Spine Athlete ::: Marialice's story

Degenerative disc disease, herniated disc


Diagnosis: Severe degenerative disc disease, facet arthropathy, herniated disc, and spondylolisthesis.

Treatment: Epidural steroid injections, followed by single-level lumbar fusion with placement of four screws, two rods, and one synthetic spacer (Fig.1).

Neurosurgeon: Arthur Arand, MD

Initial injury: I didn't have a single, defining injury. Dr. Arand and I thought my spine problems were from wear and tear and from years of playing sports in high school and college. I played basketball, soccer, and softball in high school, and I played water polo, soccer, and basketball in college.

Turning point: I thought I was suffering from muscle aches. I didn't realize I had any extensive injury. You think you're overdoing it and you take it easy; you try to compensate in other ways. But it kept getting worse. I had epidural facet injections with a different doctor, starting in 2005. Eventually the injections quit working. I teach junior high and coach soccer, and I was hurting a lot on the soccer field. My family knew how much I was hurting, so it affected them as well.

In November 2007, it was bad enough that one night I was sitting in a heap on the floor. My husband came in and said, "It's time to do something." I'd had enough at that point. I had been so afraid because of the old clich├ęs I'd heard about back surgery and the negativity. But the way I was living was more miserable than anything surgery could have produced.

I ended up in Dr. Arand's office on a Thursday afternoon. He did an MRI, and we scheduled surgery for Monday. It happened pretty quickly. After surgery, the pain was worse than having kids. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced. But even then I could already tell that some of the pain I had been having was going to get better. I was in the hospital for a full week. I had surgery on Monday and was discharged on Friday or Saturday.

If I had it to do over, I would have surgery again on a dirty soccer field. The recovery period took a while, but I was back coaching in June. After twelve months of recovery, a skilled doctor, and team of wonderful nurses and staff had given me a new jump at life. I don't think I realized how much pain I was in and how bad I felt on a daily basis until after the surgery. Dr. Arand has truly restored my standard of living.

Being a spine athlete: I'm really conscientious about body motion, good body mechanics, and I walk about 3.5 miles at least four times a week, just to keep that back strong. Dr. Arand really stressed the importance of core mechanics, as did my physical therapist. I worked with a trainer for a full year, and she concentrated on the core, on keeping everything aligned, and strength training.

I still can't give piggy-back rides after soccer games, and I'll never be 100 percent in the sense that I'll always be aware that I shouldn't be slide-tackling, for example. But for my lifestyle and my age, I'm 100 percent. I'm back on the field coaching youth soccer, and we won an under-12 boys' soccer tournament this weekend that was just awesome. My recovery has impacted our life so much that our 15-year-old wants to be a neurosurgeon.

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Spine Athlete Story Disclaimer -"Marialice'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.

I'm back on the field coaching youth soccer, and we won an under-12 boys' soccer tournament this weekend that was just awesome. My recovery has impacted our life so much that our 15-year-old wants to be a neurosurgeon.

Figure 1: Spinal fusion restores the normal height of the disc space and prevents abnormal movement.

 



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