At the age of 15 is when I had my first spinal surgery at a hospital in Morristown, NJ. A tethered spinal cord, which was described as "an easy fix". Surgery seemed impossible at such a young age, but living life on pause and being robbed of my love for horseback riding was no way for me to begin my life. After surgery time had passed, and I began feeling normal again, until a new scan revealed a stress fracture at L4, a fracture that began to cause me more pain I had ever experienced before. Many different doctors had turned down my case, fearing that doing a spinal fusion on a 16 year old would be too dangerous. It was then that we turned to the innovative way of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Meeting Dr. Darren Lebl, my mother and I knew he was not like the other doctors. When we met him at first, we felt hope, instead of fear, as he gave us an option we had not heard before. Even though it wasn't guaranteed, just like any surgery there was a chance it wouldn't fix the problem, but somehow just a different surgical answer to the pain seemed life changing. On New Years Eve of 2013, I had my second spinal surgery, a bone graft placed at my L4 vertebrae, in attempt to alleviate the pain I had had for so long. Recovery was long, but I eventually began to feel my life moving forward. I was riding horses again, which is something I had began to fear I would never have back.
The back pain returned my summer before senior year, and with much disappointment we had discovered the bone graft was taking, and it was time to think about a fusion again. Through this time, HSS, especially Dr. Lebl, provided me and my family with an answer to every question, and helped us comfortably make the decision for me to have a spinal fusion, L4-L5, at the young age of 19. The recovery was long, and the stay in the hospital felt like eternity, but I don't think I would have felt more at home in a hospital bed than I felt staying at HSS. As I left after about 2 weeks, I couldn't thank the nurses enough for the care and support they provided me.
Although the months after were painful, I am now 8 months post op and have a clean bill of health. Dr. Lebl and the entire HSS staff has provided me a life I was scared I would never fully be able to live. About a month ago, I was able to get on a horse again, and I realized it was all worth it to feel that joy again. I can leave for college next month, and finally move forward without being plagued by back pain, and I know I couldn't have done it without HSS. My family and I will always be grateful for these doctors and this hospital for allowing me to press the play button on my life again.