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Carolyn's journey to surgery

08/12/2019
Carolyn is an active woman and mother to four grown children. She loves to take long walks and ice skate, and she has worked in healthcare for many years. About 12 years ago, Carolyn started experiencing back pain. She knew that most back pain gets better within a few months. She was hoping that would happen in her case, too. 

“I kept thinking the pain would disappear, and I didn’t tell anyone,” Carolyn recalls. “I didn’t want anyone to worry about me, so I did my best to keep busy and not think about it.” Then, one day while walking with her sister, the pain was so intense she couldn’t hide it anymore. Her sister convinced Carolyn to get help.

Step one: Pain medicine specialist

Carolyn went to see a pain medicine specialist. The specialist gave her a spinal injection that provided some relief for about six months. 

For a few years, Carolyn tried several different kinds of injections and radio frequency ablation that were less effective over time. She remained quiet about the pain she suffered from by trying to ignore it. 

Time for the next step

Ashley Rogerson, MD is a Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.“I learned to compensate until I completely lost all feeling in my legs,” Carolyn says. “My pain management specialist told me he couldn’t help me anymore, and it was time to be evaluated by a spine surgeon at Tufts Medical Center.”

Carolyn says she was “petrified about having surgery and being a patient.” She finally picked up the phone and made an appointment for an evaluation with Tufts MC Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Ashley Rogerson, MD.

Although anxious going into her first appointment with Dr. Rogerson, Carolyn soon felt comfortable with her and the physician assistant Brett Healy, PA-C. Dr. Rogerson thoroughly examined her and reviewed the results from her MRI and X-rays. 

She diagnosed Carolyn with degenerative spondylolisthesis. Dr. Rogerson explained the condition, told her she was a good candidate for a minimally invasive Lumbar Laminectomy and Fusion surgery, and laid out the reasons why.

“There is no one-size-fits-all surgery,” says Dr. Rogerson. “Given Carolyn’s own unique condition and lifestyle, we felt confident we could help her by performing this specific kind of spine surgery.”

They discussed with Carolyn the goals and expectations of the surgery, as well as the recovery period. She would be in the hospital for up to three nights. She would then go home with strict lifting restrictions; orders for physical therapy to start as soon as possible; and instructions to return to work after three months, once the lifting restrictions were over. 

Surgery and recovery

“I thought about it, finally said, ‘enough is enough’¬-- and scheduled my surgery,” says Carolyn. 

Her surgery went well, and she returned to her home after two days at Tufts MC. A physical therapist came to her house to start working with her soon after, and she taught Carolyn to do a series of exercises she still follows. 

She remembers that she had some pain up until about 10 weeks after her surgery. After that time, she started to feel better. Three months after surgery, Carolyn returned to work. Soon after, she laced up her ice skates and returned to the rink for the first time in a long time. 

Carolyn recently had her one year follow up appointment with Dr. Rogerson. She has mild back pain, but her related leg pain is completely gone. 

“I suffered in silence and put the surgery off for too long,” Carolyn says. “Now, I could kick myself that I didn’t do it earlier, and I waited until I couldn’t even walk.”

Today, Carolyn can walk unlimited distances. When she isn’t working, you will probably find her taking a long walk with a family member or friend. She feels grateful for the care she received from Dr. Rogerson and her team at Tufts MC, and to have the surgery behind her.