In February of 2007, Terry Rowe began to have sciatica, a shooting pain that ran from her low back down her left leg all the way to her toes. Even after visits to her primary care physician, an orthopaedic doctor and a chiropractor, “The thought of standing in line at the grocery store or the post office was enough to make me cringe,” she said.
Terry’s pain became so consuming that she worried she would not be able to walk down the aisle for her daughter’s wedding in June of 2008, so in April of that year she traveled to Tampa, Florida to try a new procedure her husband read about. “I have to admit whatever they shot me up with got me through the wedding but then the pain came back with a vengeance.” The constant pain led her to multiple pain management injections over the next nine months.
A new grandson was on the horizon and Terry couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to play with him or take him for a walk. She explained how she came to see Dr. Jacek Malik at Peninsula Regional Neurosurgery. “A friend of ours told us that Dr. Malik had performed surgery on her slipped disc and she was much better. I made an appointment right away.”
Learning her history and viewing her x-rays, Dr. Malik was able to quickly see what was happening in Terry’s back, primarily spondylolisthesis, or a slipping of one vertebrae on top of another. “He was the first one to really explain to me what was wrong with me and how he could fix it,” Terry said. “I had a cracked vertebra that had slipped and was pressing against my sciatic nerve. He believed this came from an injury years ago when I was a young girl and it became exacerbated with age.”
Terry says she can’t remember a specific accident, but she recalls several spills from skateboards and skim boards in her younger days. She had also been an avid bowler from the age of eight, but the agony in her back had caused her to give up that—her favorite sport. Fearful, but with thoughts of maybe one day being able to enjoy bowling and her new grandson, Terry scheduled her surgery for December 1, 2009.
Dr. Malik performed a spinal fusion using stereotactic neuronavigation. Using neuronavigation is likened to using a GPS to get to where you’re going. It shows the surgeon a 3D picture of the patient’s anatomy allowing them to be precise with smaller incisions and movements very close to the spine. The goal of the surgery, said Dr. Malik, “is to relieve pain, regain function and return to normal activity.”
Just weeks after her surgery, Terry attended Christmas dinner with her family. She recalls noticing that the sciatic pain that had plagued her for years was finally gone and at about nine months after surgery she was able to rejoin her bowling league. Terry proudly announced, “I ended the season with the league high average. I did have to change my approach somewhat. I always try to keep my back straight and avoid bending. Most importantly I can pick up my grandson, play with him, and take him for walks.” To stay healthy, “I keep my weight down and walk thirty minutes most days to try to keep my core strong.”
“I can't thank Dr. Malik enough. He not only fixed me so that I could continue with a normal life but during the whole process he was concerned and compassionate. I know he has a lot of patients but he always made me feel like he really cared about me.”