May 20, 2024

Musical Theater Performer Overcomes Spine Injury to Get Back in the Spotlight

OrthoIndy News

It started as a routine play date. Leslie Gaudreau, a musical theater performer in Carmel, was having a good time playing with a couple dogs one afternoon. However, while playing, her son’s big dog bumped into Leslie and caused her to fall.

“It was like those funny outtakes on TV. Like when an NFL player takes out the innocent camera man, but way less funny,” Leslie said. Leslie sustained ankle and wrist injuries and landed wrong on her hip.

Leslie was used to feeling some discomfort. Her hip had been bothering her for more than a year now, and the tumble she took just made it even worse. She tried to push through it for a few weeks, hoping it would get better on its own, but it didn’t. Life changed fast. Just a few weeks ago, she was dancing on stage, and now, Leslie was limited to a walker just to get around at home. The pain never let up, and Leslie knew it was time to ask for help.

ACT I: “The Worst News”

Leslie went to see a doctor who prescribed her an X-ray. They both thought it was just some issue with the soft tissue, but when they got the results, it turned out things were more serious than they expected.

“When the doctor came back into the room, he said, ‘I’m sorry, but this is the worst news I’ve ever had to tell anyone. Your back is severely damaged,’” Leslie said. “I was scheduled to get an MRI later, and when that doctor came in, he thought he had the wrong room and immediately left. Based on my X-rays, he assumed I’d be in a wheelchair.”

Leslie was devastated. The doctor explained that her spine was horribly damaged. He thought any surgery might make her feel worse instead of better. He decided not to do the operation, which left Leslie feeling hopeless and worried. But then, a call to OrthoIndy changed her life.

ACT II: Enter the OrthoIndy Spine Group

Leslie remembered she had a niece who had had scoliosis surgery at OrthoIndy with Dr. David Schwartz. She called to set up an appointment and was scheduled to see Dr. Schwartz’s colleague, Dr. Craig McMains. She sent over her imaging studies later that afternoon.

“The visit to OrthoIndy was a remarkably different experience than my first appointments with other providers,” Leslie said. “All of the staff were kind and compassionate. Dr. McMains truly listened to me and my concerns and took his time. I didn’t feel rushed out the door so that he could see a new patient.”

Dr. McMains agreed that the surgery to correct Leslie’s pain was complex, but he did them frequently enough that he was confident he could help her without a problem.

“The pain felt in Leslie’s hip actually originated in the spine,” recalled Dr. McMains. “Her spine had been curved and twisted since birth, and the impact collapsed it in several locations. The L5/S1 joint had also slipped, and there was profound nerve compression in several locations.”

“Basically, it was a hot mess back there,” Leslie summarized.

First, Leslie had to undergo cervical spine surgery to fix a more critical issue than the current pain. Once she had recovered from that surgery, she underwent a second spine procedure to correct the rest of her pain.

“Dr. McMains and Alex, his PA, went through everything that was going to happen,” Leslie said. “They answered every question we had thoroughly and with no hesitation. I left feeling completely at peace, knowing those two were going to take great care of me. I was convinced I’d made the right decision with OrthoIndy.”

ACT III: Back in the Spotlight

The surgery went smoothly, and after two nights in the hospital for recovery, Leslie was able to go home. “It was a lot of rest, but after 3 months I was completely cleared as long as I was careful.” Shortly after being cleared, Leslie auditioned for a role in Elf the Musical at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre and got the role. She has been in many other musicals since then as well, including A Christmas Story.

“This is the first time in 61 years that I have a straight spine and can easily sit and stand up. I am so happy! I am enjoying a new life with the spine I should have had at birth. I thank God every day for OrthoIndy!”

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