Who’s Got Your Back? Vivian’s Story

Setting Your Patient Expectations: A Spinal Champion® Spotlight

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Listen to Vivian and other patient’s stories on the ‘Get Back To It’ Podcast

Vivian’s Spinal Champion story begins 17 years ago. When her son was just one year old, Vivian decided to bring him to a “Mommy and Me” music class that involved dancing around the room. She was enjoying herself until she picked her son up and noticed immediately that something had gone terribly wrong with her back.

“I went to pick him up and had to stop because I was in excruciating pain,” Vivian says. “It was so difficult getting my son back into his stroller, and then on top of that, I had to stroll him back home, which was about a 20-minute walk. I had no idea how I would care for my son for the rest of the day, but I just put on the television and let him sit there until my husband got home.”

Upon examination, Vivian had a moderately herniated disc at L4-L5. She was treated with a cortisone shot and prescribed medication to manage pain and avoid surgery. What was unknown at that time was that Vivian also had Degenerative Disc Disease.

“I was in a car accident when I was 23. At the time, I really didn’t have anyone in my corner who knew enough about spinal health that could tell me that the damage to my neck and spine would become a lifelong problem for me.”

A few years after the dance class incident, when Vivian was expecting her daughter, she began experiencing excruciating pain again.

“I couldn’t get the type of MRI I needed to determine what was wrong with my back at the time because I was pregnant. Once again, I was given a vat of Percocet, which I didn’t take much of.”

During Vivian’s labor and delivery, a failed epidural revealed another herniated disc.

“I was pretty much fine once I got the second epidural and delivered my daughter, but three weeks later I was at the grocery store, and suddenly I couldn’t walk. I was finally diagnosed with a severely herniated disc and had to have a laminectomy and discectomy at that point. We didn’t have family nearby, so we had to hire someone to help with my daughter. It wasn’t cheap, but it was the only way to make it work.”

Vivian’s pain returned in 2010, this time higher up in her spine, and another laminectomy and discectomy were performed. In 2015, Vivian lost some feeling in her limbs, and went in for yet another surgery, to have an artificial disc inserted in her spinal column.

“I was grateful to learn about artificial disc technology. It allowed me to drive and do all the things I wanted to do, but it was expensive and not covered by insurance.”

In total, Vivian underwent four surgeries, and developed spinal arthritis as a result. She knows her limitations but approaches her spine health journey with gratitude. For those on a similar journey, she recommends prioritizing mental health.

“Having such intense restrictions on movement for so long, it’s a lot to wrap your mind around. There’s a lot of stress that comes with it. You may take a while to get back to your life, but you will get back to it.”

If you are struggling with back pain, the National Spine Health Foundation has got your back! We invite you to join our private support group and learn more about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and most importantly recovery.