Back in 2013, a middle-aged man came to me with terrible kypho-scoliosis. Scoliosis, being the sideways curvature of the spine; and kyphosis, being an excessive outward curvature. To paint a relatable picture, the patient said that he “felt like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
The patient mentioned that his condition had progressively worsened over the course of many years, to the point that he was no longer able to properly swallow food or even breathe well, as was quite evident as he struggled to get his sentences out. Unfortunately, this was caused by the extreme curvature of his neck which kinked his esophagus and trachea. Yet, in the midst of his pain and discomfort, the patient continued to crack jokes; and while we were never able to make eye contact in that first meeting due to his condition, I could tell he was the salt of the Earth type of human.
After the meeting, the solution was quite evident: surgery. More specifically, thoracolumbar osteotomies, followed by anterior lumbar fusions and finally an extensive posterior instrumented fusion. All in all, we reconstructed his entire spine over a nearly 20 hour time period through a posterior-anterior-posterior approach.
We knew, going into the surgery, that this man was full of life and had a lot of time ahead of him. Surgery was, to say, a culmination of training, experience, and the drive to get this man back on his feet and live life as normally as possible.
Post-operatively, he spent several days in the ICU and underwent an extensive recovery over several months in physical rehabilitation. Nearly 6 months later, we finally saw him in a clinic. He walked up and said to me “You don’t recognize me do you?” The patient said, “It’s me. I haven’t looked my wife in the eye in several years and I finally got to. Thank you!”
The patient said, “I haven’t looked my wife in the eye in several years, and I finally got to. Thank you!”
It is true that while the complexity of the case and the success of the post-operative outcome are measurable, the ability to restore life and to prolong the positivity of a patient like this is insurmountable. Patient care and delivering the best treatment options to my patients has, and continues to be, the driving force for what I do.