This is the best I have felt in over 5 years

Dawn Burress, Patient

I have had chronic back pain for many years due to genetics and the level of physical sports that I played.

I had my first spinal surgery, discectomy/laminectomy with a neurologist in 2015 at the age of 47 with no relief. After that surgery, I have had multiple spinal injections, appointments at the pain clinic and a Rhizotomy still with no relief.  In June of 2017,I had a spinal fusion to try and relieve the chronic pain. My surgeon told me there was only a 50/50 chance of getting any relief but I had to take the chance because I felt like I could not live this way any longer. With years of chronic pain, that I hid very well, I developed a pain personality and it was not a good one. The depression and loneliness were so overwhelming that I felt hopeless all of the time. Because I hid the pain so well, and was so high functioning, people had a hard time understanding where I was coming from. Six months after my spinal fusion I was still in major pain; the fusion did not help at all and I did not know what to do next. In my time working at Bronson, I had heard great things about Dr. Ellwitz so I asked for a referral to him to see if there was anything else we could do. I saw Dr. Ellwitz and he talked to me about my SI joints and that they were probably the reason for my continued pain. He wanted to try SI joint injections for diagnostic purposes and referred me over to Dale Moore, Cert. Nurse Anesthetist. If the injections helped then that means I needed my SI joints fused and we would proceed with surgery. Well guess what, the injections helped and surgery was scheduled.

The thought of more surgeries scared me; I do not do well with anesthesia and felt I could not afford to be off work again. Dr. Elwittz, Dale Moore and Steve Allan, NP, took a lot of time with me before my surgery discussing pain personality and the benefits of the surgery. They believed they could improve my quality of life if I proceeded with the surgeries. The concern they showed for my mental and physical health was very touching and gave me the utmost confidence in them.

The team discussed with me how we were going to do the surgeries. SI fusions cannot be done at the same time, right and left, because of recovery issues so we decided to do them 6-7 weeks apart since I did not want to wait another year to have the other side done. I just wanted all of this to be over.

The morning of my first surgery, right side SI joint fusion – 7am surgery, Steve Allan, NP, came to see me before his clinic started, per my request, to ease my mind about surgery. For some reason Steve and his positive attitude relaxed me immensely so that’s why I asked him to see me before surgery which he gladly did. The first surgery and 7 weeks of recovery went amazingly well! I woke up from surgery feeling like I was back to my normal self, the pain I had across my lower back was gone and I had minimal surgery pain. I was up and walking an hour after surgery and felt hopeful again.

The 2nd surgery, left side SI joint fusion, was not as smooth but still very manageable. For some reason the healing process was a little slower and more painful with this side. I had to go back to work 5 weeks after my second surgery and I was concerned I would not be able to do it. Dr. Ellwitz and Steve Allan, NP, worked with me on the best way to go back to work manage the pain and manage my mental health because I felt like I had gone backwards in this area. The recovery was long and hard and I was depressed again because of it even though it was much better overall. The recovery process can be lonely because of your restrictions and sometimes it’s hard to reach out to people and understand that you are not alone.

The first few weeks back to work were very difficult to say the least. I went home in pain, could barely walk and wanted to give up. Between my awesome co-workers, manager and surgical team it became easier as the weeks went on.

I am currently 19 weeks post op right SI joint fusion and 12 weeks post op left SI joint fusion and I feel GREAT! I realized today as I was at work that this is the best I have felt in over 5 years. I still have to work on strengthening my core and my overall stamina but that will come in time. I don’t feel like I would be my old self again or feeling this good if it wasn’t for Bronson Spine & Scoliosis Specialists. I will recommend Dr. Ellwitz and his team to anyone that asks and probably even those that don’t.

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