MaryAnn Mortensen Mary Ann Big Back Surgery

First post: Feb 19, 2017 Latest post: Feb 26, 2017
Hey there family and friends... Many of you know about my long journey with my back. It started almost 15 years ago. After my pregnancies, the damage to my back became impossible to ignore. The reality was, with a broken vertebrae (spondylolisthesis) I really had no choice but to get a 2-level fusion. Over the years and 5 more surgeries later, 3 of those were fusions. Over the years, as my lower spine became straighter the more difficult it has been to walk sometimes even short distances to the mailbox (country driveway, mall) and stand (cooking, shopping lines). So this summer, right on schedule, the next disc up ruptured and it was time to figure out a plan. 

I learned about a new idea I had never heard before. The local neurosurgeon mentioned some Cleveland Clinic Neurosurgeon who was promoting awareness of something called "flatback syndrome." The idea is, as people like me get fusion after fusion and end up with a poker straight spine and lose the lumbar curve, they also lose the healthy mechanics or physics of the back. Without the curve, the upper spine pitches forward forcing the back muscles, pelvis, and even thighs to overwork to just hold the upper body up. It's excruciatingly painful and exhausting. Overtime, a person's posture becomes pitched forward. Any unnatural posture puts enormous stress on other muscles and joints. 

Long story short, there is a complicated procedure called "flatback revision surgery" done by a select few of the very best neurosurgeons and hospitals. It is a complex back surgery where a computer calculates the perfect wedge to be cut out of the lower spine. It's a long surgery (10 hours), blood loss is recycled as much as possible, but usually about 5 units are needed. Because the surgery is so long, a patient stays a night or two in ICU. The dangers are blood loss, blood clots, infection, nerve damage, and spinal cord damage - since the spinal cord is right there when pieces of bone are removed, so add 1-5% chance of paralysis. 

The history and development of this surgery, while newer to fusion patients was recognized from decades of helping scoliosis patients, especially the Harrington Rod patients. Some patients have noticed immediate relief the first time they stand up, others discovered they could walk 5 miles only 3 months post op, one woman ran a 5K two years out. 

It's going to be a lot of very hard work. It's going to be an excruciating amount of pain. The process will take the better part of a year, maybe longer. But after several months of study and prayer, our family has decided go through with this process. My surgery is scheduled for 2/27/2017. This website is to share with those who would like to join me on this journey. Thank you so much for sharing your prayers and support. 

Mary Ann

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