Patient Testimonials

Patient Testimonials - Dr. Athanassious


Testimonial - Bret Raven


I have not had any pain whatsoever in the surgery area. I’m just so happy. I can’t even describe how incredible the whole process was. It was an awesome experience.

Along with being quite a character, Scott Weaver is a very physically active guy, and at age 55 shows no signs of slowing down. He rides a skateboard, has run triathlons, surfs, loves swimming and swam in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim five times. He also juggles axes, machetes and fire and is known world-wide for his elaborate sculptures made of thousands of toothpicks. All this on top of his physically demanding job at Lucky’s Supermarket.

But after years of this kind of activity, not to mention a couple of concussions, Scott was nagged by increas-ing pain in his neck. At first he thought it was just his muscles, but eventually he couldn’t turn over in bed. When he hit his head on a shelf in the garage and experienced nerve pain, that’s when he went to see Dr. Athanassious.

At first they tried physical therapy, but when that wasn’t working, the doctor recommended Scott have an MRI.

“Without him even telling me, I could see where the spinal cord thinned out. There was no fluid getting to my lower extremities. Over the years, it was a degenerative issue.”Surgery between two different areas of vertebrae in his neck included a titanium plate and placement of other instrumentation.

Scott said he’s never been so relaxed before surgery. “I felt really at ease and at peace, by Dr. Athanassious’s diagnosis and description of the procedure. He was very down to earth and professional.”While recommended rehab after surgery was a stationary bike, Scott has also been hiking, jogging, and doing “pretty much everything.” He’s also going back to work soon, “which I feel really good about.”Scott said he feels incredible. “I have not had any pain whatsoever in the surgery area. I’m just so happy. I can’t even describe how incredible the whole process was. It was an awesome experience.”Dr. Athanassious has shown Scott Weaver what thousands of other patients have discovered over the years: Santa Rosa Orthopaedic physicians care and pride themselves on getting you back to activities you love.


Testimonial - Susie Sweet


Susie was an international flight attendant for United Airlines for 35 years. Five years prior to retiring, she purchased a floral nursery (Sweet Lane Wholesale Nursery), along with her husband.  For five years she had two jobs and when she retired from the airlines, the nursery became her full-time retirement job that she loves – with a passion.

In April, 2017, Susie’s primary care physician in Novato, referred her to Dr. Athanassious due to back pain and sciatica.  At the time of her appointment, she could barely walk into the Santa Rosa Orthopaedics office. She was seeking a local expert to treat her debilitating pain. After office visits and imaging, Dr. Athanassious found she had a serious degeneration of discs. He recommended surgical treatment with L3-L4 L4-L5 anterior spinal fusion through direct lateral approach and posterior spinal fusion with direct decompression at the L4-L5 level.

“The surgery was flawless and the healing process went better than expected. Between the rehabilitation center and the ongoing care from Dr. Athanassious, it was challenging, but I rehabilitated really quickly. Prior to the surgery, I could barely walk without pain. I am now doing things that I never thought I could do again. I am walking around, working in my garden and the quality of my life has increased immensely. For example, in my Nursey business with on-site weddings, I’ve always had to be the ‘back office person’ due to my chronic pain. I could never join the celebrations and be part of my customers’ weddings. Now, I am able to be a part of them, walking around and meeting people from all over the world that come to use my business backyard for ceremonies.

“I had my first wedding this year where the bride was from Japan and groom was from China. Being able to walk around and meet everyone and talk to everyone at the weddings brings me incredible joy. All I can say is that Dr. Athanassious is a wonderful man, a skilled surgeon, has a wonderful sense of humor and works with an incredible staff. Thank you Santa Rosa Orthopaedics. My life has changed 100 percent.”


Testimonial - Rita Scardaci


Rita Scardaci had been experiencing pain since 2008. She had been receiving epidurals at SRO until about 2015, when the pain began shifting to numbness and loss of function and the inability to use her leg resulting in Rita essentially dragging her leg. Once it was determined that deterioration was occurring, her SRO physician at the time referred her to Dr. Athanassious. Rita knew right away that Dr. Athanassious was the perfect one for her. She was comforted by how he encouraged her husband to attend each appointment, ask questions, and review x-rays in detail. He was very clear and precise about the procedure and recovery expectations. “I was extremely impressed that Dr. Athanassious required physical therapy to get me into ‘great candidate shape’ prior to surgery. I believe this propelled me to my successful post-op recovery, as well as enhanced my quality of life!”

Rita was diagnosed with disc degeneration and compression on the spinal nerve. She underwent L4/L5 extreme lateral interbody fusion and posterior spinal fusion in April 2016. “Immediately waking after surgery, I felt no pain, the pain and numbness was gone!” Rita was only in the hospital for one night. Dr. Athanassious “walked with me through the hallways on the first day and he was by my side at physical therapy on the second day.” Following his thorough and detailed instructions for post-op, within four weeks, Rita knew she was on the road to full recovery, “IT WAS MIRACULOUS!” “Dr. Athanassious is very conscientious, thoughtful, calm, organized and comprehensive with respect to what my life was like, and what my expectations and hopes were following surgery, he listened to me and gave me (and my husband) confidence that surgery was the best option.”

“Sutter Hospital is AMAZING! Everyone from the hospitalist to the post-op team, as well as the technology of the facility was outstanding and extremely impressive!” Prior to surgery, Rita’s level of physical activity was extremely low. But just one year following her surgery, Rita and her family took a Disney Cruise to celebrate the anniversary of the surgery. She signed up for EVERY activity at all of the island stops, including kayaking, hang-gliding, snorkeling, zip-lining and more. “There was no activity that I couldn’t do! I am in in great shape now. I ride my bike and walk every day for miles!”


Testimonial - Dianne Maxwell


Diane Maxwell had been going to the chief of neurosurgery at UCSF who continuously told her that she did not know what was wrong with her; constantly pushed to just do therapy at UCSF (travel back and forth from Gualala), with no option provided to have surgery. Diane is a manager of a PT office and she followed a patient’s experience with Dr. Athanassious and finally had her primary doctor give her a referral to see him. She had her first appointment at the beginning of November and her surgery was performed December 13, 2016.  She was treated for a spine collapse; disk loss due to rupture three years earlier (she had had a previous surgery but with little progress). The following June (2017) she had another procedure to relief a herniation causing pressure on nerves into her arm.

Diane was amazed that almost immediately following both procedures she felt a complete relief from the pain, almost instantaneous. Diane said, “Both of these surgeries have changed my life immensely, before my treatment from Dr. Athanassious I avoided any type of outings, such as going to the beach, hiking, walking, etc.  In May, following the December surgery, I went to New Zealand and climbed through caves, walked up thousands of stairs, and even ran – pain free.”

Since both surgeries, living in Gualala, she now loves her outings to the beach, which before she stopped going due to the unlevel footing, etc.  She gets emotional when speaking of Dr. Athanassious, who completely changed her life.

“Since I’m under 50, I have so much living left to do – and now can pursue life with vigor and without pain or restrictions. Dr. Athanassious is a great listener, too, and you can absolutely feel his compassion.”


Testimonial - Robert Keys


Robert Keys is a talented musician who lives with his wife in Redwood Valley, CA.  At 71, Robert remains passionate about collecting guitars and performing live for fans of country and country-rock music. About 20 years ago, Robert began experiencing symptoms of sciatica due to spinal stenosis. After trying several conservative treatments in years past to manage the pain, Robert’s symptoms gradually returned to the point where he could hardly walk 100 feet without experiencing crippling pain and numbness in his legs and lower back.

Robert turned to Dr. Star at SRO—with whom he had had very positive care in the past—to find relief. Dr. Star evaluated Robert and then introduced him to Stanford-fellowship-trained spine surgeon Christian Athanassious, MD, who picked up the case from there. Robert explains, “Because of the expert level of care Dr. Star had provided me in the past, I immediately felt that I could trust Dr. Athanassious. Dr. Athanassious carefully walked me through all of my treatment options and we decided on my procedure together. He performed a type of spinal surgery called an extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) on me in November, and today I am free of my symptoms of sciatica. Before my surgery, I could still play the guitar, but only for short periods and only if I was sitting. My passion allowed me to push through the pain,but my inability to stand and play completely compromised my capability to perform at live shows. While I still have some residual pain from my surgery, I’m amazed and relieved at the absence of the chronic pain that had become part of my everyday life. I feel extremely fortunate to have had not one but two amazing physicians from SRO.

Since Dr. Star had treated me in the past, he stood alongside Dr. Athanassious during my surgery to ensure the best outcome. I found it very refreshing to see my doctors working so effectively as a team. Dr. Athanassious’ work was impeccable, and with my sciatica gone I am thrilled to be back on stage!”

Dr. Athanassious has shown Robert Keys what thousands of other patients have discovered over the years: Santa Rosa Orthopaedic physicians care and pride themselves on getting you back to the activities you love most.

Dr. Athanassious’ work was impeccable, and with my sciatica gone I am thrilled to be back on stage! ~ Robert Keys


Testimonial - Bret Raven


“As a result of the surgery, I feel stable again, my activity level has increased and I’m able to do more things, like taking long walks helping me to lose 25 pounds within two months.”

At age 55, Brett Raven was experiencing chronic pain due to degenerating herniated disks causing vertebrae to rub against each other pinching nerves. Brett had decompression surgery in 1990, also called a “laminectomy,” to enlarge his spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Part of a protruding disk in the L4-5 lumbar region was removed giving relief for about a year. However, as he said, over time, additional disk degeneration caused the pain to return.Brett had an MRI and his new orthopaedic surgeon, Christian N. Athanassious, M.D. with Santa Rosa Orthopedics, recommended that spacers be inserted between his deteriorating disks and that pins and screws be used to fuse the three vertebrae and realign the spine.On February 4, 2015 Brett had the surgery and a couple of weeks later was comfortable enough to walk two to three miles a day. His pain level had been dramatically reduced. Today Brett goes on hikes, lifts weights, is back driving a tractor and working in the vineyard tending 15,000 vines producing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir varietal wines under the “FrostWatch” label. “I hope to get back on my bicycle in a few more months to help me keep up with my wife and kids, ages 14, 15 and 18. “Every week I feel a little bit better.”

“Through the years I had always led an active lifestyle, but over the course of time I injured my back, sometimes by moving heavy objects, as well as several times while playing basketball. I’m six foot, eight inches tall and played high school and college ball. Moreover, the extensive physical work involved in planting our 15-acre Bennett Valley vineyard and producing 1,500 cases of wine each year, which exacerbated my back problems.After this first back surgery, over the years the discomfort returned and by 2015 the pain had become quite intense. My back would go out in the L3-4 disk region. The last time it happened was during the grape harvest crush on September 3, 2014. I’m doing pretty much everything I normally did before the surgery and more. My range of motion is as good or better now. I’m able to do more vineyard work. I feel a whole lot better than I did before and more importantly, I feel better each day.”