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Jessica, Spinal Surgery Patient


Listen to Jessica’s story about having her spine rebuilt so she could walk again.



Watch how Jessica is reimagining the impossible.

Not all that long ago, the list of things Jessica couldn’t do was lengthy. She couldn’t stand upright or breathe without struggle. She couldn’t pick up her children or go for walks with them. Some days, she couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain. Now, after spinal osteotomy surgery, the list of things she can do is essentially unlimited. She can ski, bike and go for two-mile treks. She was healthy enough to have a third child. She stands normally.

Though Jessica, who was physically active and had worked as a personal trainer, underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2008 to address the problems and pain caused by three herniated discs, she didn’t experience the relief she was hoping for. Instead, her spine fused in an improper position, pushing her torso forward. For her second surgery, Jessica chose Lawrence Lenke, MD, chief of orthopedic spine surgery at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“My husband, my kids and my parents came with me to St. Louis,” says Jessica, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. “We reserved a big hotel room and set up camp for a month.” When she talked with Dr. Lenke just a few days before the surgery, he told her, “Don’t worry, we can do this. I can fix you.” Those words gave Jessica the confidence to move forward.

“What we did for Jessica was a spinal osteotomy, which essentially is a reshaping of the spine,” Lenke says. “We do more of these kinds of surgeries than any other center in the country, if not the world.” That kind of experience means the surgeons become accustomed to the nuances of the procedure; as a result, they are more skilled and the outcomes for patients they treat are better. “We have a team of expert professionals, including neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons who focus on collaboration, which is why these surgeries are so successful,” Lenke says. “Jessica should have a normal future with a spine that stays in position for the rest of her life.”

Jessica puts it this way: “Dr. Lenke gave me my life back.” Before Jessica’s surgery, she had days when she couldn’t do anything. After her surgery, Jessica says, “I do everything I need to do.”

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