Life Prior to Surgery: Kristine had a long history of back and neck problems. It started when she injured her neck and shoulder in 2011 – an accident that also paralyzed her right arm. She had a cervical fusion procedure and seemed to be doing fine for a while. However, she eventually started to experience severe pain down both sides of her legs and in her lower back. The back pain became unbearable. Kristine considers herself someone who has a high tolerance for pain, so this was alarming. She went to see a surgeon who took an MRI and recommended physical therapy. But Kristine knew something more severe was going on. She was using a cane to walk and the pain had become extremely intense. Kristine felt like her life had been taken from her.
Kristine eventually met with a spine surgeon. He took one look at her MRI and asked her how she was standing, walking, or even smiling. X-rays showed that Kristine’s lower spine was badly compressed and pinching her spinal nerves. Her surgeon recommended that she undergo spinal fusion surgery to relieve the pain and avoid further nerve damage. Kristine was understandably concerned about such a serious operation but her surgeon put her mind at ease. He suggested using the minimally disruptive XLIF procedure. Kristine was still a little nervous, but overall she was excited about the surgery. She had high hopes it would alleviate the pain and allow her to get back to living her life.
Situation Today: Kristine underwent XLIF surgery in June 2013. When she woke up from surgery, she didn’t even feel groggy. Her back pain was gone! This was a huge transformation for Kristine, since before the surgery she couldn’t even lie in bed without excruciating pain. She was walking and even climbing a few stairs the same day she had surgery. She was so overcome with happiness, she had tears of joy. “I am so grateful for this surgery,” Kristine says.
Kristine wore a back brace for four weeks post-op and walked as much as possible. At her six-month appointment, her surgeon reviewed her x-rays and said that everything looked perfect; her spine had healed like someone who had had surgery one year ago instead of six months ago. The XLIF procedure had reduced her healing time to one third that of traditional surgery. Now, Kristine takes long, fast-paced walks and swims with a kickboard. She says that exercising in water takes all the pressure off her body and is also therapy for her right arm, which still has limited mobility. “Overall, I’m ecstatic about my recovery and outcome. I’m taking life one day at a time, but I’m excited to not be in pain anymore! XLIF gave me life back!” Kristine says.