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Pain Free - AT LAST!!

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As my one-year old grandson extended his arms toward me to pick him up, my heart broke. I could no longer pick him up and he did not understand why. My back pain was too great and it now was a stumbling block between me and my loved ones. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I was bound and determined as ever to be the active person I once was before my chronic pain.
Since childhood I have been a very active person. In my youth I ran, swam, water skied, even participated in gymnastics. As a young adult I stayed active playing tennis and running. I worked as an elementary school teacher and it would not surprise anyone to find me doing cartwheels across the playground with the children. As my own children grew and participated in sports, they always included me. You could find me mountain biking with my son, playing on a soccer field or participating in ballet with my daughter. I was never still, but did not have any problems with my back or experience any pain.
At the age of 52, slowly, over a year’s time, the pain began to creep into my life. There was no car accident or fall that triggered it, just a gradual increase in pain and a gradual decrease in my daily activities. I had sharp stabbing pains in my lower back and hip areas. At night when trying to sleep, the pain would feel like electrical shocks going from my hips to the bottom of my feet. The pain started to affect every aspect of my life. I found that I could no longer do the simplest tasks without chronic pain. Sweeping, mopping or vacuuming my house would cause such pain that would put me on the couch with pain medications for hours. Gardening is my passion and my flowers will reflect that. However, I could no long dig a hole with a shovel, or rake. Pulling weeds was impossible. I would find myself sitting flat on the ground on my backside trying to tend to my flowers. I could not squat or bend over without excruciating pain. I could no longer even sleep!
Sitting or standing for even short periods of time caused pain. I found myself using a lumbar pillow at work while sitting. While standing, I would shift my weight from side to side trying to out run the pain. Simple tasks like bringing in the groceries now warranted help. I even found myself unable to dry my hair and having problems tying shoes. But it was when I was not able to pick up my grandson that I finally realized I needed help.
I first went to a chiropractor who after taking X-rays asked how I broke my back. He could see bulging discs and a slight curve in my spine. From looking at the X-rays, he was not sure if he could help me with my pain. After several adjustments, the pain was only worse. I then sought out the advice of my primary care physician. An MRI was ordered and she referred me to a pain specialist.
Upon entering the pain center office, I surveyed the condition of the patients in the waiting room. So many were in wheelchairs or had walkers, and visually I could see their impairments. I did not want to become like these patients. Upon seeing the pain doctor, he ordered a TENS unit and scheduled an epidural injection which they thought both would relieve my chronic pain, as well as prescribing pain meds. The TENS unit took my mind off the pain; however, it redirected it to the constant small shocking sensations in my lower back. It was cumbersome and also very expensive. I would have wires going everywhere through my clothes and out of my pockets. The leads would constantly fall off. I knew soon I would get the ultimate shock if one the leads fell off while using the restroom! After using it for only a few short weeks, I returned it back to the company that provided it. Over the course of several months I had two different epidural injections. The injections did relieve some of my pain, but for only a very short period of time. The doctor continued to prescribe narcotic pain meds and would up the dosage each time. I hated taking the medication as it would make me nauseous, constipated, and light-headed and I found myself becoming dependent on the drugs for temporary pain relief. This was not the answer. My chronic pain was a symptom that something was wrong, but these treatments were only covering up the symptoms and not solve the problems that were causing my pain. I finally had had enough and looked elsewhere for help.
I knew of a family friend that was treated at Laser Spine Institute for chronic neck and back pain. I contacted him and he only sang praises about his experience. He explained the minimally invasive procedure that is done as an outpatient procedure. He said to expect no hospital stay, no screws or plates and no long recovery. Too good to be true? I decided to give it a try. I forwarded my MRI results to Laser Spine Institute and heard from a doctor there just a few days later. He asked me a few questions and went over the problems he saw on my MRI. He addressed the problem areas that he surgery could correct to relieve my chronic pain. I was very excited and scheduled an appointment for an assessment with the LSI doctors. A few weeks later I was on a plane headed to Tampa. I was greeted by a warm and friendly staff the day of my appointment. I know I didn’t even wait five minutes in the waiting area until I was seen. A detailed medical history was taken and a few additional X-rays and test were performed. Shortly thereafter, I met with Dr. Gruber, one of the doctors, and he went over my MRI results as well as all of my X-rays. There was good news! LSI would be able to help me with my pain relief. Dr. Gruber stated that they could not guarantee 100% of my pain would be gone, but that surgery could make a big difference. I was suffering from disc degeneration disease, arthritis, spinal stenosis, bone spurs and had bulging discs. Wow, not just one problem, but several.
The surgery was scheduled and soon after I returned to Laser Spine Institute. Yes, I was nervous but I was ready to move forward. I arrived at Laser Spine Institute for my pre-op appointment and again was greeted so kindly. All the staff members demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and yet were very personable to all the patients. I would give each and every one of them an A+ in bedside manner, something that is usually lacking when it comes to medicine these days. I met with my surgeon Dr. Weiss and again, we went over the results of the MRI and X-rays. He explained everything that would be done and his surgical plan for me. Dr. Weiss spent time with me, yes time – something that most doctors do not give you these days. My husband and I asked questions and he answered all of them honestly and upfront – nothing held back. Dr. Weiss told me what he thought could be corrected and what could not be. My surgery was scheduled early the next morning – I was excited and confident in my surgeon.
Thursday morning we arrived at Laser Spine Institute at 7 am. Upon signing in at the reception area, I was immediately taken back to the pre-op area. After changing into a hospital gown, I relaxed in a nice recliner while my IV was started. Everyone, and I mean everyone, that would be in the surgical suite came in and introduced themselves to me and told me what their role in the operating room. The anesthesiologist came and spoke to me for a very long period of time. I know I wasn’t in pre-op for more than 20 – 30 minutes when they took me back to the surgical suite. And a suite it was – full of state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology. I laid down on the operating room table on my stomach. A surgical technician began to clean my back with surgical soap. My anesthesiologist asked what type of music I like to listen to. I remember telling him that I am a southern girl and some good Zac Brown music would be appropriate to get my surgery party started! The music began playing softly and then told me what medicines he would begin to administer. He held my hand and talked with me until I feel asleep. . I do not remember a thing until I woke up in the recovery room. I was a bit groggy, but was aware of those around me. In no time, I was sitting up – that’s right sitting up immediately after back surgery and sipping a soda! My chronic pain was immediately gone, however, there was a little tenderness and pain at the surgical site. I was monitored for a short time and then was released to go back to my hotel room. Who could have imagined that I would arrive that morning for spine surgery and go home by 3 PM? I was given post-op instructions and pain medication for any post-surgical pain. I was also instructed to go for a short walk that afternoon. Upon, returning to the hotel, I relaxed in bed watching television for awhile. Around 5 o’clock that evening my husband and I took a nice evening walk. I could not believe that I was feeling so good and the walk was so refreshing. We returned back to our room and I rested for a few more hours and then I was hungry – ready for dinner – so out to PF Changs we went! It tasted so good after not eating for most of the day. I could not believe that I was out to dinner on the same day I had surgery.
The next morning we headed back to Laser Spine Institute for a post-operative visit. Dr. Weiss and his nurse met with us, looked at my surgical site which was less than one and a half inches long. Dr. Weiss suggested physical therapy just to keep those areas he corrected open and keep my spine flexible. That evening we flew home.
I took it easy for the rest of the weekend and when Monday morning came I was at work. Yep, you got it – back surgery on Thursday and returned to work on Monday! I did take it easy, but I felt great. My back pain was totally gone. I continue with physical therapy for six weeks and began taking Yoga classes which I now love. My physical therapist had traditional open back surgery a couple months prior to my surgery. He could not believe how well I was doing following my surgical procedure while he was still recovering from his own very slowly. I had no pain whatsoever while participating in physical therapy and sometimes wondered why I was there. I knew that it was keeping my muscle tone strong and keeping my spine flexible, but I felt too healthy to be there. After completing my course of PT, I continue to participate in Yoga. Yoga relaxes me, helps maintain my center of balance and strengthens and elongates my muscle tone. Two years after my surgery and I can fold in half like a pretzel and no pain!
Knowing I had made the right decision for surgery was at seven weeks after my surgery, I was at a wedding and not only did I carry my grandson around to show him off to people – I danced with him! I am so glad of the decision I made to go ahead with my surgery. I have no regrets and only encourage others to look for a permanent solution to their pain as I did. I can do anything now without any pain whatsoever. My husband and I just enjoyed a vacation at the beach where not only did we walk miles each day down the beach for enjoyment, but also rode our bikes everyday to restaurants and shopping instead of driving a car. I cannot thank Laser Spine Institute enough for giving me my life back. I am now 54 years old, but feel like I am in my 20s! I am enjoying my now 3-year-old grandson and all the activities I could not do prior to my surgery. Life is too short not to live it to the fullest and thanks to Laser Spine Institute I can now do just that!

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