Gina Crosby of Kansas City had been living with low back pain for a long time.
As she describes it, “one day I was a little stiff, and before I knew it, 10 years passed.”
Like most people, Crosby was busy with a career and other obligations. But once she started being more aware of her back pain, the more she dug into her family history.
“My mother and grandmother both have similar issues, and honestly, I figured there wasn’t much I could do about it,” Crosby says. “I just chalked it up to hereditary genes—after, all, how do you fight heredity?”
When Crosby’s left foot started tingling and going numb, she decided enough was enough and made an appointment with her primary care physician, Holly Kaufman, M.D., at College Park Family Care Center. The medical staff at the Olathe Northwest office took x-rays onsite and Crosby received an opinion from Dr. Kaufman within an hour.
“Dr. Kaufman told me my back looked 20 years older than I am,” Crosby says. “She could clearly see the issues with the discs and joints.”
College Park Family Care Center helped Crosby make an appointment with Robert Beatty, M.D., a Board-certified Neurosurgeon with Neuroscience Associates of Kansas City on Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s campus.
Crosby knew Dr. Beatty by his reputation before she met him.
“Based on articles I’ve read, talking to other people that have met him and been to see him and the conditions he treats, I think he could have done my surgery in his sleep, although, I’m glad he didn’t,” Crosby says.
During her initial appointment with Dr. Beatty, he discussed Crosby’s PARS vertebra defect and suggested the pain might be improved with a surgery called a lumbar fusion.
“Basically, Dr. Beatty would connect the 5th lumbar vertebra to the 4th lumbar vertebra with tiny screws and bars, and some leftover bone from a laminectomy to help prevent the lower bone from pushing into the sciatic nerve that runs down the backs of both legs,” Crosby says. “At that point, having surgery wasn’t really a decision to put off—it was a done deal because I couldn’t keep going on like I was, it hurt too much. Even sleeping hurt more than it helped.”
Crosby recalls many middle-of-the-night stretching and bending session to ease some pain and restore the feeling in her legs and feet. She even replaced her mattress and chairs in an attempt to get the pain in check.
“Dr. Beatty’s office let me choose from some surgery dates, so I could avoid as many issues at home and at work as possible, but I also knew I needed to have it done soon,” Crosby says.
Nurses at Overland Park Regional Medical Center made Crosby’s overnight stay much better than she anticipated. “They described everything in detail and let me know what was going to happen beforehand. I really appreciated having them around and I wasn’t left alone until I was safely in my room, and even then, never for long. They are the ones who really who made the surgery bearable that day and certainly played a big role in my initial recovery.”
Dr. Beatty notes people like Crosby, who have dealt with back pain for years, don’t have to suffer.
“The goal of lumbar fusion surgery is to relieve pain, numbness, tingling and weakness, restore nerve function, and stop or prevent abnormal motion in the spine,” Dr. Beatty says. “In most cases, it helps restore a quality of life. When your back hurts, everything in life is more difficult.”
Although Crosby isn’t entirely pain-free, the dramatic decrease in pain and numbness allow her to control it with occasional over-the-counter pain reliever and very infrequently, an ice pack.
“Dr. Beatty says it will be about a year before the bone is healed completely and that I will always need to be careful about bending and lifting motions,” Crosby says. “I need to be cautious and make sure I use the right muscles. But, just the fact that I occasionally forget on the proper bending and lifting is a huge deal; before surgery, I never would have forgotten that my back hurt.”