We’re all told to face challenges one step at a time. But what if that simple action proved impossible? That was the case for 72-year-old Rosiebelle Hallowell. 20 years ago, the Howard City resident was seriously injured in a car accident. She says she’s been plagued by chronic pain ever since.
“It’s hard for me to remember a time when I didn’t have pain,” said Hallowell. “I’ve had so many problems with my spine and gone to multiple doctors. Nothing worked.”
Around a year ago, the pain intensified to the point where Rosiebelle felt it every time she took a step. She describes the sensation as an electric shock pulsing through her tailbone and into her legs.
“It’s overwhelming when you are dealing with so much pain,” said Hallowell. “I couldn’t do anything for more than 15 minutes without having to sit down. The pain was so constant and intense that it was very hard to focus on simple tasks.”
Rosiebelle sought the advice of Big Rapids’ own West Michigan Pain Specialist Girish Juneja, MD. Dr. Juneja diagnosed Rosiebelle with spinal stenosis - a common condition that occurs when the spinal canal becomes compressed. That pinching of the spinal cord and nerve roots can cause severe pain, cramping, weakness, or numbness. The pain, which is minimal while a person is bending or at rest, can become unbearable in the back and legs when they begin walking, even short distances.
Surgeons typically treat the condition by removing part of the bone to reduce pressure on the spinal nerves. But the surgery can leave the spine unstable. So physicians may have to fuse the remaining bone back together.
Rosiebelle was unsure that kind of surgery was the answer. She had already undergone numerous surgical procedures to relieve pain in other parts of her body.
“I had one disk in my back operated on years ago,” said Hallowell. “And I also had work done on my neck. I just didn’t want to have to go through a difficult recovery again.”
Dr. Juneja decided Rosiebelle was a good candidate for a revolutionary new treatment offered at West Michigan Surgery Center. Using a special tube the size of a dime, Dr. Juneja placed a Superion® by Vertiflex® Interspinous Spacer between Rosiebelle’s vertebrae - or bones in her spine. The spacer acts as a blocker, holding the vertebrae open, which works to relieve pressure on the patient’s nerves. The FDA approved procedure takes just minutes, and requires only a small incision in the lower back. Dr. Juneja says he’s excited to offer this minimally invasive alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgery.
“This intervention is a game-changer,” said Dr. Juneja. “Almost every patient can be offered this treatment if they have symptomatic spinal stenosis. This new intervention is so simple, and preserves the bone. As a result, patients recover quicker and can feel the difference almost immediately.”
“It’s unbelievable.” said Hallowell. “One day later and the pain in my legs was just gone. Now I’m able to get back to my artwork and all the other things I love. I am so happy and thankful for Dr. Juneja and his staff. He is a brilliant doctor who truly cares.”
Dr. Juneja is one of only a few doctors in the country and the only doctor in west Michigan trained to perform the procedure using the Vertiflex® Interspinous Spacer. He hopes to help more people like Rosiebelle overcome their pain.
“Our goal is to help patients get back to living their lives without having to depend on medications,” said Dr. Juneja. “We’re proud to bring this state-of-the-art care to the people of our surrounding rural community and beyond.”