Arlene Steward – decompression fusion procedure success story

MOVING ON UP

Spine surgery at Methodist Mansfield gets Arlene Steward back into a healthy retirement

Arlene StewardIn Arlene Steward’s home, there is one constant — that Arlene herself will be in constant motion. Sitting still is something the 4-foot-10-inch retiree simply does not do.

“I’ve always been very active,” she says. “I used to horseback ride and was in gymnastics and cheerleading all through high school and college.” She played baseball, tennis, and golf and bowled regularly with her husband, Odell.

In fact, every day they would take a 3-mile walk around their Grand Prairie neighborhood. Then last spring, Odell found himself holding his wife’s hand more often than before — not as a romantic gesture but to keep her from falling.

“I thought I was just clumsy, but he noticed I was stumbling all over the place,” Arlene says.

She was showing one of the classic signs of cervical myelopathy, a condition that could lead to paralysis if left untreated.

“I’m still in the recovery period, but as far as I can see, the more I move, the better I am,” Arlene says.
“The success is beautiful.”

Seeing the signs

Cervical myelopathy is damage to the cervical spinal cord from pressure. That pressure, or pinching, often results from changes to the spine after years of wear and tear.

“The pressure kills spinal cells bit by bit,” says Dilip Sengupta, MD, orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, who has specialized in spine surgeries since 1996. “That’s why it’s important to pick up on signs like stumbling or numbness early so we can suggest surgery before permanent damage is done.”

In fact, Arlene’s first sign that something was wrong was numbness starting in January 2015.

Fortunately, Dr. Sengupta intervened with spine surgery in time to save her quality of life.

Lessons with the Spine Academy

Dr. Sengupta planned a decompression fusion procedure on seven of the vertebrae in Arlene’s neck and upper back to both correct the pinched spinal cord and restore proper posture to her head-neck region.

“Unless she could hold the head upright, the outcome would not be good,” Dr. Sengupta says. “This was quite a major surgery.”

Fortunately, Arlene had the help of Methodist Mansfield’s Spine Academy to prepare her.

“The Spine Academy is a free workshop to prepare patients both mentally and physically for surgery,” says Ashley Bolen, BSN, RN-ONC, nurse navigator at Methodist Mansfield. “The program gives patients valuable information regarding preparing their home for return after surgery and how to prepare for the day of surgery. We also discuss what to expect while here at the hospital and give patients a tour of our brand-new surgical unit.”

Arlene has one word to describe the Spine Academy: awesome.

“Nothing was a surprise because they had explained the whole process to me,” she says. The program also gave Arlene the opportunity to make arrangements for staying at a rehabilitation hospital after her surgery. Otherwise, in true Arlene fashion, she’d be too tempted to try to run around her home cooking and cleaning instead of focusing on physical therapy and recovery.

On the mend

The surgery on Monday, Jan. 18, was a success for Arlene, and within weeks, she and Odell were back to their daily walks — albeit at first with the help of a walker. Arlene says she’s glad she did what was needed to correct her neck and back issues, and she can already see an improvement.

“I’m still in the recovery period, but as far as I can see, the more I move, the better I am,” Arlene says.

“The success is beautiful.”

From the fall 2016 edition of Shine magazine

TAKE NOTE OF NUMBNESS
Numbness in the limbs and stumbling are often signs of a spine issue. For a physician referral, call 888-222-BACK (888-222-2225) or visit Answers2.org/Shine-Spine.