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Health & wellbeing – I’ve got my life back

Grandmother Sue Watson says she can enjoy her life again after undergoing spinal surgery. Barry Nelson reports

RETIRED hairdresser Sue Watson was looking forward to spending more times with her four grandchildren when disaster struck. “I felt something go in my back and I suddenly found that I couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes without unbelievable pain, ” she says.

Sue, 64, of Darlington, who ran Sue’s Hair and Beauty, in Cockerton, for many years, adds: “I went to the doctors and they told me it was probably just wear and tear because of my age.

“I found it really difficult to get across to my GP the amount of pain I was in, ” recalls, Sue, who also experienced pins and needles shooting down her legs.

In February her GP arranged for her to have an MRI scan as well as a battery of hospital tests. Eventually she got an appointment to see a consultant to discuss her back problems – but her heart sank when this was called off at short notice.

“I was supposed to see an NHS consultant at the Spire Hosital, in Washington, on June 21 but a few weeks before they cancelled, ” says Sue, who felt that she was back to square one.

At this stage, a friend gave Sue a cutting from The Northern Echo about the work of North-East spinal surgeon Manoj Krishna. Mr Krishna, who is based at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, but also does private work, specialises in helping hard-to-treat patients with a wide range of back problems.

“I arranged to have a consultation with Mr Krishna and he gave me a great deal of hope that he could make me better, ” she says.

Because she wanted to be operated on as soon as possible she opted to go private, a decision which cost thousands of pounds – but she feels it was worth every penny.

“I just decided we had to get on with it there and then. I felt there is no price you can put on your health.”

Just three weeks after the consultation, she went under the knife at the Spire Hospital in Norton, on Teesside. “I was absolutely petrified before the operation, but 12 hours later I was walking again and the back pain was gone, ” she says. “I can now walk for miles without any problem. Before the operation, I could do very little, but I now feel as if I have got my life back again. I felt on the outside of life looking in, I couldn’t pick my grandkids up before I had the operation, but that’s not a problem any more.”

Mr Krishna, explains that the pain experienced by Sue was caused by degeneration to a disk in the lower spine. “It had prolapsed and was pressing on a nerve, causing her back and leg pain, ” he says.

To give the procedure its full name the operation on Sue was a ‘less invasive posterior lumbar interbody fusion’. “It is where we remove the damaged disc and the facet joints, free up the nerves and restore normal loading across the disc by filling it with bone enclosed in cages, ” says Mr Krishna.

SUE was typical of many of the patients he sees. Often they despair of finding a solution to chronic back pain.

But the consultation orthopaedic surgeon believes he can help many of them find relief.

“There is no need in the 21st Century to suffer in silence. I believe that every human being has a right to a life without pain. Preventing back pain with regular exercise is important.”

My general message to all back sufferers is major advances in spinal surgery have made the impossible, possible. Surgery is safer, outcomes more predictable and recovery faster than ten years ago. There have also been major advances in the quality of MRI scans and diagnosis and in our understanding of pain.

Surgery is needed in only a small number of patients we see. The rest improve with conservative treatment.”

For Sue, the important thing is that she can now enjoy life to the full again.

“My family are the most important thing in my life. I wasn’t able to have a normal life with them but I can now. I can pick up my grandchildren and I can run upstairs, ” she says. “Before the operation I couldn’t do anything.”

Story taken from: Northern Echo