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Patricia Drehobl

Atlanta, GA

I can’t say enough positive things about Dr. Schwab, his team, and HSS. In December 2017, I had spinal fusion surgery from L-4 to S-1 to correct degenerative scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and stenosis. I had experienced nerve pain and spasms in my right hip and leg for 22 months. I found my way to Dr. Schwab in November 2017, after seeing numerous specialists and undergoing every conservative treatment such as epidural injections, physical therapy, and even chiropractic.

I’ve always been very active - walking, hiking, cycling, and working out at the gym. But the spasms and pain were limiting my distance and endurance. I would often need to stop and do some squats while out walking. I was told the squatting position relieves pressure on the nerve. Yet, I was fearful and resistant to the idea of spine surgery; I wanted to believe my body would heal if given enough time. Six months out, we even planned an active hiking trip to Alaska in the summer of 2017, believing I would be better by then. I was able to hike slowly, but trekking on a glacier became my day of reckoning. After wearing the heavy boots and crampons and with some slipping on the ice, the spasms were so bad I could barely hike back and had trouble walking for the remaining days of our trip. I made up my mind I would see a surgeon when I returned home. Around the same time, I learned my daughter was pregnant with my first grandchild so I became highly motivated to return to full function.

I saw two recommended specialists in my hometown, Atlanta, GA. I got two very different opinions — from a minimally invasive procedure to a posterior spinal fusion - but neither planned to correct the scoliosis. I was skeptical and confused. I decided to travel to a highly regarded medical center where I believed I would get the answer. I was stunned when they told me they wanted to do two surgeries, both anterior and posterior, correcting the scoliosis and fusing my spine from the mid-back to the sacrum. This would then require about a month in a rehab facility. And, they said I would not be healed enough in 6 months to pick up a baby from a crib!

At that point, I started my search to find the country’s foremost experts in adult scoliosis. I am a registered nurse with a career in health and research, and turned to the medical literature. I was searching for a spine surgeon who published and taught on this subject. I also contacted colleagues across the country and heard from several, “Go to HSS.” I read some of Dr. Schwab’s publications on surgical methods as well as patient outcomes. I read about his work in the Scoliosis Research Society. I was optimistic I had found my surgeon!

Meeting Dr. Schwab and Debra Jacobs, nurse practitioner, and his office staff confirmed my impression. They reviewed my images and answered all my questions. I was relieved when Dr. Schwab recommended only one surgery, a two-level posterior fusion (L4 - S1). And, I was happy Dr. Schwab said I would be healed in time for my grandson’s arrival. My last question was, “How quickly can you do it?” Natalia and Dorota quickly and efficiently arranged all of the pre-op testing so I did not need to make another trip to NYC before the surgery. Dr. Schwab also diagnosed a hip bursitis which was adding to my discomfort and recommended an injection. They were able to schedule an appointment in radiology the following day and, of course, he was right - I experienced relief within 24 hours.

The surgery on December 4, 2017 went smoothly. The nerve pain was gone immediately! It felt great to walk the next day without hip and leg spasms, just some incisional discomfort. When friends now ask about my back, I happily report I’ve had an excellent outcome! I can again walk for miles and cycle pain-free. Best of all, I can lift and play vigorously with my grandson. It feels great to be “Back in the Game.” I have the highest regard for Dr. Schwab and HSS and wholeheartedly recommend them!