Beret Fisher can’t afford to slow down – she’s a middle school history teacher responsible for educating 145 students, fostering their love of history, and giving them the tools they need to grow into productive and engaged citizens. But with severe degenerative disc disease, Beret couldn’t even bend over to tie her shoes.
“I have a family history of degenerative disc disease. My lower back began to give out regularly, and I was in constant pain,” Beret said.
Beret’s back pain was getting in her way. She couldn’t keep up with her workout regimen, and she couldn’t travel, which she loves to do. And every day in the classroom brought pain with it. Although she had tried everything from rest and anti-inflammatories to injections and ablation procedures, she wasn’t finding relief. She chose to talk with Faisal Siddiqui, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon with the Inova Spine Program about a surgical option.
“Dr. Siddiqui did my neck surgery three years ago, which made a world of difference,” Beret said. “I wanted to get my life back, so after I had tried all the nonsurgical methods of dealing with my lower back pain without success, I went to him for help. I trust him.”
Dr. Siddiqui met with Beret and agreed that the time had come for surgery. “He said on the MRI, my spine looked like the spine of an 80-year-old,” Beret recalled. The rubbery discs that cushion the spinal vertebrae were wearing away in Beret’s lower back. A lumbar fusion would relieve this problem by fusing a portion of her spine in the lower back area into one long bone. Dr. Siddiqui chose a minimally invasive approach called an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, accessing the spine through the abdomen and using tiny instruments to perform the fusion.
“The Inova Spine Program has several strengths. One is volume – we perform thousands of spine surgeries every year, so no matter what a patient’s specific problem is, we’ve handled it many times before. Second is Inova’s ongoing investment in leading-edge spine surgical technology, which enables us to take advantage of the latest advances in spine surgery,” Dr. Siddiqui said.
Beret had surgery at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. For Beret’s surgery, Dr. Siddiqui used sophisticated 3D computer mapping technology and the O-Arm intraoperative surgical imaging system. This state-of-the-art equipment helped him determine the best angle and approach and gave him enhanced visualization of the surgical field throughout the procedure.
The Inova Fair Oaks Hospital team made sure she was well cared for before, during and after the procedure. “Everyone at the hospital was awesome. The whole staff was super helpful and kind, and the physical therapist was just wonderful. It was a really good experience,” Beret said.
Within a few days of surgery, Beret said, “I felt great. I had been in constant pain before surgery, but immediately afterward, I noticed a big difference.” She went back to work just six weeks later, and she is getting back into exercise with aquatic therapy several times a week. She is also looking forward to traveling again, where she’ll be able to go sightseeing and participate fully in the experience. She has referred several coworkers and friends to Dr. Siddiqui and the Inova Spine Program.
“I can do a lot more, because I have so much less pain,” Beret said. “Being able to do simple things like tying my shoes without having shooting pains down my back is just wonderful.”
To learn more about the Inova Spine Program, visit inovaspine.org. or call 703-776-4700.