Patient Stories

Why this New Zealand Family Man chose Artificial Disc Replacement in Germany (Dr. Thomas Bierstedt Review)


Joel is a 50-year-old Company Director from Auckland, New Zealand. He first injured his back 28 years ago, and after a serious prolapse in early 2017, was told he needed a spinal fusion.

He contacted Spine Connection directly and we helped our partner surgeons from ONZ Germany Dr. Bernd Illerhaus and Dr. Thomas Bierstedt review his case. He was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease in L4/5 and L5/S1.

Our surgeons advised for a total discectomy by anterior surgical approach and Disc Replacement with a new-generation implant at L4/5 and L5/S1.

With our support Joel discussed his options with his GP in New Zealand, and various spine surgeons in New Zealand and Australia. He investigated all of his surgery options and decided 2-level Disc Replacement in Germany was better for him than a fusion, and certainly better than doing nothing. He favoured the specific new generation implant advised for him, which can very closely replicate the motion of a healthy natural disc. He spoke to Dr. Bierstedt on the phone and we connected him with previous Spine Connection patients who’d had the same surgery.
Dr. Thomas Bierstedt Review
Joel came to us with his decision to proceed with surgery, and we organised his entire trip for he and his family. Part of this process was attaining a pre-travel Blood Test & ECG to check for any underlying disease or health issues which could see surgery postponed or cancelled at the hospital in Germany.

We soon received the “Green Light” from the surgeons in Germany and he was given clearance to proceed.

Joel’s 3 Month Follow-Up X-Rays show ‘textbook’ placement and function of the M6 Discs

Our Letter from Joel: 2.5 Months Post-Op

Getting back to normal life

Hi Jake & Team,

I must say thanks to the whole team this includes you Jake for my surgery right from “Tomas the Taxi” at pick up at the airport to drop off at the end. Was amazing service.

My surgeons Dr. Thomas Bierstedt and Dr. Bernd Illerhaus worked their magic, the experience they have to produce the results gave me the best confidence in what I was doing and an unbelievable result.

My problem started 28 years ago when I prolapsed L4/5 and L5/S1 and had to give up building. Over those almost 3 decades my daily life has shrunk a little every year till this year where it was completely destroyed, and I was advised I needed a double fusion.

Not wanting a fusion as I know how bad fusions are long term led me to search for an alternative and that’s when I found the ONZ Clinic. Once I went through the research process, references, approvals it was a no brainer this surgery was a must for me.

As I said earlier the entire process from pick up to drop off was fantastic, I had nothing to worry about, think of, or organise. It was all streamlined and seamless.
The entire staff at the hospital, every person there from surgical and medical staff right down to the cleaner who washed the floors of my room every day was there for me, nothing was an issue or problem and the speed and efficiency that they attended to what I needed was fantastic. They were so friendly and helpful that I will remember each and every one of them.

The same has to be said for Rehab at Medicos. What an amazing facility.
From the time we checked into the Courtyard Marriott to leaving, just fantastic.
20min after arrival at the hotel I was collected and given the tour of Medicos and explained what and where, given my daily schedule and straight into rehab where every day I met with my assigned team including Doctor for daily assessment, wound management with the nurse, physiotherapy, Ergo Therapy, lymphatic massage, massage, occupational therapy and Gym.

The fact there is a restaurant there made your day very easy but having a reserved table for the ONZ patients every day made it that much easier and made you feel special.

All I had to do every day was just focus on me and recovering.
It is all the added bits of the refined process that ONZ have crafted along with unequalled surgical skills that allowed me to fly back to NZ 16 days post-surgery in comfortable enough condition.

Every patient is different, I am sure there are different speeds to recovery.
I have been very happy with mine, 28 years of getting shorter in height and compressing nerves that are then decompressed in two hours and prosthetics that make me an inch taller has to take some recovery and rehab.

My nerves were angry causing me grief but upon Dr. Thomas Bierstedt review, “this DISTRACTION pain is to be expected”. I must also add a very important point. The first day post-surgery that they stood me up in hospital, I had ZERO back pain that I arrived with and have had none since.

I have worked tirelessly every day on my rehab and exercises with amazing results each week.

As you know 28 years of degeneration after an injury like that on the entire spine is not good either. I was hoping that the by-product of the surgery would help the rest of my spine, and I must say from day one improvement elsewhere has been amazing no more neck headaches, I am doing exercises in the gym that I couldn’t before!!

I have nothing but gratitude and respect for the team that have given me a second chance in life.

My 14 year old son doesn’t have to tie my shoelaces for me anymore and is excited about what we can do together this summer, my wife of 20 years a relationship that spans a quarter of a century has not known me without a sore back.

Thank you for my future.


Email Update: 4 Months Post-Op

Powering ahead at the Gym

Morning Jake,

Hope you are well wherever you are currently!!

All good here, just gone 4 Months and very happy. Nerves are settling a little each week and muscles are coming back. I throw in a 2-2.5km run every two or three days in my 5km walk. Yesterday 1.5km row and heart rate not too bad.
Flexibility is coming on and have just started light rotational strength work.

Muscle spasms have just about completely gone now.

One question, I get a few clunks during the day in some movements perhaps when sitting and slight twisting. Sounds like when you crack your knuckles or back but duller. Any intel on that?

I attached some new training photos of my progress in the gym.

Hi to the team,


Email Update: 6 Months Post-Op

Follow-Up X-Rays & New Years Eve on the Boat

Hi Jake

Happy New Year!!
I had uploaded a video for you in the beginning of the month – hope you got it.

All going great here, all muscles, Nerves and ligaments are settling nicely and we are pretty much down to the left glute only that is present and that is minor compared to previous but is there purely due to exercise with me pushing it!! Diminishing daily. There is nothing I don’t do now, running daily, gym 3 times a week, washing the boat as I get no stiffness or discomfort, it really is incredible.

By my best medical experience guess any glute discomfort (I must say it is minor) will be gone in 4 weeks and there will be Zero symptoms or surgical residue apart from my tanned scar! Photo from the weekend out in the boat.

Hope the x-rays look as good as they should do and you are pleased with what you see.

Please give my best to Dr. Bierstedt and all of team ONZ in Germany.

Talk soon, cheers


Email Update: 8 Months Post-Op

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Hi Jake

Hope your week is going well!!
Just got back from parent help at school camp today.

Big event for me was doing the Tongariro Alpine crossing on Monday, a world heritage site here. A 7 hour hike, 23.5km 293 floors, 34,930 steps and approx. 3500 calories.

Back was fine, including caring a 10kg pack, legs and glute muscles thought I was a …. but are settling down by themselves with stretches and has not stopped me doing anything else on camp.

One part called the Devils Staircase consists of 364 alpine steps and mountain ramps between!!



We will continue to keep you updated on Joel’s return to a healthy and active lifestyle after Artificial Disc Replacement in Germany

*Please read: Every patient is unique and responds to medical treatment differently. Factors influencing outcome from spine treatment and surgery can include overall patient health, underlying medical conditions, degree and duration of existing spine/nerve damage, surgeon experience, technology and surgical techniques used, post-op rehabilitation protocol, and patient diligence in continuing rehab once returning home. We encourage patients to return to a healthy and active lifestyle, and the introduction of new physical activities should be discussed with medical professionals during the recovery phase.
Spine Connection [PR]
Written by Spine Connection [PR]

This content is copyright and property of Spine Connection, the first medical travel organisation for patients with spine damage. Our mission is to provide faster, more affordable and superior spine treatment for patients living anywhere in the world.

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