Dr. Vishal James Makker had already operated on Ronald Johnson's spine six times in less than two years, but he had some grim news for the former machine-tool operator: X-rays showed Mr. Johnson needed a seventh surgery. Mr. Johnson, 62 years old, says he had felt progressively worse after each operation. He told the doctor he was done with surgeries. Dr. Makker took a second look at the X-rays and changed his tune, Mr. Johnson recalls. "Actually, you're going to be all right," he says Dr. Makker told him, adding that he had been looking at the films wrong.