Cleveland Clinic Florida

Lt. Shawn Evans – back to work after spinal surgery

Teamwork Triumphs

Cleveland Clinic Florida Teams with Local Specialists to Give Defence Force Officer His Life Back

For 22 years as a member of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Lt. Shawn Evans lived and preached teamwork. When an accident on the job led to nearly unbearable pain, teamwork worked for him.

Evans, married and a father of three, suffered a bad fall at work in 2016. That moment would be the start of the longest journey of his life – one that instead of plying the clear turquoise waters of The Bahamas involved what felt like a never-ending round of x-rays, scans, the narrow halls and crowded waiting rooms of doctors’ offices. He sought answers yet the pain was so intense there were days he did not know if he could go on. The tingling that would start in his left leg would move up, sending sharp shooting pains upward and a dull throb to his back.

He began experiencing difficulty in his right leg and soon after developed a limp. His mobility was challenged due to muscle loss; lifting this leg became a major task.

Despite the agony, Evans continued to try to carry out his duties on the force as part of the officer corps team. Medical experts were doing their best but nothing they did relieved the pain that cemented itself into Evans’ life, leaving him in daily agony.     

Then in 2019, he reached out to local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Winston Phillips, who examined him thoroughly and referred him to Cleveland Clinic Weston Hospital in Florida for advanced treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Weston’s local representative, Shenika Nesbitt, made the process seamless, says Evans, praising her compassion and efficiency, retrieving and forwarding all his medical records, dealing with insurance for pre-certification, lining up his first visit, explaining every step of the process he would experience, even assisting with booking flights and helping the family arrange a place to stay.

Holiday lights and trim decorated the streets of Florida when the Evans family – Shawn, his wife Madonna and their children Rashad, Aleesha and Anneka — arrived that December just days before Christmas.

Cleveland Clinic Weston was ready for him – blood work, MRI, heart health measurement – conducting all the pre-surgical qualifications needed. “Our team of specialists is nationally recognized in orthopedic surgery to treat any problems related to the spine using the most advance technologies.  Our goal was to make Shawn better, to keep him positive and relieve his pain so he could quickly return to his normal life” said Ms Nesbitt. 

On December 23, a team of surgeons supported by a suite of medical support staff began the delicate and intense spinal surgery that, if successful, would allow Evans to walk again normally and give the family the only present they wanted – a husband and father free of pain. Four hours later, at the facility ranked the number one hospital in the South Florida area for four consecutive years, surgery was finally over. Evans was still under anesthesia. He could not see the expression on the surgeons’ faces, the small smile, the thumbs up, the nod acknowledging all good.

Months of rehab and learning to walk again followed, the first two weeks at Cleveland Clinic Weston, then back home in Nassau where leading neurologist Dr. Charles Rahming took charge of the case. Evans considers himself 90% cured. He still must bend properly to sit. It will be a few more years until his bones are fully healed.

At 45, Evans says he has a full life ahead of him and urges others not to be afraid to seek help from a facility abroad like Cleveland Clinic Weston, whose professionals are eager to partner with local medical experts who may not have the same diagnostic or surgical equipment as a major research institution. A smaller population would make such equipment cost prohibitive. Spinal surgery remains one of the most complex and delicate of all surgical procedures. 

“A year and a half later, my life has pretty much been restored to normal,” Evans says. “I’m no longer in pain and grateful for all of my family who were there with us in the trenches. Cleveland Clinic Weston gave me my life back.”    


Cleveland Clinic Florida is a nonprofit, multi-specialty healthcare provider that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. The Florida region includes Cleveland Clinic Weston Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health and numerous outpatient centers in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie Counties. The Florida region is an integral part of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where providing outstanding patient care is based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Physicians at Cleveland Clinic are experts in the treatment of complex conditions that are difficult to diagnose. For more information about Cleveland Clinic Florida, visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.