My orthopaedic surgery and rehab history reads like a medical thriller. At one point, I had five different orthopaedic doctors, plus a physiatrist. I was in physical therapy so often they gave me a frequent flyer number and dedicated a therapy table to me. My physical therapist, Brian Swanson, strongly suggested I invest in a bubble.
Most of my issues have been complications from Scoliosis, some are indirectly related, and some – well, unlucky or clumsy are words that come to mind. Here’s my orthopaedic surgery count: seven spine/neck, seven knee (including traumatic bone reconstruction and knee replacement), two wrist, and one shoulder. In addition to the surgeries, I’ve also broken one elbow twice, the other once, my foot twice, and torn the ligaments in one ankle. The bubble suggestion is starting to make sense, isn’t it?
Over the years, I’ve learned two things. One, I break. Two, with the help of my surgeons and physical therapists, I can recover.
Through all these issues over many years, I worked hard in physical therapy and I was an extremely dedicated to my rehab. My experience inspired me to become a personal trainer and mind/body coach. I wanted to work with people who were “like” me, people who were faced with chronic conditions, pain, and the fear of what was happening to them. I spent many years with a rewarding career as a trainer, continually supported and encouraged by Brian and my doctors.
But then the unexpected happened. At the age of 51, in March of 2010, my spine began to curve again and crack. I needed surgery to replace the Harrington rods. This was my last round of spine surgeries — three in two weeks. The first one to replace the rods didn’t quite go as planned and left me with deural leaks. The repair surgery left me with a staph infection. A third one was required to clear the bacteria from the hardware, and I was left with lifelong complications, neuropathy and osteomyelitis.
My doctor, Dr. Alex Mohr, couldn’t have been more compassionate and caring. I completely trusted that he was doing everything possible for me. When you go in for spine surgery, you sign a waiver that says you understand the risks – infection, paralysis, death. You never really believe it will happen. If you did, you’d never have the surgery! So I had signed it, confident in my doctor and myself. Like everyone else who signs that piece of paper, I never expected this outcome. Without Dr. Mohr and Brian, I wouldn’t be writing this now.
My treatment and recovery
It’s been seven years now, and my life has changed in so many ways. Although I have been “medically retired” from my job as a trainer, the closing of that door has led me to discover opportunities for writing and speaking. I also stay active, and despite protests by my therapist, I refuse to give up spinning (indoor cycling)! That and Pilates, strength training, massage and meditation have kept me moving and strong.
Although I still have medical issues to deal with, I am grateful for the skill and compassion from my Dr. Mohr and Brian. I may not be completely straight, but I’m still upright!