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"My back is healing as it should, and I am pain free!" Dana G. Navy Veteran & Avid Runner

Never let pain hold you back from seeking out help. Virginia Spine Institute has a wonderful team of experts, from the friendly receptionists, to the medical assistants, to the x-ray technicians, to the highly qualified and experienced team of surgeons and physicians assistants. You will not find a better team of professionals out there! There are not enough words to articulate how I feel and the thanks in my heart for what they did for me. Thank you to everyone.

I am a Navy Veteran, having served 17 years active, and three years in the reserves, currently working in Overseas Construction on Embassies around the globe. During my Navy years, I was in top physical condition, even serving a collateral duty as a personal trainer for over seven years. I ran multiple races; 5K’s, 10K’s, Half Marathons and marathons. My last marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in Oct. 2009. Following that race, I couldn’t run anymore, I had such severe pain in my lower back, and I just thought perhaps the race took a larger toll on my body than I thought. I never associated it with anything other than wear and tear, and possibly not enough stretching. As time went on, the pain slowly began to interfere with my daily life, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t workout like I used to, I could hardly bend over, and I could no longer run, not even a mile before I thought my back would break from pain. Since I was still in the Navy, I talked to my primary care physician, and she scheduled an MRI and a meeting with a Neurosurgeon. I didn’t think anything was wrong with my back, because I always associated back pain with leg pain, nerve pain, walking problems, of which I didn’t have. I didn’t think I fit into that category. I was healthy by my standards, I was normal weight, physically fit, ate healthy; I was the picture of health. To my surprise, the MRI results showed my L5/S1 disc was 75% gone, and I had other problems in that area. I was put through almost two years of pain management and non-surgical procedures to no avail. I lived on pain medication, to an unhealthy point. I finally got my request granted to see a surgeon who agreed right away I needed an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) on my L5/S1. I readily agreed. I couldn’t take the pain any longer. On November 3, 2011, I had my first ALIF. I felt instant relief. I was ecstatic!

Six months later I had my follow up to learn that the spinal fusion was not healing at the rate it should be, and I had broken a screw. I wasn’t worried because I felt fine! I thought my doctor at the time was just being overly cautious. I just knew it would fuse, because I was pain free. However, as time went on, the pain started to creep back into my life, limiting my activities. I finally had to admit I needed help. Subsequently, I went back to the same surgeon because I felt a trust and rapport with him. He suggested putting facet screws in the back to stabilize the failed fusion, insisting to me that it would fuse after that. On June 19th, 2013, I had my second surgery, facets screws through the back at the L5/S1 level.  However, the pain following that surgery was worse than before. I kept telling myself it was the hardware settling, it would fuse and I would be pain free again soon, I just knew it. But it didn’t. In Oct 2014, I decided to see the very same doctor again because the pain was back to what it was before my first surgery. I knew something was wrong. After a visit with him, and a CT scan, it was noted that I had multiple broken screws, and bone deterioration from the facet screws.  He suggested taking the facet screws out and placing new ones in. I, however was concerned with the broken hardware in the front of my spine, from the ALIF surgery. My doctor was not. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that maybe, he was missing something important and I needed a second opinion.

While working in Northern Virginia, I kept seeing ads for Virginia Spine Institute. On a whim, I called for a consultation. I was given an appointment with Dr. Good, and his physician assistant, Lindsay Orosz. After the initial x-rays, they came into my exam room, friendly, inviting and were instantly worried at the condition of my back. They couldn’t understand how I had gone so long with such damage in my back. I explained to them that my original doctor led me to believe that it wasn’t that bad. I just needed new screws. Dr. Good immediately saw a potentially very deadly problem with my current state; the broken hardware was dangerously near vital arteries. He insisted I see a vascular surgeon right away, get an MRI, and regroup for a discussion on a course of action. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how bad my back was, because I had only ever seen one doctor, and I put all my faith and trust in him. Almost to a fault.  Following the appointment with Dr. Podolsky, my vascular surgeon, I met again with my team, Dr. Good and physician assistant, Lindsay Orosz. He recommended a revised ALIF on the L5/S1 and a revised PLIF at the same level. So, on December 2nd, and December 4th, I underwent my third and fourth surgeries to correct the damage and failed prior fusions in my back. During that surgery, Dr. Good was correct on his hunch, there was indeed scar tissue and hardware perforating one of my major arteries. Dr. Podolsky took great care in correcting the problem and Dr. Good and his physician assistants did the rest. Although the hospital stay was a haze, and the recovery slow, I am finally pain free for the first time in over five years. 

When I met with my VSI team for my eight week follow-up, I broke down in tears. I couldn’t help it. For the first time in so long that I couldn’t remember, I wasn’t in pain. I could sit for as long as I wanted, I could stand and walk without pain, I could sleep all night and wake up and just get out of bed like a normal person. Basically, I was the person I was years ago. Something I thought I would never be again. Before I met them, I was 36 and I thought pain was going to be my way of life. That I would never be able to work out again, never run around with my kids, never picking up heavy things again, no bending over to pick things up on the floor. That was my life and always would be. However, not anymore, never again! My back is healing as it should, and I am pain free! I have my life back, and it is amazing!

Thank you to my team!