Back to Life... The Spine Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital
Brenda Verduin had lived with back pain for more than 30 years. By the age of 30, she was already seeing specialists to determine what could be causing her pain.
Living with Pain
"For years I lived with periods of terrible, debilitating pain,” says Brenda. “There were times when I had to spend a few days in bed after I did a lot of walking or even after I carried light shopping bags. This posed quite a problem since I was living in New York City at the time.”
Throughout the years, Brenda has tried many treatments to alleviate her back pain, but none brought complete relief. “I just figured that I would have to live with this pain for the rest of my life,” says Brenda. “But then last New Year’s Eve I reached for the soap and my back went out. It was the worst pain I have ever had. I was in agony and it just kept getting worse.”
By February, Brenda was experiencing numbness in her left foot and was having difficulty walking more than 20 to 30 feet.
"One of my neighbors had undergone spine surgery and recommended I look into it,” says Brenda. “I never thought of surgery as an option, but I knew there was no way I could continue living my life like this. I have always enjoyed being active and I felt like my life was over.”
Brenda scheduled an appointment with Louis Jenis, MD, a spine surgeon at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Spine Center.
Diagnosis: Spinal Stenosis
“When I met with Brenda, she presented with about 18 months of low back and leg pain while walking or standing. The only relief she had was to sit down,” says Dr. Jenis. “Using advanced imaging technology to confirm what we already suspected, we diagnosed Brenda with spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is not a life or limb-threatening problem, but a quality of life problem. She is retired and just could not do the things she wanted to do.”
Spinal stenosis causes extreme nerve pain due to a narrowing of the spine and can also affect the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of the leg. Standing can decrease the space for the nerve roots and obstruct the flow of blood around the nerve, which can cause irritation and pain. Some of the symptoms associated with spinal stenosis include pain, tingling, numbness and weakness, which can spread to the buttocks and legs.
To help Brenda get relief from her pain, Dr. Jenis recommended surgery that would relieve the pressure on her spine. “Her degree of stenosis was severe and she had developed a slippage of the bones called spondylolisthesis,” says Dr. Jenis. “We recommended a laminectomy and because of the slippage, a fusion. The fusion is done by taking synthetic bone materials and transplanting them into the spine and holding them there with titanium screws and rods.”
A laminectomy is a surgical procedure performed to alleviate pain caused by the pressure on the nerves. During the procedure, a small portion of the bone is removed to give the nerve root more space and an opportunity to heal.
“We find a laminectomy is effective for decreasing pain and improving function for patients like Brenda with spinal stenosis,” says Dr. Jenis. “Patients usually spend about one to three days in the Hospital. Each patient's ability to return to normal activity is determined by his or her pre-operative condition and age.”
Brenda decided to undergo the surgery in order to return to her favorite activities. For her, this procedure proved to be life changing.
“When I met with Dr. Jenis, I told him that I was willing to do whatever he recommended to help my pain,” says Brenda. “I really felt like surgery was the answer. He thought it would greatly improve my condition. I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and it was worth having the surgery while I still was healthy enough to have a complete recovery. I was ready to get my life back!”
Brenda had her surgery on May 20 and spent three days at Newton-Wellesley. “Everyone was amazing and answered all of my questions,” says Brenda. “The staff helped me manage my pain and made sure I was comfortable during my recovery process. Dr. Jenis’ staff who assisted him in the surgery stopped by to see me to make sure I was comfortable and all was going well.”
After her procedure, Brenda spent a week in a rehabilitation facility to help regain her strength and range of motion.
“Dr. Jenis said the main thing he wanted me to do was walk… so I did. I started walking three miles a day. Before I even had breakfast I would walk a mile. I was determined to have a quick recovery and return to the activities I was most looking forward to taking part in again.”
Nine days after her surgery Brenda was back home taking walks outdoors, taking part in activities around the house and going shopping. “My back pain and the numbness were gone right away. Ten days after my surgery, I climbed a split rail fence to clean out my birdhouse!” says Brenda. “I feel like I’m 20…I haven’t had one ounce of pain. I would recommend this procedure to anyone. My life had been curtailed and I was not able to live it to its fullest. Life is too short to not enjoy it.”
Since her surgery, Brenda has been able to return to her everyday activities and her favorites pastimes. “I am able to be active, travel and enjoy life with my husband. I feel blessed to live in a time in history that has the technology to make me whole again and able to live and enjoy life!”
For more information about physicians or services at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, please contact CareFinder at 1-866-NWH-DOCS (694-3627) or visit www.nwh.org/spine.
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