A Nurse’s 20-Year Victory Over Spinal Challenges

Rita Roy: Hi, everyone. My name is Dr. Rita Roy, CEO at the National Spine Health Foundation, and I’m your host for the Get Back to It podcast, where we tell real stories of healing and recovery. What does it mean to get back to it? It means overcoming injury through treatments that work in order to return to the people and activities you love.

Whatever that looks like for you, it means getting back to your life. We’re here to share the success stories of those who did just that. And some of these stories are true. You are not going to believe

to get back to a podcast. Our goal is to tell stories of spinal champions who’ve been able to achieve a better quality of life through spinal health care. In today’s episode, I am delighted to be speaking with Jenny Jones, who began having some leg pain almost 25 years ago, which she thought may be caused by skiing with her kids.

Things quickly became worse, and eventually, an MRI in 2002 revealed a condition of the spine called Spondylolisthesis, instability of the spine, for which she had surgery in May of 2003. Five years later, she began to experience numbness in her arms. For which she had to have surgery on her cervical spine.

Now she’s doing all the things she loves, including skiing and living her best life. Now that you know what to expect, let’s get back to it and dive right into Jenny’s story.

Jenny Jones: I would talk about my spinal surgery and my symptoms started around the year 2000. Um, it was a long time ago, so that’s a kind of a date that sticks in my head. My pain started and I had young children at the time and I really thought that. That was related to lifting kids, you know, using heavy ski bags, pulling kids on skis, just general being busy and a busy mom.

But after a fall in my hallway here at work, and then the pain when standing, I remember standing at my middle daughter’s volleyball game at school, there was no seats available. My husband had to help me even get to the car because I, I just had numbness in my legs and pain My back, it was so bad. I, it was just horrible.

Rita Roy: Jenny thought her discomfort was just muscle pain, but in 2002, she started dragging her right foot and tripping. Standing also became an issue. While trying to get ready for the Boilermaker run in July of that year, she was about two miles from home when her right leg went completely numb, causing her to fall.

Jenny Jones: It was early Sunday. And I remember that. Specifically, that it was Sunday because the traffic was very light where I was out running. Um, after I fell, I was really hoping someone would pass by on their way to church and see me on the side of the road. Um, it felt like five minutes. I’m sure it was probably just a bit less, but I got up and remember thinking, why can’t I walk?

My leg is so numb. I finally realized I was able to jog because the gait is different when you jog and your, your weight is forward. When I got home, so I was kind of scratched up and a little bloody, and I got home, my husband’s like, are you ever going to make a doctor’s appointment?

Rita Roy: Jenny saw her primary care provider who told her it was probably just arthritis and told her she needed to run on a soft surface.

Ultimately, though, her primary care doctor ordered an MRI.

Jenny Jones: Yes, because of the numbness and the very pronounced limp that I was able to demonstrate, I was just really insistent that he order an MRI. MRI, and remember 20 something years ago, MRIs weren’t ordered a lot. Uh, I’m glad I had a good relationship with my PCP that he would do that.

Rita Roy: The MRI was consistent with the diagnosis of Spondylolisthesis, which occurs when one or more of the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, slips out of place onto the vertebrae below it.

Jenny Jones: My doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon somewhat locally, and that neurosurgeon I remember saying, do you just want a disability?

That way you don’t have to work again. And I thought, that’s, that’s not me, . That’s not gonna happen. So I went back and asked my PCP to find a referral to another neurosurgeon so I could get a second opinion. Um, and that physician recommended surgery at my first visit, and I had the surgery a few weeks later.

Rita Roy: Jenny’s surgery took longer than expected, and she was in the hospital for four days.

Jenny Jones: Yeah, the surgery took about six hours. Um, and I’m a nurse because the slip in my back and my vertebrae was worse than expected. Uh, back then they used to do, uh, used to put cadaver bone in people or take a chunk out of your hip to use in your back.

But uh, back then this was a new substance. They called it a biologic substance that I was told was similar to glue and would help bone grow. Um, and so they infused that so my recovery time, even from a few years before was much better. At that time. And my neurosurgeon told me I had a grade four slip and that the vertebrae at the bottom of my back had disintegrated.

Rita Roy: Jenny’s recovery took about six weeks and at the beginning was pretty uncomfortable.

Jenny Jones: It was very uncomfortable, uh, even in the hospital, uh, getting home from the hospital was hard. My kids remember me having to use an office chair on wheels to slide, even to sit at, to get to the dinner table. I laugh and tell people silk jammies help me roll over in bed.

I had, because it was just so hard to roll because my, my surgical scars pretty long there. Um, I had to return to work with a back brace and a bone growth stimulator and I didn’t require physical therapy after the surgery. I kind of bounced right back.

Rita Roy: Jenny was eventually able to enjoy skiing again, but selects the less challenging trails and just takes it a little slower.

Flash forward five years and she began to experience numbness in her arms.

Jenny Jones: Yeah, the numbness I began to experience in my arms was troubling, and it got worse at night, laying flat in my back. Um, I went back to my PCP and she sent me back to the same surgeon I had been to before. And then, uh, that surgeon prescribed some steroids that helped with some inflammation, um, that helped me for a short period of time.

The numbness became

Rita Roy: constant, however, and in 2008, she had a laminectomy at level C3 C four with. Physical therapy as part of her recovery plan.

Jenny Jones: Yes. My neck still feels tight very often. Um, I just do stretches, uh, sometimes, uh, even during meetings on WebEx and things now I’m 60 years old and I’m 20 years since my first back surgery, I’m still very active, uh, with skiing.

I helped build a cabin in the woods with my husband. I’ve cleared land that we’ve purchased. And I also enjoy spending time with my grandbaby when I get time to see her.

Rita Roy: Is amazing. Jenny, your story is so amazing. And it’s an, it’s an important story to tell because it shows the level of success that can happen, um, with quick action and persistent action. I would say, you know, I’m really, I’m really taken by your persistence and trying to find the right doctor when, when it came to, you know, your back.

Issue that you have the first, the first issue had with the low back pain, pain and numbness down your leg and you got to that first doctor and you just knew that was not right for you. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? How did that feel? Um, were you nervous? Were you uncomfortable? Were you confused?

Tell

Jenny Jones: us about that

Rita Roy: experience.

Jenny Jones: I guess maybe the word would be a little angry. I was 40 and very active and to hear a physician say to me, well, I can give you a note and you never have to work again. You know, you can stay in like the Barker lounger. And I thought, well, that’s, that’s just not in my plan for my life.

Right. That’s going to happen. Um, in my day job, I work with people that have disabling conditions all the time, and I never thought I was going to be that person. Wow. And, um, I just remember saying, um, yeah, that’s, that’s not going to work for me. And he was insistent that surgery was the wrong option, that that was the worst thing that could happen.

Rita Roy: Oh my goodness, and did he explain to you

Jenny Jones: why, what his basis for that was? Um, he indicated he didn’t feel, felt that it worked, um, so that made me wonder about his skill level. Yeah. Um, you know, um, don’t do surgery, it’s horrible, the recovery time is horrible, it never seems to work. So I went back to my PCP, um, well, actually, let me recollect and take that back a little bit.

I was going to go back, but they canceled the next several appointments in a row. And so then I was really kind of fed up. Right? That’s, that’s not, yeah, you can’t keep doing that. And I was in a lot of pain at that point.

Rita Roy: Yeah.

Jenny Jones: So I called my PCP and I’m like, you got to find me somebody else. Like where, I don’t know where to go or who’s confident.

So you need to help me, help me with that. And they did. Um, I remember my PCP saying, well, there’s a guy I’ve heard of in Syracuse. So I’m going to send you down there and then you tell me how this goes and if it works well before I’ll refer somebody else down there. Oh my goodness. That’s,

Rita Roy: it sounds like you had a great relationship with your primary care provider, your PCP.

Jenny Jones: Yes, yes, um, I’m from a small community where I live, and so I actually get to interact with him, uh, professionally as well, in my, in my work life, and we shared a lot of clients, uh, in common, so really good relationship, but a really good relationship. Great primary care doctor. Yeah. Yes. Hold all my doctors to his standard now.

That’s

Rita Roy: fantastic. That’s such a blessing to have that. Um, yes. And I, and I think, you know, we think about the history of what has occurred in modern spinal health care. And 20 years ago is, was a real turning point when things started to Really be great for patient outcomes. Evidence development had happened.

Then technologies that were available for patients were there. The biologics that you talked about bone morphogenetic protein and so forth that offer patients, you know, new solutions and, you know, You know, you wound up, you found your way to a surgeon who had the skill and the knowledge and the training.

Jenny Jones: Yeah, I did thoroughly check him out. You know, data is much easier to find nowadays about physicians. But even back then, searching, I’m in New York State, so through the Department of Health websites. Checking for, you know, any claims that were out there, micro health lawsuits. I went in and did my due diligence.

This is a big surgery and I, you know, you, you want to make sure you’re confident in the person doing the surgery. Jenny, that’s so

Rita Roy: amazing that you did that research. And, and yes, 20 years ago, there were not reviews on Google or things, things like that. So you really had to dig harder to do that. What I think is so remarkable about that is, You know, we often talk to people about the power of getting a second opinion.

It’s important, educate yourself, understand who is going to operate on you, have a relationship that you trust, really trust that person. But when people are in pain, um, or are uncomfortable or having the numbness, you don’t even want to do that. Right? No, you’re desperate. You’re desperate. You just want to get it over with.

You just want to get back to your life. You’re just like, I don’t want to take the time to, I don’t have the time to do that. I need to get better. But yet, taking a little bit of that time up front is so important to the long term positive outcome that, that you’re going to live with. Yeah. And

Jenny Jones: I think you have to have that attitude that it’s going to work.

And you’re going to have a good outcome, understand and expect there’s going to be discomfort and pain, and you’re going to be nervous. This is a big surgery, and you’re really hoping, praying that everything goes right. Um, but really I had the expectation, I had the expectation of a 100 percent recovery, back to 100%.

And my neurosurgeon indicated the time, he goes, I got you to 95%. Like, it’s just That’s better than probably most everybody else.

Rita Roy: Yeah,

Jenny Jones: that’s awesome.

Rita Roy: Yeah. That’s awesome. But that expectation is so important. The anticipation of success, right? So you do the things to make that happen. And that means informing yourself, educating yourself, um, you know, choosing the right doctor.

I’m, I’m so excited to know that it has been over 20 years and you really don’t think about your back surgery.

Jenny Jones: No, I really don’t. Um, outside of having to give up snowboarding, that was the big one because of the torque when you fall is pretty significant. I really don’t ever think about my lower back at all.

It, it doesn’t bother me at all. Um, you and I talked before we were broadcasting, I have a daughter that, uh, works for an orthopedic company or used to work. And her friends always ask me, is your back still okay? How in 20 years are you still able to go run or move about and really have no limitations outside of, not supposed to ski, but you know, life’s a risk.

Rita Roy: Exactly.

Jenny Jones: I

Rita Roy: ski too. I’m very proud of the fact that after my surgery, I’m only five years out and I, I ski. I take it slow, but I get on the slopes and make it up there and,

Jenny Jones: you know. It’s a wonderful feeling to be out in the fresh air and the sunshine and, you know, um, just to have a

Rita Roy: day. Just have a day.

Doing something you love doing and, and enjoying it with your family. And that’s what life is all about, right? It’s just fun. Living, living those wonderful moments, I think, you know, as we age, inevitably we are going to be doing less. Um, you know, less, less difficult slopes, right? Less difficult. And so that’s going to happen anyway.

So just being able to be out there, figuring out what’s the appropriate level of activity and, um, and going for it and enjoying it is, is That’s, that’s the blessing of modern spinal health care that we talk about and celebrate, uh, here at the National Spine Health Foundation. I do think it is amazing.

You’re probably the first person I’ve spoken to on the podcast that’s 20 years out. Oh, wow. And, and it’s amazing. Um, I, I, I’m so excited.

Jenny Jones: Um, yeah, I mean, surgery really does work and it, Fixed what the issue was, and I know I’m probably lucky to be 20 years out and not have to repeat with the the hardware that’s in my back, but, um, it really gave me my life back.

I was preparing for this and looking back how significant the issues were, you know, and I kept making light of them for a little bit, but they got so significant that My activities of daily living were really poor, like I had trouble getting shoes on, I had trouble, you know, getting pants on and things like that.

And so this really gave me my life back. Yeah,

Rita Roy: well, you know, that’s, that’s fantastic. We talk about people feeling like. Life as they know it has come to an end, you know, people say well spike surgery. You’re not saving lives. We say yes, we are

Jenny Jones: Yeah, I can’t imagine if you know 20 years ago if I taken the advice of the first physician and just Choose to sit in, you know, a lounge chair and maybe not work anymore and not, you know, be disabled, draw a disability check.

That’s yeah, that’s not where I wanted to be in my life at all.

Rita Roy: Yeah.

Jenny Jones: So, um, I’m, I’m glad I. Took the time to just say that’s, that’s not going to work for me, let’s find somebody else, so. That supported you in that desire to, to

Rita Roy: get another opinion and

Jenny Jones: to find

Rita Roy: a different opinion.

Jenny Jones: Yeah, and I remember my primary care doctor calling me at home.

You say I’ve had a good relationship. After the MRI came in and he said, oh, it’s not arthritis. Um, this is serious. And I was, I, for my first thought, I, as humans, you know, I’m like, what is it, cancer? Yeah. Not that bad. Not that bad, Jenny. I’m like, oh, good. Okay. But still not great. And, you know, it ended up being significantly, the slip was fine.

Worse than we thought. So,

Rita Roy: yeah, well, one of the other lessons in your story, Jenny, is that people will often say to us, you know, I know the technology is just going to get better and better. So maybe I should wait. I should wait for the technology to get better. And we say, do not delay treatment. Yes, technology improves, but it is really good right now.

And it will get you back to life. Why throw years of your life away and risk? Permanent damage, nerve damage.

Jenny Jones: Yeah. I, you know, between the five years, between the lower back surgery and my cervical surgery, just a bone girl stimulator. And I, it changed. I had this massive thing I had to wear for my lower back.

And five years later, when I had my neck surgery, it was just a little, like. Electrode y thing. Now they don’t even look like that. It changes constantly and quickly. And

Rita Roy: that’s not a reason to delay care. Because the technology is really good. Yes, it gets better. Smaller, faster, cheaper. All those things. But, um, the care that you get, what it will do to repair your body, is good and has been good for a long time.

I think that’s, that’s one of the lessons, I think, in your stories. Don’t delay care because you think something better is going to be invented or come down the road.

Jenny Jones: Right. Um, through my job, uh, I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people, I would say, that have had, Uh, back issues and try to alleviate that fear because if you don’t go and educate yourself and find out what’s available, doing nothing doesn’t work.

So, you know, keep moving forward. I get the fear and I get the, uh, you know, the, the trepidation of, oh my gosh, this could be a major surgery, but until you go and find out what’s really wrong and do your due diligence, you really don’t know. Educate yourself and find out what’s your best options and, and make sure you have options.

And finding

Rita Roy: the options. That’s such a good point. I mean, that’s what we are so dedicated to doing here in the foundation is making sure that people have the right. Access to the information they need to educate themselves, to empower themselves, to know what the options even are. I don’t even know what the options are.

I don’t even know what questions to ask, right? So, so it’s like, here are the questions to ask. Here are the treatment options. Here’s, maybe you don’t even have the right diagnosis. Make sure you’ve got the right diagnosis. Is it arthritis? Is it a spondylolisthesis, right? Let’s, let’s get the right diagnosis.

Find the right treatment, find the right provider. So those are big decisions to take and, and the National Spine Health Foundation is here committed to helping people along that journey. One way we do that is by talking to people like you who are willing to share their stories.

Jenny Jones: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I really encourage people to just, you know, keep going and, and find a doctor that you’re comfortable with.

And yeah. That you have confidence in that’s going to give you the right information and help you take a look. Um, I remember my first visit to that neurosurgeon’s office, I actually saw an older physician who like ran the office part and he said, I’ve got the right person for you for this surgery. And there was, I think there was about five or six neurosurgeons in this practice that I went to.

But I remember him saying, I’ve got the right one person for you.

Rita Roy: That

Jenny Jones: I know can help you and it just, his confidence gave me confidence.

Rita Roy: That is such a good point because we’ve um, messaged in, in some of our other programs that, you know, spine surgery is like, like many fields becomes specialized, right?

So there could be a surgeon who does. Bondylolisthesis surgery is doing fusions all day. There might be another surgeon who’s doing disc replacements. Another surgeon who’s doing, uh, scoliosis or deformity surgery. So you want to find the surgeon who is really good at doing the thing that you need, um, and that who does that kind of thing all the time, right?

And so that was so comforting that you had a surgeon who said, you know, I, I do X, You need Y and I know just the right person to do the Y for you.

Jenny Jones: Mm hmm.

Rita Roy: That’s amazing.

Jenny Jones: Yeah. I, I, obviously a great practice then, you know, and they’ve had good outcomes, good enough that I went back when I, five years later when I needed to, I actually saw the same surgeon again and I remember him saying, well, you got through the one five years ago.

This is nothing. Oh gosh. Nope. This is a breeze now. Yeah. So, uh, this more scary thing I think about the neck surgery is the, the surgeon went through the front. I just assumed they would go through the back, you know, so I have a little scar, but yeah, you know, it, it, that didn’t really matter at the time.

But I remember I’m like, what, why would you go through the front? Um, that one, there was only one slight problem with my cervical surgery was, um, the swelling post surgery. I lost my voice for about 30 days and I’m a talker. Oh yeah. That wasn’t fun.

Rita Roy: Maybe, maybe

Jenny Jones: now.

Rita Roy: Ta da!

Jenny Jones: Yeah, it would, my kids would laugh, you know, but I had to get a bell near the chair in order to tell somebody I needed something because it just really wasn’t there, um, but then it just finally the swelling or whatever went down and my voice came back.

And then I, that’s why I didn’t return to work as quickly as I just needed to get my voice back. I see. And Jenny, what kind of work do you do? Can you share with us what you do? I am the commissioner of a local department of social services in New York State. So we do like child protection, adult protection, uh, SNAP, Medicaid, public assistance.

That was amazing.

Rita Roy: What good work you’re doing

Jenny Jones: for your

Rita Roy: community. You definitely need your voice for that work.

Jenny Jones: Uh, yeah, a lot, a lot. So, uh, but I’ve had the lovely opportunities through my job to talk to lots of people, or You know, people that are, especially in our adult protective world, people that are afraid about surgery and their health.

And, you know, it has come through to some of them and our public health, my friends at public health nursing. Well, you had this. Can you talk to somebody? Because you had a good outcome. Because you always hear about the ones that went wrong. And people like me that you can’t even tell I had surgery.

People forget about because you can’t see it. You don’t see me limp and walk and complain because I don’t need to right

Rita Roy: And and again, that’s what we’re trying to do here is to tell and celebrate these wonderful success stories because When you get fixed and you move on with your life, you’re sort of you’ve moved on Right, um, but it’s a it’s it’s folks that have had not a good outcome who tend to You Talk about that, that here’s sort of the complaints more than you hear the good news.

And, and so that’s what we do is we tell the good news that there is more good news than not good news. Absolutely. And that peer to peer support, where People say, I just want to talk to someone who’s been through this, or I want to hear from someone who’s been through this. That’s so powerful and so important.

I know I myself felt that way when I became a patient, and I was a mother, and I had active kids, and I thought, gosh, I got six weeks of no bending, lifting, or twisting. How am I gonna get through that? I want to talk to someone. I need some advice from a mom who’s done this.

Jenny Jones: Exactly. I know I learned to kick the laundry.

You know, they tell you don’t lift, right? So I kicked the laundry down the hall, down the stairs, down to the laundry room, you know? You know, also, I plan to, to, to recover. And so, I was just going to figure it out.

Rita Roy: Right. So you had the expectation that you were going to get better and you were going to figure that out.

And that somehow manifests that, right? It does. Yes. That’s fantastic. I had similar questions about laundry, but more importantly, emptying the dishwasher.

Jenny Jones: Yes, I had trouble emptying the dishwasher because you’ve got to lift. I remember that.

Rita Roy: Putting it down in the dishwasher was kind of easy, but it was more like bending down to lift it up.

I was like, I’m not sure how I’m going to do that.

Jenny Jones: Yes, I do remember that was, that came up and I think I acquiesced on that and, you know, told my husband or my daughter. You’re just going to have to do that till I can.

Rita Roy: Six weeks go by fast. Tell me, can you remember what your recovery was like after the fusion surgery?

Jenny Jones: For my neck? For

Rita Roy: your

Jenny Jones: back. For

Rita Roy: your

Jenny Jones: back. For my back. How long the recovery was? Yeah. Well, I was in the hospital, like I said, longer than I anticipated. I was back to work in about seven weeks. I had to wear this brace thing for Like two or three months, and I remember, uh, being told to be very careful for a year.

You know, that it would take a, about a year of healing and, um, so that was May surgery, you know, back to work, um, and given what I do and I see the public, I remember a lot of people like, what, what is that you’re wearing? You know, cause it was like a iron corset back then.

Rita Roy: Yeah, like a bra.

Jenny Jones: And so people ask a lot of questions and that was, that was good.

But I remember being really careful and then I live in Northern New York. We get a lot of snow and ice and, um, That like November, I remember I walked out the back door and I slipped and I fell and I thought, that’s it. I’m paralyzed. And then I said, you know, I’m there for a minute and I’m like, wait, I’m fine.

I can get up and I was okay. So, you know, I was, I was very nervous. Um, but. You know, from having surgery, like, there was things I couldn’t do for a while that I forgot about, like, tending the flower beds and things like that, so the next summer and spring when you get out there and you realize, like, oh, shoot, nothing’s been done for, you know, a year.

Yeah. Kind of getting back and getting things under control. Um, I was lucky, like, in order to leave the hospital, uh, I had to prove, I went with physical therapy and stuff. So, yeah. Walked up a flight of stairs, you know, one leg, then the next, one leg, then the next. Now I was sporty and very healthy. So I remember saying, can I just walk up the stairs?

They’re like, if you can, and I just zoomed up the stairs. So they’re like, then you can go home because you can get, but by the time I got home, I’m an hour and a half, two hour drive from the hospital. It was an agony to get home, right? And I was exhausted. Right. You’re on a lot of painkillers, um, right? And the side effects of painkillers, you know?

Yeah. Um, trying to take a shower. Oh, that was, to get it, you’re not getting into the bathtub because you can’t get back up, right? Right, right. You know, so, full disclosure, my husband had to help me for the first, like, week. Yeah. It was to stand in the shower to To try, you know, try to get clean, he had to help me with that, and help me get my shoes on, help me get my, like, my pajama pants on, and things like that, because they’re really, um, you know, the scar on my back is probably, like, four to five inches there, so there was a lot of, um, stitch, stitches, staples in there, right?

Right. Right. Um, so bending was just, you know, Not going to happen. Right. And I, I had some trouble with the painkillers, the nausea that can sometimes come with, um, you know, painkillers and sick. Yeah. I was very sick from anesthesia. So even though the surgery took some more hours than thought, I was in recovery for many, many hours after.

Because the anesthesia. Because they had to have such a longer surgery probably, right? Well, yeah, and it just made me very sick. That’s my first recollection, is just, as soon as I woke up I’m vomiting. Um, you know, and I remember them saying, we’ve tried everything. Yeah. This is hours later. But, you know, it, it finally, it finally turned around.

Right. Um, when, and I was able to get back to my room at the hospital, but it’s been 20 years and I forget and I laugh about, you know, being in the office chair to zoom to the dinner table. But I really could not even like sit in a chair. And scooch it forward. I couldn’t have done that. That’s why we went to a chair on wheels.

Because you just couldn’t, couldn’t do that motion. Yeah, things

Rita Roy: have definitely improved um, in post surgical you know, outcomes. And yet, you know, you went through that discomfort um, post operatively for a short period of time to get your entire life back. I mean, I think that’s amazing. That’s the message, right?

It’s, and Jenny, as you and I were talking about, you were like, gosh, I haven’t thought about this. I, I forgot. I’ve got it. Let me, let me put my memory cap back on and try to remember what it was even like. And, you know, that’s, that’s just such good news. Um, you get through it, you get past it, and then you forget

Jenny Jones: what it was like.

Yeah, you just gotta look where you want to be. Like, what’s your expectation and where you want to be, and you know, you can deal with almost anything for a short period of time, and then you move forward. It’s so worth it to you know, to be able to move and breathe and Make a plan and do what you want.

Rita Roy: Yeah, live life on your, live life on your terms. Exactly. Live life on your terms. Own your life. That’s, uh, that’s what we all want. Let’s see. Jenny, um, I guess we didn’t talk about with your neck surgery. What was that recovery like? Was it different

Jenny Jones: than? Oh, it was, um, as I mentioned earlier, I lost my voice for about 30 days.

Right. Um, the, the, the neurosurgeon was correct. It was much easier than my lower back. Um, he gave me, told me to read, I think it’s called the neck book, that I have, uh, to make sure I continue to do some stretches. I am not in health care, but I think because it’s so much smaller up in your neck, you know, my neck gets stiff.

I would say it’s not debilitating in any way, but, you know, I gotta make sure I sleep a little, you know, right, got the right pillow there, the thing. So, I was out of work for four to five weeks is all, and then I just returned to work, but again, I had to wear a neck brace. I don’t know if they even do that nowadays.

So, you know, I wore a neck brace to work for a while. The pain level was, um. Much less significant than my lower back. Uh, I remember, uh, getting, uh, uh, a prescription for, I think, probably something crazy like 120, 150 oxycodone. And, and, and I was like, yeah, I’m not feeling that. That’s what, you know, that’s just about this time things were really starting about opioid.

Yeah. Opioid issues. And given where I work, I was like, oh no, I’ll be addicted. I’m afraid of that. So, um, I would say after a couple of days, I just stopped with that and just moved to like Motrin. Yeah. Or Tylenol. Or something because it was much more tolerable. Yeah. Um, I did have one little setback and I think it was just from swelling from the surgery where it felt like something was pinched and called and they just gave me another steroid pack, you know?

Taking the steroid the first day, whatever swelling went down and then that released that pain and then my voice came back. So, yeah, that was magically good. Again, I didn’t need any. Um, they did have me do some physical therapy afterward for my neck. I just went to our local physical therapy. Um, department and did some exercises around stretching and strengthening.

Um, and I did that for probably About three to four weeks is all, um, just worked with a physical therapist. It’s funny, you know, the other one was more major surgery, but the neck, um, required a little bit more. It was a little more delicate. Um, had to be a little bit more careful about doing some physical therapy.

Right.

Rita Roy: And I think also with your low back, um, surgery, you were in such good shape. I mean, a lot of times we, uh, find that patients do what’s called prehabbing. So they get themselves in a little more in shape. Before the surgery, because the more in shape you are before the surgery, the better your outcome is going to be.

And it sounds like you are in great shape, went into your surgery in great physical shape. And so then the, the need to, to, to do the recovery exercises is, is a little bit different.

Jenny Jones: Yeah, I was, you know, I was 40, healthy, trying to get ready for a race, um, that was the year, you know, for me, but I did, I had a recumbent bike, and I did that in advance, um, I am lucky that I have good health, and so I remember going into the hospital with the lower back surgery, And they’re like, are you sure you don’t take any medication?

I’m like, I’m absolutely sure I do not take any medication. It was still the same five years later. But, um, you know, suddenly I was old enough. I had to have EKGs and everything else. But yeah, it was just, I would say the difference in the neck is it’s just more delicate and you just, You have to be a little bit aware of that.

So, it’s, it’s, my neck is a little fussier, I would say. That one I think about only because my neck gets stiff sometimes. But, you know, like if I’m flying on a plane, you know, on flight. Right, the question is, would you be getting stiff anyway? Probably,

Rita Roy: yes.

Jenny Jones: Probably yes, but I can use my hands and I can keyboard and I can, you know, uh, that’s, it’s weird when it’s that numb.

Right? And you’re thinking, how is that even possible? How is that on my hands?

Rita Roy: Isn’t that weird? It’s, it’s the weirdest thing and you just can’t even imagine what it’s like. Until you’ve had it and so when you try to explain it to people, they just don’t get it on the on the flip side of that is when you do meet someone who has had that.

They’re like, yes, I totally know what that means. I get that. I had that problem and it’s. It’s sort of a connection that you just want to share. You want someone to understand what you’re feeling, because it’s so strange and so out of the normal.

Jenny Jones: Right. And then, you know, by then, when I went back to the same physician, um, you know, my confidence was really high.

But for him, um, to do that, um, you mentioned about specialty and I think probably at that time he was a younger physician, but he’s still in practice now. I looked him up, but he, uh, had mentioned he’d only done about four of the back surgeries per year that I had. He’d only really done. About for a year.

He said he did, you know, hundreds of laminectomies, but not that many, but he had good outcome on all of his and I have, um, family and health care down in some Syracuse hospitals. Yes, that to check him out on the side to yeah, um, and you know, to do

Rita Roy: your diligence. Yeah, but that but that’s important. And our doctors will even say, you know, chances are you have a neighbor or a family member that are in health care, ask them, yep, you know, ask them to ask about this doctor and make sure because that’s one of the best ways to know is that is that nurses who work in the hospital or folks who work around will know they sort of know who.

The good ones are right. Would you go

Jenny Jones: to them or not yourself? That’s usually you know, the question. That’s a good question.

Rita Roy: Well, Jenny, I so appreciate your time and talking with us and sharing your story. Um, you know, when, when you think back on it, what, what would you say to someone who might just be starting their journey?

We’ve talked about a lot of pieces of advice that we give people to you. Educate themselves, get a second opinion, trust their doctor, or what, what sort of lasting message would you give

Jenny Jones: to someone? Educate yourself, um, look for options, um, so, you know, do your diligence and, you know, don’t use, I use good analytical websites, nowadays you can do that and you know the good ones, right?

Talk with friends and family. Uh, get a second opinion, uh, in my case, I had been sitting on my fanny for the last 20 years, and, um, If I didn’t go get that second opinion, I don’t know what my life would be like. So keep searching and don’t give up. And you have to expect that you’re going to recover. You have to have a positive mindset that this is going to get better.

Um, and not just get wrapped up in that it hurts today and the surgery will hurt more. Because that, that pain will go away, right? That surgical pain will go away. You can get through it. If I can get through it, anybody

Rita Roy: can get through it. That is awesome. Awesome advice and insight to share with everybody.

Thank you for that.

At the National Spine Health Foundation, something we believe in most is It’s not always easy to find someone to relate to, even though 100 million adults suffer from neck or low back pain each year. To hear more stories of spinal champion recovery and access educational materials about spine health, visit us at spinehealth.

org. If you’re interested in supporting our show financially, you can contribute at the link provided. Thank you for listening.

Summary:

Join us on this inspiring journey with Jenny Jones, a dedicated nurse and mother whose life was turned upside down by excruciating back pain that began in the early 2000s. Thought to be just normal wear and tear due to an active lifestyle, her struggles took an unexpected turn after a startling fall created worsening symptoms. This led to crucial spine surgeries that produced transformative outcomes. Jenny shares her remarkable 20-year journey through misdiagnoses, treatment, surgery, and her dedication to reclaiming an active life.

With insights from Dr. Rita Roy, this episode not only unravels Jenny’s personal triumphs but doubles as an informative resource, shedding light on the evolution of spinal health care and the importance of perseverance, second opinions, and the right medical support. Tune in to this month’s inspiring episode as we delve into the challenges and successes of living with and overcoming spinal conditions, offering hope and encouragement to others.