Gara was a young, vibrant college student trying to find her passion when she started having back pain and discomfort during her freshman year. Initially, Gara pushed through her pain and continued with her studies at college. However, as her pain worsened, she had to take a step back from her active lifestyle, which included working out, exercising, and intramurals. As her pain progressed, she started to notice how much it was limiting her. Gara could walk around the neighborhood but couldn't do what she used to do with friends. She couldn’t even sit in her college classes for extended amounts of time—she could only sit for a little while, needing to stand in the back of her class to manage her discomfort and pain. In fact, she remembers the pain being so severe that daily activities like cleaning her home or doing laundry became burdensome. “Anything I did, whether it was house related or active with friends or school, was challenging,” Gara remembers. “Really, every part of my day was negatively affected, and I lived in fear.” She was constantly afraid that she was going to have a huge setback or pain flare-up if she did anything active.
Unsure of the cause of her back pain, Gara decided she needed to seek consultation with a specialist, who recommended conservative therapies. She tried epidural injections, physical therapy multiple times each week, and chiropractic care for pain relief. Gara was self-disciplined—following the conservative care plan directed by her physicians—and although these treatments provided temporary relief over the next two years, Gara realized that she was just “getting by”, and her pain was chronic. She decided to consult with a spine surgeon about long-term solutions and subsequently underwent an MRI which revealed she had degenerative disc disease.
“Every part of my day was negatively affected and I lived in fear.”
Gara's recalls her spine surgeon telling her, “Based on your age, there is a technology that may be life-changing for you. You're going to wait until it is available.” Though she knew a spinal fusion was an option—considering it in discussions with her parents and friends—Gara worried about her ability to lead a long-term active lifestyle and to pursue her professional goal to be a child life specialist after fusion surgery. Importantly, Gara wanted a procedure that would give her continued mobility as a young adult.
When her spine surgeon discussed the total disc replacement technology, he said, “You're doing everything you possibly can right now for your health and your back, and I promise you are going to be the ideal candidate for this procedure.” He was right. Having reviewed online resources and educating herself through speaking with her doctors, she knew in her head and heart that total disc replacement was what she needed—and what she wanted to do. Gara trusted her doctor and felt at peace with the decision to have the procedure. “Why I decided to get the procedure was to get my life back, knowing the future I wanted to have,” she says.
Gara underwent total disc replacement with prodisc L in December 2007 and was in the hospital after her procedure for three nights—requiring an extra night’s stay due to significant muscle spasms in her spinal area. Her first week of recovery was, for the most part, full of bed rest. She exclaims, “I am so incredibly thankful that I listened to my doctor, took a leap of faith, and ended up doing the total disc replacement surgery.” Although her recovery was slow at first, she says it was well worth it to have the procedure done. Gara was fully prepared for her procedure and grateful that her doctor managed her expectations for recovery.
“I am so incredibly thankful that I listened to my doctor and took a leap of faith!”
Though she initially struggled with post-operative nerve pain, within two weeks Gara’s back started to feel better. She had a lot of assistance at first and, although she was unable to do traditional physical therapy initially, she did aquatic therapy to help increase mobility and flexibility. Once she got in the pool for a few weeks, she was able to start physical therapy. Six months after surgery, Gara had completed physical therapy and was back to being independent.
The long recovery was worth it. Gara now has two kids and her back is stronger than it has ever been. She is able to be an active mom, enjoying activities like jumping on the trampoline with her kids, playing catch and basketball, and riding bikes—everything she hoped and dreamed. Gara is also able to participate in high-intensity workouts and if she needs to sit still for two hours, her back doesn't hurt. Even traveling doesn't hurt, and she’s now able to carry her own suitcase.
“Pursuing total disc replacement with prodisc L was truly one of the best decisions of my life—along with getting married and having my children, of course. Looking back, if I didn't choose to get total disc replacement surgery with prodisc L, I wouldn't be who I am right now. My back pain was debilitating and kept me from doing a lot of things in life, and I'm just happy I can be the person that I am now, completely pain-free.” she declares with enthusiasm.
These individuals can inspire your journey to healing and life after disc replacement surgery—and the hope of freedom from spine-induced pain and discomfort.
With the total disc replacement, it’s like I’ve never had a neck problem!
I feel like my activity level is now a 10 out of 10! My recovery after prodisc was amazing.
Being a patient myself, I understand... the journey. [prodisc] allows my patients to return to their lives.
I probably feel better today than when I was 30 years old!
prodisc [gives] my patients the option to thrive and maintain the highest quality active lifestyle.
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