June 6, 2018

Patient completes mini marathon after back surgery

Neck, Back and Spine | Patient Stories

THIS POST IS PART OF THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BACK PAIN RELIEF

When Christine McCollum came to OrthoIndy Urgent Care in Fishers for shoulder pain, she had no idea she would end up needing a to see spine specialist. The physician assistant that evaluated her that day ultimately decided that her shoulder pain was actually originating from a nerve in her neck.

“It truly came out of nowhere.  I thought I may have slept on it weird or overdid it during a weekend run and had a muscle strain. The pain that day was not relieved with a soak in the tub, massage or ibuprofen,” said Christine. “As the day went on the pain worsened and began to go down my arm and I began to have numbness in part of my hand.”

Christine is a stay at home mom of four kids. Needless to say, she has plenty to do throughout the day and the pain in her shoulder was debilitating.  It was August, so her kids were getting ready to start another school year and she had errands to run, kids to drop off and kids to pick up and that was just the beginning of the list.

“I wasn’t able to take care of their basic needs or mine without intense pain. Brushing my teeth, bathing, doing all the cooking that I love was difficult, if not impossible.  I would take a deep breath when I needed to do the most basic of tasks and try and do them as quickly as possible because I knew it was going to hurt.”

Christine needed a solution to the pain she was experiencing and she needed a solution fast. She made an appointment with OrthoIndy spine specialist, Dr. Kevin O’Neill.

“I have labored four kids and this pain was right up there with that if not worse. I couldn’t drive. Being in a seated position to operate a vehicle was unbearable. It was as if I instantly lost my independence. For days I would be in bed trying to get comfortable. There was just no escaping it.”

The diagnosis

At her initial visit with Dr. O’Neill, they reviewed her MRI and X-rays. Dr. O’Neill determined that Christine had a herniated disc in her neck that was causing nerve pain. Additionally, he determined she had congenital cervical stenosis, kyphosis and slight scoliosis.

“Christine had nerve compression at two different levels in her neck, in part because of some slightly different alignment of the bones in her neck,” said Dr. O’Neill. “We tried some non-operative treatments, but we weren’t really getting anywhere and the pain was not allowing her to get back into action. Nobody really comes in wanting surgery, but in her case, it became pretty clear that was her best option.”

Dr. O’Neill determined Christine would need surgery to become pain free again and carry on her normal lifestyle.

“Dr. O’Neill immediately made me feel at ease. He kindly and patiently went through all of my questions. One of my biggest questions was, why was this happening to me?” said Christine. “I found comfort in his answer. There is no real reason as to why all of this was happening it is just simply the way I was made.  The good news is, it could be fixed. He reassured me that surgery is the best option and that I will be able to get back to my normal activities pain free.”

Back surgery

Christine had surgery and felt immediate relief from the pain and numbness she had previously felt.

“She had a surgery called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, or ACDF for short,” said Dr. O’Neill. “In this surgery the disc and bone that are compressing the nerves are removed, and the bones are fused together. In most cases pain relief comes pretty quickly after surgery, and Christine was no exception.”

Furthermore, Christine was in the middle of training for a half marathon when she first went to OrthoIndy with her initial shoulder and neck pain. However, because of the pain and her diagnosis, she thought she would never be able to run again.

Back surgery recovery

Four months after surgery, she hit the gym after only practicing yoga and walking during her recovery period. Slowly, she found herself running again. In fact, she re-joined her running group and felt stronger than ever. A little more than six months after surgery she completed a half marathon.

“A lot ran through my head during that race. I wondered if it was too soon and did I train enough? I ran the entire 13.1 miles ending with a time I was very proud of. All my apprehensions disappeared.”

“I was so happy when Christine emailed me with her picture from the marathon,” said Dr. O’Neill. “There is nothing better than helping patients get back to doing the things they love.”

Christine plans to keep running and living a happy and productive life.

“I cringe to think of what my quality of life would be like without surgery. I’m keenly aware of how fortunate I am. With great care and patience, getting back to doing something I am passionate about was possible. Most importantly I’m so grateful to Dr. O’Neill and his colleagues at OrthoIndy for giving a ‘healthy me’ back to my four children and husband that I love more than anything.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Neill, please call 317.802.2429 or learn more about OrthoIndy Spine and Dr. O’Neill.

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Pros and Cons of Back Surgery

Do you really need back surgery? Learn when it’s the right choice and what are your alternative options.

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Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current marketing specialist for OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and a communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since then.

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