02 May 2009

Stunning Spine Surgery Brings Complication, Recovery

Former Medical Reporter Has Scoliosis Surgery

POSTED: 12:33 pm EDT April 30, 2009

UPDATED: 7:01 am EDT May 1, 2009

BOSTON -- The two long days of surgery will be brutal. With quick encouragement from her husband, Rhonda Mann is rolled into the operating room to have a rib and six spinal discs removed, all to stop the 54 degree curve in her spine from crushing her lungs and other organs.
The five-hour operation on day one went well, but on the second day, an unexpected snag. Mann lost a large amount of blood in surgery.

"I did donate 2 units beforehand. And I lost 9 units of blood," she said.

"That is a lot of blood," said her surgeon, Dr. Paul Glazer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "It was pretty significant. Thank goodness she was able to get through the surgery."

Rhonda lost a significant amount of blood during the surgery. Despite the blood loss, Glazer forged ahead with more than eight hours of surgery on that second day, inserting screws, hooks and wires.

"We're actually pulling the spine into the right position during the surgery," he said.
The X-ray of Mann's new spine is startling.
"You can see the screws that are going into the bones, (and) where I use hooks to actually grab onto the spine and actually correct the deformity," said Glazer.

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It's all held in place by two titanium rods and a kind of medical cement, made from Mann's own bones that Glazer removed the day before.
"What you can see is this kind of speckled area. This is the bone graft that was applied during the back approach. And this will all become sort of solid over time and start to fuse."

A composite shows Rhonda's spine before and after surgery. Nine days post-op, Mann prepared to go home from Beth Israel and took a moment to read a Valentine's Day card from her son, "I hope you like this gift from me.”

Despite the pain from the two large incisions that will forever mark her torso, Mann is feeling hopeful that the chronic pain she endured for a decade is subsiding.
"I think I could be pain free. I think I could be. I don't want to jinx anything but I think I could be."

NewsCenter 5's cameras were there as Mann took her first post-surgery steps without a walker. "It takes a lot out of you."

One month after surgery, Mann said she notices every day that the pain has eased. But the emotions of undergoing such a drastic operation comes as a surprise.

"You feel like you can't do anything. I got really depressed right after the surgery. And then, you know, you start to do little things at a time. People will say, 'Wow, you went up the stairs.'"
"Just think about how much pressure I'm taking off my lungs and my other organs, and it's not going to hurt all the time."

- Rhonda MannBrunner: "It really is the little things, isn't it?"
Mann: "It's the little things."

The final result of her two days of surgery is better than Mann and her doctors expected. Her new spine shows virtually no sign of scoliosis.

Brunner: "When you look at these two pictures, it's got to be mind boggling."
Mann: "I'll tell you, I cried when I first saw them, and now I'm going to cry again. When they first showed it to me I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that that was me. Just think about how much pressure I'm taking off my lungs and my other organs, and it's not going to hurt all the time."

Rhonda returned to work about 11 weeks after surgery. "I'm absolutely so glad I did the surgery. And so glad it's behind me now."

Mann is two inches taller than before surgery.
It could take up to a year for her spinal fusion to fully harden. She said several sessions of physical therapy each week help her feel stronger. In fact, this week Mann returned to her job as a marketing executive at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for a full day of work and meetings, at the end of which she marveled about how pain-free she felt.

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