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Helen’s Story

Surgery can be a stressful and – for some – perhaps a terrifying topic to discuss, even with one’s own doctor. This fear can cause patients to delay getting proper treatment, even if it means living with their pain for longer than necessary. Helen put off having spine surgery despite her doctor’s recommendation for over 14 years. She tried to control her pain with epidural injections, physical therapy, massages and chiropractic adjustments, but her discomfort always returned.

“I wasn’t able to do anything like sit, lie down or even walk for long periods of time,” Helen said. “I couldn’t do things that I used to enjoy like swimming, golfing, shopping with my family, dancing or hiking. Nothing!”

After much soul-searching and plenty of missed activities, Helen finally decided to consult a spine specialist and see if somehow she could get her life back. That’s when she met Dr. Chetan Patel, the medical director of the Spine Health Institute in Altamonte Springs, Fla. and a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon known for his expertise in minimally invasive procedures.Dr. Patel examined Helen and, upon thorough review of her medical history and diagnostic tests, determined that she had lumbar stenosis, spondylolisthesis and scoliosis. He brought up the topic of surgery – and true to form, Helen shied away from the idea, preferring to give conservative therapies another try.

In keeping with her preferences, Helen was referred to Dr. Brian Jager in the Spine Health Institute pain management department. He administered a series of pain management injections, and these helped relieve her pain for some time. But Helen still wasn’t feeling her best; she experienced numbness and tingling in her toes and fingers, and she still had pain when performing daily activities. Then one day, Helen experienced a side effect that forced her to rethink her treatment options.  

“I suddenly became completely incontinent,” Helen said. “I didn’t even know that I had wet or soiled myself until later. I brought it up to Dr. Jager who told me that this was very serious and he immediately referred me back to Dr. Patel.”

Incontinence is a potential side effect of a severe spinal condition, and is most commonly associated with stenosis, tumors, infection, disk herniation or a spinal fracture. Nerves in the sacral spine are part of the peripheral nervous system that simulates bladder sensations and functions. If these nerves become blocked, pinched, inflamed or damaged, they can cause organ dysfunction – in this case, involuntary bladder and bowel release.

“After experiencing this, I told Dr. Patel, ‘OK, now I’m ready,’” Helen said. “I was terrified by my side effects and I knew that surgery was my only option.”

Dr. Patel performed an L4-S1 laminectomy and fusion in March of 2016 at Florida Hospital Altamonte. Waking up after surgery, Helen experienced a feeling she realized she hadn’t had in some time – the urge to urinate. She was also able to move without pain for the first time in recent memory and was in complete control of her bladder and bowels; it was like she was a completely different person.

“The surgery released the nerve and the tension in my back,” Helen said. “I am pain-free when I’m lying down, I can walk around for longer, the pain in my leg is gone and I have feeling in my feet and toes again.”

Click here to visit our SpineU video library for educational videos on prevention and treatment of various spine conditions.

Today, Helen is finishing up another round of physical therapy and already dipping her feet in the water. She’s able to dive and swim the entire length of a pool, all while protecting her spine from further damage through regular exercises. She extends her thanks to Dr. Jager, Dr. Patel and the entire team at the Spine Health Institute.

“They were competent, professional, caring and empathetic,” Helen said. “I was always in pain and I let my life go. Now, I’m about to leave my house and go do something – I wouldn’t have been able to say that before!”

If you’ve been experiencing back pain, give our office a call at 866.986.7497 or click on the Book Online button at the top of this page. Dr. Chetan Patel strives to provide the least invasive treatments possible for a variety of back and neck conditions. For educational videos on common spine conditions and prevention tips, visit our SpineU video library.