Smooth Sailing for Spine Surgery Patient

Traveling's no longer a pain in the neck for Glendale globetrotter.

smooth sailing for spine surgery patient
Kathy Kelly's spine surgery by John Ehteshami, MD, resolved worries about paralysis, as well as numbness, tingling and weakness in her arms and hands.

You wouldn't think a woman who travels for a living would want to spend her vacation traveling — but you'd be wrong.

Glendale hospital consultant Kathy Kelly will happily regale you with tales of her exotic trips to Bali and Istanbul, snorkeling through crystal waters off Australia's Great Barrier Reef or scaling the Andes to experience the magic of Machu Picchu.

But right now Kathy's even happier about traveling because — finally! — she no longer has to worry about becoming permanently paralyzed from a simple fall or accident.

For almost a decade, Kathy was plagued with a combination of neck issues — cervical spondylosis and stenosis, with two protruding discs impinging on her spinal cord. As a result, she experienced increasing numbness, tingling and weakness in her arms and hands.

She had been trying to get them fixed for years, but it was an uphill battle. Kathy's job got in the way. As a consultant, Kathy advises hospital administrators on process improvement in all the operations that affect customer service. She has had her own consulting business for more than 15 years. Finally, in February, she was able to schedule her surgery.

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This article appears in the July - August 2013 edition of HealthBeat, John C. Lincoln's free health newsletter.

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Kathy's doctor, orthopedic spine specialist John Ehteshami, MD, performed her neck surgery, an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital where, in Kathy's words, "My care was flawless."

"It was an easy fix, a traditional surgery," Dr. Ehteshami said. He removed the bulging discs, instantly relieving pressure on her spinal cord. He then replaced them with spacers to keep her spine properly aligned, and used advanced titanium plates and screws to fixate her spine, stabilizing it.

The most important thing in this kind of case is for patients to understand the risks if they delay treatment, Dr. Ehteshami said. Patients with Kathy's condition often look for pain relief without realizing they risk paralysis if they don't get the pressure off their spinal cord.

Luckily, Kathy's problem was fixed in time.

smooth sailing for spine surgery patient
Kathy's travels have included the glacier that guards Lake Louise in Banff, BC, Canada (left), and Wat Po, the largest and oldest monastic enclave in Bangkok (right).

"After 25 years of working with hospitals to improve the patient experience, it was really interesting to be on the receiving side of patient care," Kathy said.

"I was very — very — impressed with the process at John C. Lincoln," she said. "The care was excellent, the nurses were so kind, the staff was sensitive to my need for privacy and still there quickly whenever I needed help. I had no pain, virtually no post-operative discomfort — except for having to wear the hard neck brace for four weeks," she said.

"Let me just say," she quipped, "John C. Lincoln does not need my consulting services!"

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