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Alison Donnelly

Brooklyn, NY
  • Alison Donnelly in the photo 1

I have known about my lower back disc herniation since 2003, but managed my pain with occasional physical therapy, regular exercise and weight maintenance.

In November of 2015, I began to experience numbness in my legs and feet. I first saw Dr. Simotas who immediately recognized that I had bi-lateral foot-drop and sent me for a same-day MRI to determine the cause. A ruptured disc was crushing a nerve in my spinal cord. He recommended immediate surgery to lower (or hopefully eliminate) the risk of permanent nerve damage. The next day I met my surgeon, Dr. Rawlins who agreed with Dr. Simotas and explained the procedure in detail. I admit, I was terrified; In the past when my back would "flare up", a prescription of prednisone always did the trick. This time, I was at high risk of permanent nerve damage. The next two days was a whirlwind of pre-op visits and insurance approvals. 48-hours after my first appointment, I underwent emergency surgery to remove the ruptured disc from the nerve.

Because of a spinal fluid leak during surgery, I remained in the hospital for a full week. The care was excellent. I loved my nurses and aids, and when I took my fist post-surgery steps on day 5, the physical therapist was so kind as I wept during my first walker-assisted walk around the nurses station.

I began physical therapy in early January. My foot-drop was much improved after surgery but not gone. I saw neurologist Dr. Dora Leung who assessed the nerve damage and told me to give it at least 12 months since "legs are every long and the nerves take a long time to heal". The good news was that she thought my chances for a full recovery were very good.

As of May 2016 -- 5 months after my surgery, I have no back pain at all. With the exception of running (because the still-existent, but mild foot-drop), I am back to all of my normal workout activities. I continue to go to PT at HSS and will have another neurological follow-up with Dr. Leung in December. My nerve function continues to improve and I am slowly, but sure getting back in the game!

I am enormously thankful to Drs. Simotas, Rawlins, Leung, and the PT staff at HSS for the excellent care I've received. My story continues at www.FormerlyFatMom.com