Unleashing the Power of Perseverance: How Suzanne Reclaimed Her Life

Rita: 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 spine problems 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. You’re not going to believe.

At the Get Back To IT podcast, our goal is to tell stories of spinal champions who’ve been able to achieve a better quality of life through spinal healthcare. In today’s episode, I am delighted to be speaking with Suzanne Wurster, a registered nurse who had two surgeries within two days in June of 2020.

The surgeries were both very successful, and Suzanne is doing very well and living her best life pain free. Now that you know what to expect, let’s get back to it and dive right into Suzanne’s.

Suzanne is a nurse who was diagnosed at a young age with scoliosis early on. She was able to manage it fairly well. It wasn’t until she was in her twenties that she began to have more symptoms.

Suzanne: The pain and discomfort caused by the scoliosis was always manageable in my twenties. I tried physical therapy a few times after which I was able to return to normal activities.

I am a registered nurse and knew that over time my back was going to get worse. I began to teach nursing in 2013 and started noticing I would end up with intense lower back pain after standing all day. In 2017, I decided to seek treatment and saw a physician.

Rita: Suzanne’s pain had gotten to the point where she needed to be proactive, so she rightly decided to be evaluated by a physician.

Suzanne: The physician I saw told me my scoliosis had gotten worse and recommended physical therapy and SI joint injections every few months. While this helped me for a little over one year, I knew something more needed to be done. That is when I saw another doctor who told me nothing could be done. His description of the surgery really scared me. He told me not to get the surgery until I was in my seventies.

Rita: Despite the fear caused by what she heard after that visit, Suzanne still persisted. She spoke with a few more doctors hoping to find someone who could help her.

Suzanne: In 2019, I saw three other physicians and heard a variety of treatment options.

They varied from, I can’t help you to, you only need a one or two level fusion. After every appointment, I walked away feeling more confused and didn’t know what to do. In January of 2020, I was doing a random search for adult scoliosis physicians and found a practice that specializes in all things having to do with the spine.

I filled out the contact form and was contacted within 20 minutes. Just one week later, I had my first appointment with a spine specialist.

Rita: Suzanne kept being proactive and did a lot of research online to find someone who could help. Finally, Suzanne was successful and was able to consult with a spine specialist, an expert in the field of spine care, who helped her determine the best path back to living a quality life.

The doctor was extremely friendly and helpful. He spent over an hour with me and my parents. He ultimately recommended two surgeries. The first one being a two level L4 to L5, and L5 to S1. The second surgery he recommended was a spinal fusion from T9 to S1 to correct my scoliosis.

He explained everything to me from preparing for the surgeries to describing the procedures themselves and the recovery process.

Rita: Suzanne was finally able to get the help she needed and was ready to move forward in her case. On day one of surgery, she underwent an ALIF interior lumbar fusion at the bottom two levels of her spine.

On day two of surgery, she underwent a posterior instrumented fusion where rods and screws were placed from her lower thoracic spine T9 down to her sacrament pelvis, which allowed for the correction straightening of her scoliosis. Originally, she was scheduled for surgery in May of 2020, but Covid made it necessary to move the surgery back for.

Suzanne’s condition required some preparation to get her spine in the best possible shape in order to increase her chances of an excellent result

Suzanne: In order to be physically prepared for the surgery, I completed six weeks of physical therapy. I had my two surgeries in June of 2020, 2 days apart, and they were beyond successful.

When I woke up from the surgery and saw my doctor, I could tell he had a big smile on his face, even though he was wearing a mask. He was confident my recovery would go well. I spent almost a week in the hospital, but was up and walking immediately following the surgeries.

Rita: Suzanne’s surgery was a huge success and her recovery went well.

Her recovery included another six weeks of physical therapy, and her therapists were very impressed with how quickly she was progressing. She had some limitations for a few months, but was able to slowly resume most activities over time. Suzanne’s spine went from a 35 degree curve to less than 10 degrees.

Suzanne: Besides doing my physical therapy, I was walking twice a day. I had limitations where I couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds, turn, twist, or bend. After three months, I was able to slowly reintroduce those activities and return to teaching for the fall semester. I have some permanent restrictions, like no heavy lifting, but I was able to easily make adaptations.

Best part is I am living my life completely pain free. I can definitely say I would not have had the same result if I went with any other physicians I saw

Rita: because Suzanne made the decision to go through with the tailored treatment plan outlined by her doctor, she is now living her life pain free. Most of the time when patients see a spine surgeon, surgery is not needed or recommended, but if and when a surgery can definitively provide a solution, an individualized plan prescribed by a spine specialist helps guarantee the best possible outcome.

Suzanne, your story is incredible because it shows the importance of taking action, owning your journey, and, and being persistent with finding answers. You never gave up on that quest in finding the answers that that just seemed elusive at first, many people would’ve given up. But what made you believe that you would ultimately find the help you needed?

Suzanne: So, as I had stated in my story, it was really in my twenties that I started to have this intense pain, but I really waited almost 20, probably 20 to 25 years before seeking more help. And so every year that I was teaching. And every year that I was still bedside nursing, the pain would just get worse and worse.

And I knew that if I didn’t do anything, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk so much longer. It was that painful to stand and do anything to even just cook or do things around the house. I just couldn’t live like that.

Rita: That, that, that is just incredible. And, and I have to say, you know, as we were going through your story there at the end you know, when, when you describe, when the surgeon came into your room and you could tell that he was smiling through your eyes, I just teared up.

I just, yeah. I mean, my goodness. I, having been through spine surgery myself and the fear and the confusion and putting it off for so long, you know, and then finally getting to that point where, you know, You’re healed and your surgeon is happy with the with the result, and, and you just, it’s just such an amazing feeling of relief, even though, you know, you’ve still got the recovery ahead of you, but just that part is now behind you and you’re on the other side.

Suzanne: It’s I just, you know, I get emotional when I think about that. It just, you went through a lot. It’s amazing.

Well, you know, I would say probably the hardest part was being in Covid. Nobody could be with me and so

Rita: wow.

Suzanne: Really the only person that was there was my doctor.

Rita: Wow. That’s, I can’t even imagine that.

You know, we talked so much of the time that success in spine surgery is, is really, you know, somewhat dependent on the support system that you have around you, cuz it’s a big. And it’s certainly yours. Yours is a huge deal.

Tell me about your treatment plan and, and how, how it came to be.

I’m very curious about that.

Suzanne: So when I saw my physician my now physician he was the person who really explained to me how my two discs were being crushed because of my scoliosis. And so they were. Like very little. They were like almost flat, I would say. And that’s what was really causing more of the pain and then the muscles around it.

And the first surgery was really nothing. That was probably the easiest surgery. I, it was very short. I woke up and called my mom from the PACU and talked to her and then I was up walking right away and I had an appetite. And I wanted to eat. And my food was restricted for those two days in between my two surgeries so I could like just eat clear liquids.

But I was up in a chair and walking the halls.

And I said to the nurse, like, you know, they wheeled me back to my room and she, you know, they told me how to get off and you know, I’m a nurse, so I was like, okay, I know how to roll and get up. And I was walking back and they’re like, how about the bed? And I was like, how about the recliner? Like, Wide awake.

Rita: Yeah. Yeah.

Suzanne: So they had to gimme some medications and then they taught me about how to walk with, you know, getting used to things and going to the bathroom, you know, protecting those two discs replacements that were just done. And it was great. Like I felt fine. A little sleepy from all of the medications after a while, but just that part was super easy.

I didn’t have any complications.

Rita: That’s, that’s incredible. And knowing that the big part was yet to come, I mean, that’s, that’s just got to feel heavy. I mean, I, I don’t know how else to describe what I, what I can imagine that that feeling is,

Suzanne: although I think I was more like, I’m so ready to get this done and over with.

Like, I was so mentally prepared and the only reason I had to wait initially until May was cuz I was. And there was no way I could stop teaching in the middle of this semester and say to my peers, Hey, guess what? You have to take over. And then covid hit. And of course it changed our world. And I, I live in Pennsylvania. My surgery was done in Virginia. I couldn’t get things done up here. And so that was really the holdup. They were still doing surgery somewhat in May, and I could have had it done, but I couldn’t see a cardiologist to be cleared. I couldn’t get my um, pre-op stuff done. That’s really what held me up until.

But I think I was, I know I was so mentally prepared to feel better. Yeah. And he was beyond confident knowing that he could completely fix my spine and straighten it out where no other physician told me that. And so I just had complete peace. And so did my parents. My mom, right before the one week posts, our pre-op, excuse me, one week pre-op appointment, she said to him, I wanna see your hands.

And so she made him hold out his hands straight. And I was like sitting there like, what are you doing? And he paused and he did it, and she’s like, I’m just making sure you have steady hands.

We were just all ready, like it was, you know, good to go.

Rita: Yeah. No, that, that’s awesome. I think by the time you got to that, that place you were mentally ready. You had done your research, you had seen a number of d I mean, you’ve just, you did all the right things to get to that place, and that’s unusual.

That is to be celebrated. And that’s what we’re talking about today. You know, I think so much of the time people are just, they’re lost. They’re confused. They don’t know what to do. They sort of give up or they, they take the easiest answer or the first answer and it just, and that’s not what you did.

And, you know, and, and here, here I am looking. Beautiful, healthy, vibrant. You’re gorgeous. You’re smiling, you’re living life to its fullest. It’s amazing. That’s great. One of the things I wanted to talk a little bit about was your diagnosis of scoliosis at a young age and managing it with exercise and sort of controlling that for most of your young adult life.

Can you talk a little bit about that and, and your awareness of that condition?

Suzanne: You know, that’s a good question because many of the physicians, and even my now current physician, that was one of his questions was like, what age were you diagnosed? And I don’t think I really even remember nor do my parents.

I remember one day, and I think it was junior high, the nurse came by and she had us all bend over at the waist. She took this contraption and ran it over our spines, and she was like, you have scoliosis? That’s all I remember. And then probably in my later teen years I was a cheerleader in high school, and I guess that’s when I first started like, ooh, you know, like, I have some back pain.

But I was a cheerleader. I was being thrown around. I was jumping. You didn’t really think of it. And then in college I really started to notice it, that when I would walk longer distances or have to stand for a period of time, I was getting some pain around my pelvic area on lower back area. But again, just chopped it off like this is life.

And that’s when I really started bedside nursing in the emergency department. And I would come home after a 12 hour shift and my back hurt. I was not a good bedside nurse where I,

Rita: yeah, we sort of just take that pain as like, well, that’s just how it is. I remember for me, I just thought, well, I’ve got three kids and I carry them around and I’m running around and in and outta cars and I’m working and doesn’t everybody have back pain?

Isn’t that just how it is? And the answer is no. It’s not normal to have back pain. It’s not how it is, it’s that’s your body telling you something. Right. So,

Suzanne: One of the physicians I saw I remember he was, that was one of his statements was this is just something you’re gonna have to live with. And I went really like, I have to live this way because

Rita: Wow.

Suzanne: Again, I didn’t see all these physicians until my early forties, so 20 some years of this. And then you’re gonna tell me I have to live this way. I was like, no.

Rita: Yeah. Well, I was so impressed with your story that you know, it was sort of 2013 that you began to have that very severe pain and four years went by before you really saw a spine specialist.

And I think. One of the things about that is that it’s sort of good to be able to sort of see if you can manage the pain, cuz this is a big deal. But the longer people wait for treatment, the fewer options they end up having because, you know, if there’s nerve damage that’s happening, if you’ve, you’re compressing a nerve root, which is sounds like is what was happening to you.

And so, so many people, the disc wears away, nerves are being compressed. That nerve pain can cause nerve damage. And like my surgeon said to me, we can fix bones, we can’t really fix nerves. So you get, you know, you get to a place where nerves are damaged. Now you’re dealing with issues around paralysis and, and other, other very serious debilitating, incurable situations.

So That’s so scary. What, what made you, was there a tipping point where you said, that’s it, I can’t take this anymore? Was that, did you have a moment like that?

Suzanne: I was seeing the one doctor who was doing the SI joint injections and they were painful. I wouldn’t highly recommend them. I couldn’t sit down for quite a while.

Rita: Were this cortisone shots?

Suzanne: It was a high steroid. He gave me two different steroids. Stadol was one of them. And they didn’t work. In the beginning they would last me, you know, again, like almost three months. And then after a while they would wear off pretty quick and I was right back in that same pain.

And where I live in Pennsylvania, there’s nobody around that treats adult scoliosis. And so I was having to travel anyway so closer to Philadelphia to get treatment for these injections. And that’s what I believed was that something was wrong near, you know, my SI joint. And that’s why I was having all this pain.

But then I realized like, my pain’s not down there, my pain’s in my spine. Like that’s where it really hurts me. And so I, why was I getting these si joint injections? And that was a question that actually came up during my discussion with my physician, my surgeon now. He was like, why were you getting these injections?

And I said, because a doctor told me to, like, that’s what he told me would work. I never doubted it. And now I look back and go, wow. I wasted like probably a couple years of getting those. Before I really started to question further.

Rita: Well, but it’s not uncommon to start with non-operative treatments. So, so maybe it wasn’t a total waste.

It, it, you know, hopefully not try to make you feel better there. But it’s true. I mean, you know, a lot of times you know, the surgeons will try to exhaust non-operative. But in cases where surgery is definitive treatment, then you get it done, you have a good outcome and, but it’s just knowing when and where that is.

Right. And that’s where I’m just so, so impressed with your persistence in talking to multiple doctors because that’s what’s needed in spine. And all of the surgeons on our medical and scientific board will say, get more than one opinion. Talk to more than one surgeon. And now silver lining of covid is telehealth.

Many surgeons offer telehealth consultations so you can talk to a doctor and, you know, all over the country and and get some expert advice that that way. You know, Suzanne, one, one of the things that I think is also remarkable about your case, And interesting for people to think about is that you are a nurse and you are in healthcare and, and that gives you a special window into healthcare.

Do you think that your, your background as a nurse helped you feel confident in pursuing multiple opinions?

Suzanne: Oh, absolutely, without a doubt. I needed to advocate for myself and that involved. Getting to answers. And actually right before I had the surgery I found out it was gonna be super expensive out of pocket because I was, again, crossing state lines for my insurance.

And so I had sought one other opinion in Philadelphia and he said to me, he goes, oh, you don’t have a spine problem. You have a neurological problem. And I said, no, I don’t, and I will not be coming back here.

Rita: Wow.

Suzanne: I just could not believe. That he chalked off. I didn’t have scoliosis. And it really just became more and more evident, like I had to advocate for my pain and my issue.

And that was really not many people can do that nowadays, and if you don’t have that background to say what needs to be done, what am I gonna be going through? I knew all the questions to ask for pre-op. I knew all the questions to ask going into it, how can I prepare? I mean, my physical therapist and I, like, I go to a very small place, or I went to a very small place, so they all took care of me.

They all knew what was gonna happen and they were like, this is how you’re gonna be prepared. And I was like, okay, give it to me now because I will do everything you tell me to do to go into surgery to be the most successful. And I, I did my physical therapy literally to the day of my surgery.

Rita: That I’m just, I’m like jumping outta my chair.

I’m so excited with what you’re saying because it’s, it’s just everything you’ve just said. That’s what we are all about here at the foundation is that people just don’t know. And we are on this mission to educate the public and to educate people what to ask. Get a second opinion, you know, don’t just take the first answer as the answer, you know, verify that.

Educate yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge and, and in that knowledge is the hope that you will get better. And otherwise you’re just, you just give up and you, you know, it’s just hopeless. And, and so I just, you know, again, being in healthcare, I mean again, speaking from my perspective, I’m, I’m a doctor and I had to have a fusion and I, I took some not great advice and I waited 10 years and then I said, okay, I need different advice.

Rita: And, and so it’s just, it’s sometimes hard to do, but. Everything you’re saying, you’ve got to advocate for yourself. Nobody else can do that for you. And that’s what we are here to do, is to give people the tools to empower themselves, to take control of their spine health and get on the journey to getting better.

Rita: I, I just, I’m, I’m just it’s just, it’s amazing talking to you. It’s, you are just such an inspiration and we’re gonna play that sound bite over and over again with your permission.

Suzanne: Absolutely. Ever since my surgery, I’ve really just been preaching my story to anybody that wants to hear it. And even if people don’t wanna hear it, guess what?

They’re gonna hear it. I show my students pictures of my before and after. My surgeon’s group has posted pictures of me on their social media page celebrating scoliosis Awareness month. I just feel like it needs to be said 10,000 times. I completely agree with you, and that is why we’re here. Mm-hmm.

Rita: So thank you for, for being part of this. Suzanne, can we talk a little bit about, you were, you were just mentioning your, your prehab, what we, what they call pre prehabilitation, so getting yourself conditioned before surgery so that your body is as strong as it can. After surgery to improve your recovery post-surgery.

Rita: Can you talk a little bit more about that and, and what that was like? And I know you were so committed to it. I wanna hear a little more about that.

Suzanne: So after I saw my physician for the first time in January of 2020, he wanted me to go through physical therapy. And at that point we hadn’t completely like signed all the paperwork for surgery or even decided like when it would be, it was just kind of the first step and here were your options.

And so I was he prescribed six weeks of physical therapy and I went there for the first visit. And as a nurse, I was asking a lot of questions and I said, okay, I might potentially have this surgery. What can I do to prepare myself? And they were really intensive with my therapy preparation. And so every time I went back they were like, okay, we have a new challenge for you today.

And it just became this like running joke that I was the best patient who would ever come in. And so they were all so excited those six weeks that I was there. And then of course they were like, didn’t wanna max out my pre therapy days before my surgery, cuz it was all gonna be done in the same year.

And so with insurance, they wanted to be careful that I could have the most after my surgery. So they set me up with almost an hour long physical therapy at home, and I went there twice a week. I did my physical therapy at home. Those other five days, I never ever missed the day. And I did them if I could.

Some of them I did twice a day, but I would do all of them at least once a day and then, They were so excited to be like, okay, she’s gonna have surgery. And I had met a patient there when I was there, prehab who had just had scoliosis surgery by a different physician. And I was like, saw a few things that I was like, I’m not gonna be that patient.

I’m gonna be this patient who comes in here post-op and I’m gonna rock this physical therapy.

Rita: Yeah!

Suzanne: And so within, I think it was two weeks after surgery, I was at physical therapy. I had seen my doctor for a post-op visit week two, and I was like, I’m ready. When can I start? And he was. Okay, let’s go for it. So I went, of course I couldn’t drive at the time, right?

So I was driven over there and they were all like, yes, you’re back. You had it. And again, every single time they were like, okay, here’s your next exercise. We’re add another one in. Here it is, we’re making you stronger and stronger. And I was using these stretch bands to do a lot of exercises and I was getting close to the end of my time there, and I was snapping them in half because I was becoming so strong that I literally was ripping them in half.

And so they didn’t know what else to do, and so they discharged me.

Rita: Awesome.

Suzanne: And it was really a celebration because most patients aren’t there for just six weeks. Initially I was told I could be there for up to like, you know, a couple months or even longer depending on how my progression was doing. It’s really only have six weeks of physical therapy after a 10 level fusion.

Rita: That’s incredible. Bravo. I’m glad they were you. That’s great. I’m celebrating. That’s awesome. Absolutely incredible. Well, and you were surrounded by the right team, so you had, you found the right team, you had that support, that that is just that’s such a good lesson and such a good message. You really did set yourself up to be successful once you were on the path, and I think that’s so important. But you owned that, you were owning that.

Suzanne: I still do. I still do. I haven’t stopped when I was allowed, I started lifting small weights again. But my biggest thing and now is I walk every day and every single time I went to see my position for post-op, the first words out of his mouth other than Hello, was, how far are you walking every day?

And it just became this joke. And so it was in the middle of the summer, it was so hot in humid in Pennsylvania, and I was like, I just couldn’t do it. And he was. No exemptions, no excuses. He’s like, get up at six o’clock in the morning and go out walking. And I was like, okay. Like he tells me to do this. I gotta do this. So no lie I was outside before the sun rose.

Rita: Wow.

Suzanne: Because when else do you walk?

Rita: Right. Oh my gosh. So did you, did you use a Fitbit or a a

Suzanne: I did get one after a while cuz I wanted to see how far I was walking and I ended up walking three miles. Every. For several months. And then when I started going back to teaching, I got a treadmill. So days that it rained, I could do it inside and I haven’t stopped.

Rita: I, I’m so, I’m so impressed and you’re inspiring me. That’s just awesome. We do message you know, especially in, even during COVID and coming out of Covid was just move. We say that just, just move, get moving. A body in motion stays in motion, and.

Just walking is the best thing you can do for your spine. It’s great that, that is awesome. Suzanne, what would you say to people who are having back issues or neck issues and, and they’re trying to figure out what to do? What, what, what is your advice to people who haven’t maybe figured out what’s going on with them?

They don’t know what to do and they don’t know where to start.

Suzanne: I would say do some research. There’s a lot out there that is good and bad and it will maybe scare you too. When I found my physicians group, I then really started researching what those terms were of fusions and rods and screws and what people had experienced.

And so I found a couple pages that talked about people’s success stories just like mine. Now, And I read those, I listened to ’em. I found a group online that I was reading about with back surgeries, and I had to come to this place where I was like, okay, I can do this. And I understand what it means. It’s definitely not for everybody.

It was. You know, it’s a very intensive surgery, what I had done, and, and it doesn’t even mean that everybody has to have this intensive surgery, but it means that you need to seek help and wherever that may be, and whoever that may be to you, then keep getting an opinion until you understand it. Keep asking questions.

Rita: Yeah. And Suzanne, in, in 2020, the National Spine Health Foundation’s website, spinehealth.org was just launching. What, what do you think of our site and, and what you see there? Do you think it could be a resource to others?

Suzanne: Oh, absolutely. It was to me as well. I had found out about it after my surgery, if I remember correctly, through my physician’s group.

And I immediately joined the Facebook group and got kind of just like, you know, I’m a spinal champion and making some comments here or there about it. And definitely is a wealth of information and has great success stories. And I still listen to several of them now, even just reading their posts about what they’ve overcome and what they can do.

And surgery has even changed since I had my surgery. Now it’s augmented reality. And I had wanted to be one of those patients to have augmented reality, and I was so pushing for it, but he didn’t have the equipment yet. And so I couldn’t get it done. But it was still very successful even without it.

But now it’s even changed since then in three years. Like it’s just crazy. And you need to have faith in your physician. Because it may not be a smooth process before or after surgery for anybody. I had a few bumps in the road post-op, and even just a few weeks ago, I was back down visiting my physician for an issue.

But you know what? Like I can call my doctor and get anybody within seconds and say, Hey, this is my problem. This is what’s going on. Or I have this weird pain. Is it okay? And I had lost a lot of weight after my surgery and so I could actually feel the tip of my rods and my screw heads. And so that was one kind.

So don’t, don’t chalk something off. Don’t just ignore something that may or may not be going on. Again, continued advocate for yourself and for your health.

Rita: Such great advice. The surgery, it’s, it’s not a one and done situation. Nope. And, and all of our bodies, whether we’ve had surgery or not had surgery, you know, over time we’ve gotta take care of our bodies.

And and definitely when you’ve had that, when you’ve. Put the kind of investment of time, money, energy, into this major thing it’s worth taking care of. And, and it does. It takes an ongoing, you know, commitment to your health. And thank you for sharing that point. That’s so, so important. It’s a relationship, right?

And you’ve got to feel good about that relationship. You’re, you’re trusting your, your life in, in that person’s hands. So that’s gotta be something that you feel good about and sounds like you did. You know, what I would say about technology? We, we talked to so many experts around the country and they’ll say, yes, technology and spine is a rapidly evolving area.

Very exciting innovations are are happening. But that doesn’t mean that the technology that’s available today isn’t excellent for getting people back to their lives. And so, you know, they’ll say, don’t wait for some new technology to come down the road. Don’t delay treatment. The treatments that are available now are excellent and Will will be helpful.

So, so that’s something, you know, that, that they, that they advise us and, and certainly that’s been my experience in talking with patients and, and seeing people along the way. But how cool that you’re keeping up with the technology. That’s really neat.

Suzanne: I have really used the National Spine Health Foundation as a great resource for myself. I used it a lot, postoperative to read about patient success stories, and I would just encourage anybody to go and research their website, go research their Facebook information or social media sites, and just continue to find more information that is available for you on their websites.

Rita: Thank you for that.

Suzanne: I have one other funny story. And so right before I had the surgery, I finished my doctorate in nursing education.

Rita: Congratulations!

Suzanne: Thank you. My physician. So I had said to him he knew about it and I finished my dissertation five days before my first surgery. And so when I saw him the week before for my, you know, my last pre-op visit, I said to him, I have one requirement of you.

And he was like, okay, fine, whatever. And I said, as you wheel me into the operating, Can you say, congratulations, Dr. Wurster. And he was like, sure, okay. You know, and so that was the running joke in the hospital when I was there. All the nurses who ever came in and even like the OR team, they were like Dr.Wurster. And at first I was like who are you talking about, and then I was like, oh, wait, me. So, obviously he met my requirement and he spread it to a whole lot of people.

Rita: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Congratulations on, that’s awesome. That is awesome. I love it. So funny. Well, what an inspiration talking with you, Suzanne. We’re so happy that you are a spinal champion, that you are sharing your story with us, that we can then amplify your story by sharing it with the world.

Thank you. Thank you for, for being with us today. It’s just been such a delight to meet you and I’ve seen you on social media, your comments, and now I get to see you on this recording. You know, we’re looking at each other on the recording and, and it’s just really. Such an honor for for us to, to have you share your time with us.

Suzanne: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Rita: Great, great. At the National Spine Health Foundation, something we believe in most is providing hope for recovery through sharing stories of success and expertise. It isn’t always easy to find someone to relate to, even though a hundred 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.


In this episode of the “Get Back To It” podcast, Rita speaks with registered nurse, Suzanne Wurster, who was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was an adolescent. As she grew older, her Scoliosis began to cause her more pain and she began looking for answers in 2017. Her initial doctor suggested physical therapy and SI joint injections. The injections were initially helpful, but their impact quickly faded. Suzanne persisted in seeking more opinions from several other doctors, but none seemed too confident in their suggestions. That was until Suzanne visited a spine specialist, a professional in the field of spine care. This doctor recommended two surgeries, an ALIF (anterior lumbar interbody fusion) and a posterior instrumented fusion. Both surgeries were very successful, and Suzanne is doing very well and living her best life pain free. Her experience taught her not to give up on advocating for yourself and that you need to feel confident with your doctor’s treatment plan.