After being injured in a car accident 12 years ago, Stephen Julien tried physical therapy, medication, injections and even surgery to ease his back pain. The accident had caused a herniated disc in his spine, which was bulging and causing nerve damage that was the source of his pain. But none of the treatments to repair the damage could eliminate the intense pain Stephen experienced on a daily basis.
Stephen turned to the spine surgeons at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Spine Center and received the diagnosis and surgery that would help him return to a pain-free life. After reading Stephen’s story, learn more about spine surgery at the Spine Center and contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our spine specialists.
Chronic Back Pain
For years, as his job moved him to various areas of the country, Stephen saw specialists to try and find relief from his chronic back pain. He was experiencing pain while completing everyday activities such as walking, sitting and getting out of bed – and it was getting worse as time went on. Stephen couldn’t play with his kids or become involved in their activities because of the pain he was living with.
“As my children grew older and were involved in more complex activities and sports – the things that you want to teach your children as a father – my ability to perform any of these functions was being diminished on a daily basis,” says Stephen. “I didn’t know how much longer or what the options were going to be for me when I couldn’t bear this pain any longer.”
A Good Candidate
Stephen had heard about Scott G. Tromanhauser, MD, MBA, a Surgeon at the Spine Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and the procedures he was performing and decided to make an appointment.
“Stephen was told for years that there was no surgical option for his pain,” says Dr. Tromanhauser. “He was never even considered a candidate for fusion for his degenerative disc problem. Although some people are not good candidates – Stephen clearly was.”
Dr. Tromanhauser explained to Stephen the fusion surgical procedure that he thought might help relieve some of his pain.
“Dr. Tromanhauser told me that I needed to be committed to the recovery process,” says Stephen. “He told me there is no magic answer and there has to be a certain level of effort and commitment from me for us to be successful in this, ‘it’s going to be a partnership’ he said to me. I felt throughout the entire process that I was prepared and educated on what to expect before, during and after my surgery.”
Stephen was cautiously optimistic about the procedure after leaving his appointment with Dr. Tromanhauser. Over the years, he had tried many different treatments to alleviate his pain without success and didn’t want to get too excited about the possibility of living in less pain. After a lot of thought, Stephen decided to go ahead with the procedure.
“We did his surgery from an anterior approach, through his abdomen, which lessens the impact of surgery compared to the classic open posterior approach through his back,” says Dr. Tromanhauser. “He had the advantage of not having surgical pain in his back so we knew that his back pain was truly virtually gone.”
After his surgery, Stephen woke up and immediately noticed a difference.
“I was up and walking the day of my surgery,” says Stephen. “It wasn't a long walk, but it was around the floor, around the nurse's station and back – and it was pain free. It didn't hurt when I put my feet on the floor!”
Because Stephen was recovering so well in the Hospital, Dr. Tromanhauser decided to release him a day early.
“I ran into Stephen on his way out the door of the Hospital at his discharge and he told me the back pain he had for 12 years was gone,” says Dr. Tromanhauser. “He had a big smile on his face.”
He told Stephen to try and move as much as possible during his recovery.
“Dr. Tromanhauser said that by the time I see him again in six weeks, I need to be walking three to five miles a day,” says Stephen. “So I did. I came back home and got on the treadmill and just started going.”
By the time Stephen returned for his follow-up appointment six weeks later, he was walking five miles a day. He also completed six weeks of physical therapy, started taking pilates and lost 35 pounds after his operation. The weight loss made him feel better and made it easier to participate in his favorite activities.
For a while after the procedure, Stephen wondered if this relief from his pain was too good to be true. However, Dr. Tromanhauser assured him that his pain relief was permanent and could continue to improve over time.
“I've seen Dr. Tromanhauser several times since my operation and every time I see him it's better,” says Stephen. “I do everything. I run. I jump. I play ball with my kids. I swim. It's fantastic.”
A New World
Stephen is optimistic about the future and is looking forward to enjoying the activities he loves such as running and skiing.
“This has been a complete paradigm shift for me,” says Stephen. “The world for me is limitless at this moment. Whereas this time last year, it was very bleak. I have so much energy it's just mind boggling. I wake up and I bounce out of bed. Now I want to get the message out. If I can get one person to go and feel like I feel right now – that would be fantastic!”
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