Sacroiliac joint fusion
Happy ending for spine patient after years of treatment
Everybody's happy at Disney World, right?
But in May 2021, vacationing with her family at the Florida home of Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear, Jennifer Franklin wasn't happy. Hobbled by pain radiating down her right leg, the 36-year-old Amelia resident received an email with one word: "Approval."
The message meant her insurance would cover sacroiliac joint fusion surgery by neurosurgeon Dr. Brad Curt at the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center. After several months of pain that had kept her from even holding her new granddaughter, she was beyond ready.
"Disney World is the happiest place in the world, and I wasn't happy until I got that email," Franklin says. "I just knew that my pain and suffering was going to end."
The email from the developer of the spinal implant used in Jennifer's surgery was the first significant progress in a three-year saga for Franklin. Prescribed pain injections by another provider, she took the injections every three months in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the benefits wearing off quicker every time.
One doctor had diagnosed sciatica as the source of Jennifer's pain. A CT scan in 2017 revealed a fracture of the L4-L5 vertebrae, but Jennifer said a pain in her tailbone that was shooting down her leg was the telling sign.
"The pain really took a toll on my family," she says. "I wasn't the typical me. I'm usually go-go-go all the time, but I couldn't do that."
Making it worse was the fact that Jennifer was a new grandmother, and couldn't lift the baby or change a diaper.
In 2020, she finally was referred by a friend to Dr. Curt, a Mayfield neurosurgeon in the West Chester office, who evaluated Jennifer's symptoms and recommended the SI joint surgery.
"Jennifer had undergone extensive conservative treatments, including a home exercise program," Dr. Curt says. "She had seen some relief from injections, enough so that she could perform tasks that previously were too painful. It was clear that she was a surgical candidate. When I talked with her about living with the symptoms or electing a fusion of the right SI joint, she made the decision to proceed with the surgery."
First, Jennifer did a series of physical therapy sessions at Mayfield, where she became confident that the surgery would help. She had the surgery in August 2021. Now, she can take care of herself and her family, including returning to her job as a nurse in November. The surgery has eliminated nearly all of the pain in her right hip and leg, and she is starting the process toward a similar procedure on the left side.
"I am delighted that the surgery has relieved Jennifer's pain and helped her enjoy more daily activities," Dr. Curt says. "She has responded well to the procedure. With physical therapy and continued caution about activities that may put her spine at risk, her condition should continue to improve."
A year after that trip to Disney World, Jennifer is still in her happy place.
"I cannot believe the relief that I have," she says. "It's better than it ever was."
~ Cliff Peale
Hope Story Disclaimer -"Jennifer'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.