Jo Anne's story
 Jo Anne's story

  Herniated lumbar disc

By the time Jo Anne first saw Arthur Arand, MD, a neurosurgeon with Mayfield Brain & Spine, she was using a walker and her life had come to a virtual standstill. She was still able to perform her desk job, but she could no longer drive. Her husband would drive her to work, and a friend would drive her home. She could not stand for any length of time, which meant she could no longer cook – one of her favorite activities -- or complete any household chores.

"I could hardly do anything," Jo Anne recalls. "Every move I made hurt. It pretty much immobilized me. I was stuck at home. The only place I went to was work."

Today, thanks to Dr. Arand's expert care, Jo Anne is back doing everything she loves. After undergoing outpatient surgery at the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center at the end of November 2017, she was soon back on her feet, walking, driving, and rolling out Christmas cookie dough with her grandchildren. "I call it my Christmas Miracle," she says.

Jo Anne and Bill
Jo Anne and her husband, Bill

Heavy price for a hard landing

Jo Anne can pinpoint the moment when she injured her back. It happened several months earlier, while she was helping a friend move some belongings. Jumping down from a large box truck, taking care not to hurt her surgically repaired knee and shoulders, she landed on the pavement with an awkward jolt.

"I thought, 'That didn't feel so good,'" Jo Anne recalled. "But as with most things, I thought I would give it some time and it would get better."

When her back didn't improve, Jo Anne went to see her orthopedist, Dr. Ronald Hess, walking in with a cane, and pain shooting down one leg. Dr. Hess ordered an MRI, which revealed a dramatically ruptured disc, which was compressing the adjacent spinal nerves. Advising Jo Anne that she had truly hurt her spine, Dr. Hess referred her to a spine specialist in his practice, who gave her an epidural steroid injection "to calm things down." The first injection helped for a few weeks; the second wore off in a few days. By then, pain was shooting down both legs, and Jo Anne was using a walker to get around.

Moving her care to the next level, Dr. Hess referred Jo Anne to Dr. Arand.

On the day of her appointment, Jo Anne recalls, "It was so hard to get out of bed, I could hardly stand. That was the hardest part of the day, trying to get up and trying to take a shower, and getting my leg over the tub. I was always afraid I might fall. I kept thinking, I don't want my grandchildren to remember me being like this. I didn't know what can be done to help this."

Once she saw Dr. Arand, she felt better. "He was so gracious. He said, 'Believe it or not, this is a common problem. I do these cases a lot, and many people are up and walking right away.' That was reassuring. And when I found out it would be outpatient surgery, I was so surprised. I thought if it was outpatient, it couldn't be too bad. I had begun to think that I would never be able to walk again without holding onto something."

A surgical resolution

Jo Anne spent Thanksgiving watching her family prepare and serve the traditional meal. "That was a first for me," she says. "Sitting in a chair and watching everyone was really difficult."

A week later, still using a walker, she hobbled into the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center. Then she walked to her preop room, leaning against one of the nurses.

"Everybody there, the anesthesiologist, the nurses, everyone associated with the surgery was fabulous," Jo Anne says. "I could not have been in a better place. This was so different from other hospitals I had been in. It was very personal, and the atmosphere was very relaxed."

Dr. Arand performed a decompressive laminectomy at the L 4-5 vertebrae, the most common site of a disc rupture in the lumbar (lower) spine. He removed the offending disc material while creating breathing room for the nerves.

Dr. Arand also noted an incidental finding: an old hairline fracture in one of Jo Anne's vertebrae. That brought to mind a piece of family lore and another hard, painful landing: the time 17-year-old Jo Anne agreed to parachute out of an airplane so that her boyfriend – and future husband – and his friends could get a package deal. "You train all day and then jump at 4 p.m.," Jo Anne recounted later. "I really did not want to do it, but if I didn't do it, the group couldn't do it. I had never been in a plane before, and the first time I ride in a plane I jump out? When I was standing at the open door I was thinking, 'You are so stupid.' They tell you when you're coming down, 'Don't look at the ground!' Well, I looked, and the parachute hit up at my stomach. I landed in a field with cows, and I did hurt my back. But I was more frightened of the bulls, and I was wearing a bright orange jumper. I gathered the chute and went back to the airport, which wasn't far away. I believe that's how I got that crack in my back."

When Jo Anne left the Spine Surgery Center, she was able to walk out holding on to her husband. "I could immediately tell something was different," she says. "Dr. Arand told me I would get better every day. By the next day I had to walk around the house every hour. My son took a day off and came to stay with me, and he couldn't believe I wasn't using a walker. My husband is still getting used to seeing me walk around without the walker."

By Christmas, Jo Anne was driving again. She celebrated her 43rd anniversary with her husband with a night out. And she was back in the kitchen, making homemade spaghetti sauce and chili. "What a relief that is," she says. "You take so many things for granted, for being able to drive. I so appreciate Dr. Arand and everything he did for me."

Jo Anne is also deeply grateful for those who helped her through a frightening ordeal.

"When you are sick and not feeling well, it affects everyone around you," Jo Anne says. "I want to say how thankful I am for my husband, Bill, for taking such good care of me these past three months. I was unable to cook, clean, do laundry, housework, or grocery shopping. He had to do it all. He did all of our cooking too -- and believe me, he is not fond of cooking at all! I appreciate him so much and tell him all the time how lucky I am. My whole family and friends pitched in to help me, including sisters and brothers-in-law! I am so blessed."

~ Cindy Starr

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Hope Story Disclaimer -"Jo Anne's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.

Photography by Joe Simon

Related links:

Physician spotlight: Dr. Arthur Arand

Herniated lumbar disc

Posterior lumbar discectomy