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Bianca Russo

New York, NY
  • Bianca Russo in the photo 1

I was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager but it was mild and not progressing so my doctor didn’t recommend treatment at the time. After 45, I started having back pain and my scoliosis slowly got worse. By 2014, my internist referred me to a back doctor who did my first scoliosis series, which showed I had a 56-degree lumbar curve. My spine and rib cage had also twisted so I had a large hump on the left side of my back that caused a lot of pain. That back doctor suggested I see a surgeon specializing in scoliosis. After seeing several surgeons at other hospitals, I went to see Dr. Matthew Cunningham at HSS. Dr. Cunningham spent nearly an hour with me on my 1st visit (which doctor does that nowadays?). He immediately gave me a sense of confidence in him and suggested trying physical therapy and other pain management treatments to control my pain, since the surgery to correct my scoliosis would be extensive and a long recovery. After 4 years of PT, Pilates, Yoga and a number of different pain management treatments, by early 2018 my pain was worse, constant and debilitating, and my scoliosis had progressed to 70 degrees. At that point, Dr. Cunningham recommended that I have surgery because the curve was progressing. I was terrified at the prospect of spinal surgery but felt I had no choice as I could barely stand or walk for any length of time without pain. So I had the surgery in June 2018, which fused my vertebrae from mid-thoracic to my pelvis with 2 titanium rods. It was about 8 hours long, which was hard on my family, but I woke up in recovery and could move (yay!) so I knew I was on my way to recovery. The post-operative pain was relatively manageable, especially compared to before surgery, and the PT provided in the hospital ensured I was able to walk and climb stairs comfortably, so I went home after 4 nights in the hospital. I slowly got stronger, mostly by walking, and was thrilled to have a much straighter back, no hump and I grew 2 inches! The photo is of me at my goddaughter’s wedding just 4 months after the surgery. It has now been about 21 months since surgery and I have no back pain at all. I still have occasional muscle cramps, but those continue to get better. I also no longer have the heart burn and stomach issues I had pre-surgery; it seems the curve in my spine was affecting my stomach. I can now walk as much as I want pain free and am back to doing Pilates and Yoga. My back is no longer flexible with those rods, but I have learned to adapt. I am forever grateful to Dr. Cunningham for giving me my life back. His whole staff was great, his PA Brenda, Mickey (scheduling coordinator) and the lovely Tina (office manager). And the doctors, nurses and therapists at the hospital were wonderful. I am happy to discuss my experience with anyone considering this surgery so please let Tina know if you want to reach out to a former patient. I was paired with a mentor and she was a wonderful resource to me when I was considering the surgery.