. Dimitrov has provided the best care to me over the past 10 years. Recently, in December 2014, he performed complex back surgery that dramatically improved my quality of life.

I have had great difficulty standing straight up erect for the past five years. I had troubled walking more than a few blocks. Within two weeks after the surgery, I was able to walk for one hour without difficulty. Now, three month post-surgery, I can easily walk more than two hours. This ability to exercise has been a major contributing factor in my losing 25 pounds post-surgery.

I am very fortunate having Dr. Dimitrov and his staff’s medical help and would be happy to talk about the dramatic improvement I have experienced.

Michael B.


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Fabulous Results from Back Surgery

The best neurosurgeon you could ask for, technical expertise combined with a personal office/bedside manner that is unusually compassionate and friendly. He explained everything in down to earth language and reassured me that what I had was ‘common and fixable.’ He was right.

I tried everything from chiropractic to injections/epidurals for chronic, debilitating pain with disappointing results. After more than eight months of ruling out various diagnoses (with other specialists), Dr. Dimitrov concluded that back surgery was the only option left. For me, it meant treating the cause instead of just the symptoms.

Contemplating back surgery is anxiety producing to say the least and I was no exception – but in such capable hands, I had fabulous results. An excellent surgeon was the key. I am now pain free and back to my old (senior) active lifestyle.

Sylvia S.


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Realistic and Thorough Explanations

Dr. Dimitrov was the neurosurgeon for my back and sacral surgeries and was excellent in every way. He was experienced and knowledgeable about the procedures and provided accurate and realistic descriptions of possible outcomes. Follow-up in the hospital was excellent and all my questions were answered. I would high recommend Dr. Dimitrov.

Kat F.


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Repeat Patient Values Intelligent Approach

This is my second spinal surgery with Dr. Dimitrov and his team. The first (which in part was necessary due to untreated birth defects) was extremely complicated and made a big difference in the quality of my life. This second surgery is not so involved and I was back at work within two weeks of surgery.

The thing I like best about Dr. Dimitrov is his respect for my intelligence. He presents data, answers questions and explains options.

Linda F.


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Great Team, Supportive Long After Surgery

Dr. Dimitrov did two separate neck surgeries for me about one and a half years apart. Two different areas of my cervical vertebrae. I was in severe pain both times from being a dentist. He was awesome and I have been out of pain for seven years now. He has been great support and follows me still. Hannah has been most helpful in all aspects of keeping everything from appointments to correspondents with my disability insurance. Great team and I am very grateful for all they have done. It’s rare today in neurosurgery to find someone so down to earth with their patients. Highly recommend.

Roy H.


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Dr. Lin Fixes Painful ‘Trigger Finger’

I want to make people aware of a procedure being done by Dr. James M. Lin, orthopedic surgeon, at Monterey Joint at Ryan Ranch in Monterey.

To the best of my knowledge, he is the only surgeon doing this specific surgery in Monterey County. In 10 minutes, he relieved me of the two years of pain I had every time I opened my ring finger on my right hand.

This is called a “trigger finger” as the tendon running down the sheath inside the finger enlarges to the point that the finger cannot be released from the palm without it being pulled manually; the finger pops and it is increasingly painful as the tendon continues to enlarge.

Those of us who use our fingers and thumbs in our work, subjecting them to great pressures, are prone to developing this condition.

If you have a trigger finger, know that Dr. Lin can take care of it with an incision the size of a pinhead with a local anesthetic. I had no pain during or after the procedure and drove myself home to Salinas.

Kudos to Dr. Lin and his amazing procedure.

Sharon H.

 


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Her Feet are in Great Hands

I am a patient of Dr. Alan Smith and have had a wonderful experience with his skilled care at Monterey Spine & Joint.  Dr. Smith has performed a bonionectomy on each of my feet in the past five years, and he has treated a stress fracture in my right foot.  Dr. Smith and his staff (Llareny and Chris) are terrific.  Very kind, professional, knowledgeable, and caring.  I can honestly say... My feet have never been in better hands!

Judy V.


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Happily Back in the Saddle

Dr. Christopher Meckel performed my hip replacement on May 14, 2014. I’m an active 60-year-old, and activities were becoming more and more difficult to do without pain. I have a horse and when I decided to have the hip replacement I wasn’t sure if I would be able to or want to ride again, but my hip was such a problem that it was difficult to care for the horse and riding was becoming very painful.

I began some research on hip replacement and surgeons and Dr. Meckel’s name came up most frequently, always with positive responses. I finally decided to have the surgery. After surgery my hip felt so much better, almost immediately, and I needed none of the narcotic pain medications.

Recovery was quick and I was back to work (mostly desk job) in two weeks. I was told that most take six months to a year to forget they’ve had a hip replacement. For me that was closer to four months. In 12 weeks I was back to riding my horse. Caring for my horse and riding is once again a pleasure and I and my horse thank you!​

Nicki


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Every Detail Covered

My left knee was replaced in 2000. Unfortunately there was a complication, and as a result my lower leg was unstable. A revision in 2002 corrected that problem, but I had never been without muscular pain in that leg.

Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant to have the right knee replacement done. However, a hip replacement done in 2013 by Dr. Meckel brought immense relief from pain, and an increased confidence to have him also replace my right knee. I had that done just recently.

As a medical professional, I am so impressed with the class that Dr. Meckel provides on a monthly basis. All joint replacement patients for the following month are asked to attend. Every little detail of what one can expect is presented. He takes his time, answering every question that arises. The day I attended, there must have been 30-plus people in the room. No question was too small. I cannot recommend Dr. Meckel enough. I have had a wonderfully positive experience.

Nancy P.


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‘I Have All My Joints Back’

Dr. Christopher Meckel has completed four total joint replacements for me. Bilateral knees and bilateral hips. The operations went off without a hitch. No problems with my healing. I never required a cane. I did use a walker for a short period of time but that was due to nausea.

Dr. Meckel is young and up to date on all the new procedures. He is patient and understanding with all of my husband’s endless questions. Things were done on time and he showed kindness and thoughtfulness to all, including his medical staff. Everyone seemed to admire and like him. This is a good sign in a doctor. My incisions were neat and not really long. I now feel that I have all my joints back, with no problems. So I recommend Dr. Meckel to everyone so they can enjoy the same level of medical care. He is a great asset to the medical profession.

I feel very blessed we found him. We were going to go to another doctor but my husband was showing property to a surgical nurse and he asked the nurse who they would use for joint replacement. The nurse said, “I will tell you a story. When a procedure calls for a size 15 screw and there is not one available, some doctors will use a 13 or 14. Dr. Meckel insists on the correct size,” and that is all we needed to hear – precision. Dr. Meckel is a wonderful doctor and person.

June L.


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All Questions Answered

Everything from the pre-operative information, the surgery, and the post-operative treatment was handled so thoroughly and so comfortably by Dr. Meckel and his assistant staff.

I always have a lot of questions or need clarification but never felt I was rushed or that there was no time for them. All of his staff and supporting department at Monterey Spine & Joint were courteous and helpful. I must especially single out his assistant, Marissa, who always helped me clarify something or helped me with questions and got back to me quickly and put my mind at rest.

The surgery itself went perfectly with very, very little pain, if any at all, through each stage of recovery. In five weeks I was walking around comfortably, with a cane. I thanked Dr. Meckel for his skill as a surgeon and also for his skill as a human being in dealing with a patient and making him feel assured and comfortable.

Don V.


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‘I Can Walk Miles!’

After five years of constant lower back pain caused by arthritis in my hips I am now pain free. My range of motion has majorly improved and I can walk miles! I have Dr. Meckel to thank for giving me a new lease on life.

I had avoided surgery for several years because I had several fears and concerns. After meeting Dr. Meckel he was able to put all of them to rest and we went ahead with hip surgery, one in March of 2014 and one in October 2014. Both have been a complete success, all due to Dr. Meckel’s expertise and the support of his entire staff. Not once did I have any cause for concern under Dr. Meckel’s care. I trusted him completely.

Jill S.


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Enjoying a New Life

"I am writing to you on the eight-week anniversary of my hip replacement surgery. To be honest, I don´t know where the time has gone.

At this point in time I am still in awe of “MY NEW LIFE” so please forgive me if I seem to ramble. Instead of limping I walk fast. Instead of making allowances for the pain in my right hip I now just move freely without any discomfort. I am so pleased with MY NEW LIFE I will tell anyone who will take the time to listen. Just be glad you aren´t around me all the time. My poor friends never knew what hit them.

Thanks to a Skilled Surgeon

First off and most importantly, let me publicly THANK YOU and your parents from every fiber of my being for becoming the fine man AND the surgeon you most definitely are. After having consulted with other surgeons in your field I knew from day one that you were the one I would want to do my very delicate procedure.

As I have learned from many hours of research, your somewhat unique ANTERIOR approach is almost revolutionary, yet has been in existence since the late 1940s. In discussing my experience with many of my friends who have undergone hip replacements of other types such as posterior I almost feel embarrassed to tell them how easy and pain free mine has been. Why every surgeon who specializes in hips doesn´t use this method is a total mystery to me.

Renewed Power and Strength

From day one of our meeting to today, eight weeks later I cannot tell you how incredibly alive I feel.

I know this is somewhat unusual for someone less than 2 months out, but I played my first round of golf yesterday and I cannot tell you how unbelievably strong and powerful I felt. I got back at least 20 yards from my tee shots. The confidence I am feeling from the support in my right side is beyond description. It´s almost like being reborn. I have a new life and am again so ever grateful to you for making this would-be old man into a young and vibrant one. Thank you again and GOD BLESS.”

Ray P.


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A Successful Outcome

"I had been seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Brian Rector, for some back problems. He successfully treated my back pain but I was still having problems walking without pain in my right leg. He was suspicious of this and took some additional X-rays, which showed I was having a hip problem.

Dr. Rector suggested I make an appointment with Dr. (Christopher) Meckel to confirm his suspicions. This was done and Dr. Meckel confirmed the bad-hip diagnosis. I was set for a trip to Chicago and Detroit, and Dr. Meckel suggested I see him when I returned. I returned from my trip a couple of weeks later and decided I would try and improve my hip situation with exercise. For a brief while there was some small improvement, but by the end of August ‘09, I was definitely NOT improving and deteriorating at a rapid rate.

First-Time Surgery Patient

I returned to Dr. Meckel and surgery plans were put into place. Never having had surgery, I was somewhat apprehensive about the coming experience, but knew I had no choice but to get this done.

Dr. Meckel has a very reassuring way about him and I liked and trusted him completely. The surgery was done Nov. 18, 2009 and any concerns I might have had were completely ill-founded. I awoke with no pain and continued pain free until my release from the hospital two days later. I was doing so well that Dr. Meckel told me I was not a candidate for post-op therapy at a rehab center and sent me home. Some Visiting Nurse home therapy seemed to do the trick and as of this date (Dec. 28, 09) I’m practically all the way back to normal.

Like a Miracle’

This has been like a miracle to me and every day I marvel at the things I can now do that were impossible for me just a few short weeks ago. If your experiences parallel mine I urge you to consult with Dr. Meckel. I realize all people are different and your experiences may not be quite the same as mine, but I can assure you, with Dr. Meckel you will be getting the highest quality care and treatment you could hope for. Don’t wait. It’s not worth the pain.”

Ralph T.

Monterey, Calif.


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Hiking and walking in the Sierra Mountains after spine surgery

Diane began experiencing back pain symptoms early in 2007. While the pain was tolerable at first, she soon realized that her pain was worsening, not getting better. She made an appointment with her physician and he prescribed conservative treatments such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatories to help relieve her symptoms.

While physical therapy did give Diane some temporary relief of her symptoms, the pain would return and was becoming more unbearable. Diane was not able to stand up straight and walking was very difficult. She was unable to complete everyday activities like cooking and cleaning.

Limited to a Sedentary Life

Diane also noticed reduced stamina and spent much of her time indoors writing in her journal. Because of her back pain, she was living a sedentary life and was no longer able to enjoy some of her favorite activities, such as walking along the beach or going to the opera.

Diane knew she wanted to get back to her normal lifestyle, so she made an appointment at Monterey Spine & Joint, a multidisciplinary, regional center of excellence that combines nonsurgical care, along with a board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Dragan Dimitrov, and a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Sohrab Gollogly, who has expertise in scoliosis treatment.

During her appointment, the surgeons reviewed Diane’s medical history and diagnostic tests, including MRI. Dr. Dimitrov and Dr. Gollogly explained to Diane the complex conditions that were causing her pain and the treatments that would be necessary to relieve her symptoms. She had degenerative discs in her lumbar spine from L2-L5; she had also developed scoliosis. The surgeons explained to Diane that she would need a laminectomy with spinal fusion to correct her spine problems.

An Important Choice

She understood that both procedures were complex and decided to get a second opinion at UCSF. After getting the second opinion, Diane decided to have her surgery performed locally by Dr. Dimitrov and Dr. Gollogly. The surgeons worked together to formulate a surgical plan using a minimally invasive anterior approach.

“I realized that by having my surgeries locally at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, all of the latest technology would be used, and I would receive the added benefit of more personal care by Dr. Dimitrov and Dr. Gollogly,” Diane recalls. Her surgery was performed in November of 2009 and Diane soon noticed improved symptoms.

Dr. Dimitrov made daily rounds to monitor her progress during her hospital stay. And while recovery for Diane was not easy, her pain was almost completely improved within two weeks. Soon, she was once again walking along the beach near her home in the Sierra Mountains. She was also able to go to the opera and symphony; something Diane had not enjoyed for years. She entered the physical therapy gym at Monterey Spine & Joint for about eight weeks after her surgery, where she learned stretching exercises that would help strengthen her core and make her spine more flexible and resistant to injury.

Winning Teamwork

“The different specialties and teamwork at Monterey Spine & Joint are a good combination. Dr. Dimitrov and Dr. Gollogly performed my surgery, and then I was able to enter the physical therapy gym, where the therapists talk directly with the doctors,” Diane says. Today, she still incorporates into her daily routine the strengthening and floor exercises she learned in physical therapy.

When asked what activities she can do now that she was unable to do before her surgery, Diane answered, “I can stand up straight, this is something that most people take for granted and I never will again.” She is also back to taking short hikes in the Sierra Mountains.


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After successful bilateral total hip replacement, college professor is back to skiing, biking and swimming

Hedric enjoyed an active life in Alaska as a college professor and avid outdoorsman. But a few years ago, he began experiencing mild lower back and hip pain. At first, the pain did not really interfere with his normal lifestyle. As time passed though, the symptoms were keeping Hedric from doing some of the activities he enjoyed, including water skiing, swimming and bike riding. His family also noticed the changes and reduced activity.

In 2007, because his back and hip pain symptoms were not improving, Hedric went to Monterey Spine & Joint while in California. He was evaluated by the spine and orthopedic specialists there: Dr. Sohrab Gollogly, a fellowship-trained spine surgeon and Dr. Christopher Meckel, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Gollogly and Dr. Meckel recommended that Hedric try conservative treatments such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications first. And the physical therapy did give Hedric some temporary relief of symptoms.

Worsening Pain

As time passed though, instead of seeing lasting improvements in his condition, Hedric’s hip and lower back pain worsened and he also noticed changes in his gait. His everyday activities were becoming more limited and even walking was painful. Two years later, in the summer of 2009, with continuing pain, Hedric contacted the Monterey specialists again. Dr. Gollogly and Dr. Meckel noticed significant changes in diagnostic films since the 2007 evaluation in Monterey. The orthopedic specialists discussed with Hedric his condition and the available options for treatment.

It was determined that Hedric was suffering from severe osteoarthritis of the hips. In order to restore function of the hips and relieve the symptoms this would require bilateral total hip replacement surgery. This procedure removes the diseased and damaged parts of the hips, and the damaged portions are replaced with artificial implants to restore function to the hip joints.

The bilateral hip replacement was performed in October 2009. The surgery was successful. Hedric was out of bed and walking with assistance of ski poles the day after surgery. He soon began physical therapy and other core strengthening exercises, including Pilates. Hedric still incorporates these stretching and strengthening exercises in his daily routine.

Back on Skis

By November, Hedric was able to return to short distances of cross-country skiing. Other activities he is able to enjoy now include swimming, water skiing and biking. In April 2010, Hedric and Dr. Gollogly enjoyed some downhill snow skiing in Alaska. “I didn’t realize all of the things I had given up because of the pain, but am glad to be back in action now. My wife and family are happy to see me return to activity also,” Hedric says.


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