After losing 75 pounds in 1979, I began suffering from low lumbar spine pain that was sometimes severe. I experienced relief with sitting or stretching and was treated conservatively with anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS). In 1995, I suffered acute onset of severe nerve pain radiating down my right leg. Spinal X-ray films revealed spondylolysthesis from the second lumbar vertebra to the first sacral vertebra. The treatment options included exercise, physical therapy and pain medication. I was informed that there was a high probability that I would need a spinal fusion in the future. I made up my mind that I would do everything I could to avoid surgery.
Over the years, I managed to control the pain with exercise and medicines such as analgesics and anti-inflammatories. I walked on the treadmill 2-3 miles every other day at a pace of 4 miles per hour, and I included daily passive exercises such as bending, stretching and squatting to maintain the strength in my lower limbs and the mobility in my spine. The pain was intermittent, but increased with physical stress.
As time passed, the severity of the pain in my lower back, with radiation down the right leg, increased significantly. This pain became more prevalent with physical strain and when walking long distances. Medication often failed to help. I simply gritted my teeth and got through the days. I learned to live with pain that was sometimes severe. The pain made my day-to-day life as an active member of the health care profession a struggle. Knowing the risks involved, I did all I could to avoid spine surgery.
In 2007, I suffered acute onset of very severe lower spine pain with radiation down my right leg. As a result, I was not able to bear weight on my leg. I was treated with medication and physical therapy, which alleviated the weight bearing pain. After this episode, the pain became consistently worse, often waking me up at night. I was not able to get through a day without medication, which often did not help at all. I was desperately afraid of losing the use of my legs and suffering any other effects of the eventual spinal collapse. My physician stated that my spinal condition had deteriorated to the point that injections would not help and that the only option for pain relief and improved quality of life was to undergo a spinal fusion.
I was referred to Dr. Evalina Burger at the University of Colorado Hospital Spine Center for spinal fusion surgery. She and her team performed a successful six-level spinal fusion. The surgery and the recovery process were certainly very challenging, but I made very good progress and was most fortunate to have been treated by Dr. Burger and her team. I experienced a very high standard of care from each team member and they made themselves available through all my challenges. It was comforting to know that my needs would be addressed during each step of the recovery.
Since my surgery, I have made an excellent recovery and am able to lead a normal and active life. There has been at least a 75% decrease in the level of pain, and my level of mobility is very good. One year after surgery, the spinal bone fusion was complete. I can confidently say that I am very pleased with the outcome of my surgery. I was fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Evalina Burger and her team at the University of Colorado Hospital Spine Center taking care of me. I remain indebted to them all.