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Doris L.

My Spinal Surgery

I never thought in my entire life that the simple task of walking would change my life forever. But it did, until I met Dr. Lehman. Here is my journey from pain and canes, to walking miles again.

I am a double breast cancer survivor, and have had many surgeries though out my fifty-seven years on this planet, so going into the operating room is a very familiar place to me. But when I was told I needed to have spinal surgery due to my scoliosis and other diagnosis’s, and would consist of rods and screws, I was terrified.
This all started about five years ago while on vacation. On the very first day while walking with some friends, I felt a pain in my right hip that was so bad I had to stop to sit down. Right then and there, I thought I was not going to be able to walk, that my vacation was over. But luckily it subsided and I was able to continue on my vacation. The pain in my hip didn’t return for another few months, and when it did I decided to see a hip surgeon.

When the orthopedic surgeon brought up my x-rays, I was shocked. I said to the doctor, “Is that me?” He then told me, the pain in my hip was not the problem, but that the problem was my spine. The x-ray showed a crocked spine that to me resembled a spine of either a deformed person or someone very old. He gave me the name of a neurosurgeon that specialized in scoliosis, which I made an appointment right away.

When I saw the neurosurgeon he ordered an x-ray of my entire skeleton structure. He said I had mild scoliosis and should be monitored. I asked him if surgery would help correct the problem, and today I thank God he told me that he didn’t feel qualified to perform this type of surgery because I would have agreed to have him do it. He just told me to come back in a year to see if my scoliosis progressed. So I went back to living a somewhat “normal life”, and just forgot about my spine issues, plus the pain in my hip had subsided again.
Just when I was living a nice normal life, bang the pain in my right hip started to creep up on me. I use to take regular walks around Central Park, but I was finding it harder and harder to complete the entire park. Then I started to take a real estate class downtown after work, and I had to cut the class short because I was finding it harder and harder to take the train and walk to class. It even started to become hard for me to walk the two blocks from work to my home. I knew something was not right and was just getting worse, so I decided I needed to get some expert opinions on my condition.

My quest to find the right treatment took me to see many doctors and professionals, and even though I work at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, at the time, they did not have specialist for this very delicate procedure. Once I started to seek out surgeons who specialized in scoliosis, I was shocked to understand the type of surgery that would be required. As a teenager I had a friend who underwent this type surgery. I remember she was out of school, in a body cast and in bed for an entire year. That was not for me, so I decided to try another approach. I tried spinal injections for a year and half, which finally stopped working, I tried physical therapy which included The Schroth Method, I saw four spine surgeons which all said the only way to stop my spine from curing would be to insert rods and screws. By now I was using a cane to help me walk, which took every inch of my pride, but I had no choice.

Then one day, my boss, who is a general surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in the Department of Surgery, asked me why I hadn’t contacted any of the spine surgeons at NYP. I told her I didn’t know there were any. So she emailed Dr. Lehman and I had an appointment the following week.

My first consultation with Dr. Lehman and his assistant Christine Boston was pretty amazing. I already knew the rundown because I have had plenty of consultations and they all said came to the same conclusion, but Dr. Lehman’s conclusion included things I had never heard before which was, starting me on medication before the surgery to help strengthen my bones due to my osteoporosis, he did not want me to donate my own blood because he felt it weakens my body and immune system, and his assistant sat with me for as long as I needed and answered every single question that was either relevant or irrelevant to the procedure but gave me comfort. They also gave me post-op patients to call so I could hear exactly what I was instore for. This also helped me prepare my home for the procedure, which helped me tremendously for my recovery. But when I tell you I was still very nervous, well I did cancel my first surgery date with Dr. Lehman because I still was not mentally ready for this type of surgery, and when I told them, they just said to call them when I was ready. So in a few more months, and with the help of a palliative care nurse who taught me how to mediate, recommended by Dr. Sheldon Feldman, a breast surgeon, I was finally ready and had my surgery on August 9th, 2016.

Today I am just almost two months post-op and I am pain-free, except for some post-op surgical numbness and discomfort. I have graduated from home physical therapy to out-patient physical therapy, do not need a walker or cane, and can walk almost a mile pain-free, and my back is so beautify straight.

I am so very happy Dr. Lehman has given me a new life that is pain-free, which will allow me continue to work, enjoy my two and a half year old granddaughter, and just to be happy again. The only reason I don’t regret doing this surgery, because I could not imagine a positive outcome, is only because of the skillful hands of Dr. Lehman and the constant comfort from his assistant Christine. Dr. Lehman is a brilliant surgeon, a kind and loving person, and was very respectful and patient with me.

So say, do your research, it’s perfectly ok to be scared, and if you ask me, go with Dr. Lehman and his team, or contact me!