“I couldn’t get out of the bed. I couldn’t move.” Jim Walk, 73, had intense back pain for weeks that finally sent him to the emergency room. “I had actual tears. And I never cry.”

A bone in his back had slipped out of place, causing severe pain to shoot down his legs. On the pain scale, Jim ranked it well above 10. After one ER couldn’t help him, he chose to go to the ER at Ascension Saint Thomas West. There he met a doctor with the right skills and compassion — neurosurgeon Ernest Wright, MD.

He looked at Jim’s MRI and said, “You’re going to need surgery. But I can fix it.”

Those simple words gave Jim the hope he needed to hear. Dr. Wright assured him that the operation would be minimally invasive, going through his side rather than directly through his back.

Jim remembers the personal way Dr. Wright spoke with him. “He didn’t look away. He didn’t look at the floor. That’s very important when the doctor takes time to look at you. Here, you’re special.”

Dr. Wright is among the doctors at Ascension Saint Thomas who consider healing their calling. Though he started out in laboratory research, he was inspired by a neurosurgeon he worked with in Uganda. “I felt that was the life that I wanted to have, doing something really meaningful for other people through being a doctor,” Dr. Wright says.

“The ultimate reward is seeing my patients go through their journeys of disease and illness and walking that path with them. It’s why I do what I do. This job has been a blessing beyond anything I could’ve imagined.”

Now he’s blessing others with his surgical skills. “When I woke up after surgery,” says Jim, “I had no pain. None. He just did a remarkable job.”

Jim is already back to swimming and shooting. Now he’s looking forward to golf again.

“Dr. Wright said he could fix it, and by gosh, he did. This is a whole new life.”


Your care is our calling. Find the compassionate care you need at Ascension Saint Thomas. Visit GetSTHealthcare.com.

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