About two years ago, in October, I had a freak accident that resulted in a vertebral compression fracture (VCF). In this case, part of a spine or vertebra collapses and becomes compressed. If that sounds painful, this is it!
At that time, my dog Sauza was old and sick. She woke up in the middle of the night and I grabbed her and ran down the hall to take her outside. Some water spilled on the hardwood floor and when I hit it, I blew up and landed on my back. I was in pain immediately.
I knew right away that I had done something really bad. The pain was so intense; on a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 10+. I screamed for my husband to help me and get me back to bed.
The next morning he took me to the emergency room. I couldn’t walk so he had to help me to the car and I was put in a wheelchair at the hospital. That was how bad the pain was.
Before my accident, I was an incredibly active 71 year old grandmother. I had a trainer who would train with me for an hour twice a week. I went on the treadmill, lifted weights, and did sit-ups. I also spent a lot of time with my friends, went shopping and had lunch. And my husband and I have traveled a lot. Our favorite destination was Destin, Florida, with its silver sand beach.
To be honest, I have a lot of energy and I don’t like to sit still, so it was really annoying not being able to move and being wheeled to the hospital. At that point, I had no idea what was wrong with me and I was concerned.
At the hospital, the doctors did a series of tests on me. Then they explained that I have a VCF. They recommended a procedure called balloon kyphoplasty and wanted to admit me immediately.
I had never heard of the procedure before, but it was explained to me that balloons are used to make room within the vertebra and then a cementitious substance is injected into the damaged vertebra to strengthen it.
It sounded simple enough, but I didn’t want anyone I didn’t know to do the procedure, so I decided to get a second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon. I saw him a week later and he wanted to put me in a back brace. That didn’t sound appealing. How should I get back to my workout and travel with a back brace? I chose a third opinion.
I went to an orthopedic surgeon who had been recommended by members of my family but was out of town when my accident occurred. He told me the only relief I would get would be balloon kyphoplasty and he explained the procedure thoroughly. At that point, it had been almost two months since my accident and I was feeling miserable. I spent most of my time in bed in pain, and I was dying to get back into my life. I trusted the doctor and at that point had no hesitation in proceeding with the procedure.
Since I’m in my early 70s, they had to do some tests, but when I released them we scheduled the surgery for the first week of December. It was a simple outpatient procedure that only lasted about an hour. I was put to sleep and woke up with four stitches and a little pain from the incision – but no back pain. I went home early in the evening.
I felt instantly relieved. In fact, I had a Christmas party two days after the procedure! I planned the party before the operation and my friends said I would never be able to throw a party that fast. I told them, “Let me see.” And I could do it.
I was back to my routine within a few weeks. I started training with my trainer again and my husband and I took a trip to Atlanta. Without COVID-19, I would still go to my trainer.
There are many things we cannot do right now due to the pandemic and I would certainly not go for most of the elective operations. But if I got another compression fracture, I would have another balloon kyphoplasty performed at any time – even during COVID. I was in such intense, terrible pain and it was such a simple procedure. I went in in the morning, was home that night, and had a party two days later.
That can’t be beat.
This procedure is not for everyone. A prescription is required. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of balloon kyphoplasty, and whether it is right for you.
This resource was produced with the assistance of Medtronic.