Because of my orthopaedic care, I can enjoy the life of a normal, active, happy, and healthy adult.
I can walk downstairs to my kitchen in the morning and make a cup of coffee and breakfast for my husband and me. I can go shopping; meet my friends for lunch; host family gatherings with my children and grandchildren at my home; attend the opera and the symphony at the Kennedy Center; go for a walk on a beautiful spring day; and walk to the lower level of my home to check email on my computer, do laundry, or work out on my treadmill or stationary bike.
A mere nine weeks ago a normal life was not possible for me.Two years ago my life as a normal, active, happy, and healthy adult began to change dramatically after the sudden onset of severe lower back pain, and an eventual diagnosis of adult degenerative scoliosis and stenosis. Over the course of two years my condition steadily worsened. My doctors tried to improve my situation through physical therapy, cortisone shots, epidurals, facet blocks, and prescription pain medication. Nothing worked. I became almost bed-ridden, unable to stand or walk for more than a few minutes without severe pain. Even the strongest pain medication did not begin to reduce the agonizing, intolerable pain. As the scoliosis progressed and my spine became more and more curved, my body became visibly deformed, and I developed ongoing gastrointestinal discomfort, leading to significant weight loss. In addition, after almost two years of being a virtual invalid, and increasingly realizing that there might not be an effective treatment and that I might be this way for the rest of my life, I became clinically depressed. I did not want to continue living.
At this low point in my life, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Joseph O’Brien, an orthopaedic surgeon at George Washington University Hospital. From my first consultation with Dr. O’Brien, my life changed for the better. Dr. O’Brien personifies a scoliosis patient’s ideal physician. He not only is a highly-skilled and exceptional orthopaedic surgeon, applying state-of-the-art techniques to ensure a successful outcome, he is also calm, pleasant, and personable. In meetings with Dr. O’Brien over a period of months, he patiently and thoroughly answered all of my questions and those of my family members, and we agreed that spinal instrumentation surgery was an appropriate course of action for me.
The surgery to straighten my spine and hold it in place by attaching two titanium rods to several vertebrae in my lower back has completely changed my life. The surgery was long — more than eight hours — and I spent five days in intensive care, and almost a week in the hospital before being moved to the hospital’s rehabilitation unit. But I improved rapidly. Fourteen days after surgery the hospital staff was cheering as I rapidly walked down the hall with a walker. Eighteen days after surgery I went home. Nine weeks after surgery I continue to improve. Although I’m still healing and recovering, the pain is minimal, and I am completely ambulatory, walking up and down the stairs of my three-story home with ease. I do not need any assistance for most ordinary tasks, and last week I starting driving again.
I know that my surgery, the costs of which will be covered by Medicare and private insurance, was expensive. But without the surgery, the medical costs ultimately would have been much higher because my future would likely have required long-term care, involving an assisted-living facility or even a traditional nursing home. With the surgery my prognosis is wonderful and I look forward to only routine medical care. With the surgery, I can be myself again — an upbeat, happy, active, normal, and healthy adult. And with the surgery I will be forever grateful to Dr. O’Brien and orthopaedic surgeons everywhere!
Ortho-Pinion: Hey Parents! Here’s The Truth About Scoliosis
For more information on scoliosis, click here
Ortho-Pinion: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
For more information on spinal fusion, click here