Giovanna’s Story: Spinal Fusion Surgery

Published: April 19, 2018

Giovanna of Purchase, NY is an active mom of two girls, two cats and two dogs. About two years ago, Giovanna began to experience sciatica in her right side to the point where she could hardly walk, let alone engage in kickboxing and yoga, two of her all-time favorite activities.

Giovanna explains her sciatica developed from spinal stenosis as a result of a herniated disc. She recalls the day it all started: “I had taken my kids sledding. There were four kids on an inner tube coming toward a little girl. As I tried to move the child out of the way, I got pushed by the tube. That’s how it began.”

She had pursued a physical therapy routine as well as a series of epidural steroid injections from a healthcare system other than Stamford Health. “I was only allowed 3 epidurals a year and I could not wait. I needed to do something more drastic.”

That’s when a neighbor of Giovanna introduced her to Dr. Andrea Douglas, Chief of Neurosurgery, just this past October. “My husband and I had an immediate connection with her.” Giovanna was especially appreciative that Dr. Douglas took the time to weigh all the pros and cons of all options based on her specific lifestyle.

“Giovanna had severe right leg pain,” recalls Dr. Douglas. “Every time she would go back to her workout routine, she was hit with these symptoms that became constant.” Giovanna’s diagnosis was an L-45 spondylolisthesis, or a slip in a vertebrae which led to her severe spinal stenosis.

Together, Dr. Douglas and Giovanna determined that a spinal fusion surgery (the fusing together of vertebrae) was the best option as opposed to a laminectomy (a procedure to decompress the nerve causing the problem). “Giovanna was very concerned about the possibility of her symptoms coming back with the laminectomy alone. So despite the longer recovery, she chose to have the fusion surgery since it includes the laminectomy and because it is a more permanent solution,” adds Douglas. 

During her 4-day stay at Stamford Hospital in mid-November of 2017, both Giovanna and her husband were highly impressed by the facilities and the level of care. “I was blown away at how phenomenal and beautiful Stamford Hospital was,” Giovanna recalls. 

Right after surgery, Giovanna was able to walk up and down the stairs. Less than a week later, she stood for hours making pumpkin bread for her daughter’s Thanksgiving class celebration. After the first six weeks, she started to feel like herself again and returned to a directed exercise program focused on strengthening her core.

“Dr. Douglas is a rock star. I can’t say enough about her and how much she gave me my life back. Thanks to her, I was able to dance the night away at a bar mitzvah and I’m now walking five miles a day.” According to Dr. Douglas, “It was meaningful to me that Stamford Health left such a lasting impression.”


Featured Expert/ Author

Neurosurgery, Spine Surgery

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