More Amazing Patient Stories
"My life has been punctuated by surgeries, but I’ve always defined it by academic progress. In reality the two have been quite intertwined. My first open-heart surgery occurred in infancy. My first spinal fusion in fourth grade, the second fusion with rod removal in my freshman year of high school. I was state bound in tennis with my sister as my partner. I graduated as valedictorian. My second open-heart surgery occurred freshman year of college, requiring a leave three weeks before final exams. My third surgery for scoliosis, a thoracotomy with partial rib resections, occurred the summer before my junior year of college. I was then able to progress surgery free through medical school, graduating with research honors and my husband Joel. Halfway through my surgical residency, the pinnacle of everything I’ve worked for, I was blindsided with progression of my scoliosis. I’ve never considered myself to be “sick” or to have chronic health problems and was working out several times per week, skiing, playing tennis and loving life working 80 hours per week towards my goals. I shook with anger and fear. I had been feeling short of breath and my back, neck, and shoulder pain had progressed significantly; my right hand had become numb. A highly respected orthopedic surgeon in town told me he could fuse my spine to prevent further progression, but along with several other surgeons I had easy access to in the physician’s lounge, referred me to see Dr. Lenke.
Dr. Lenke spoke my language. He knew I just wanted out of this detour and, to paraphrase, said, I can fuse you to stop the curve or I can fix you, you’re young and healthy so let’s fix you. This is exactly what he did.
Two-weeks after surgery, with a walker for balance, I was walking 5 miles per day. 6 months later I resumed my general surgery residency at 80 hrs/week. Regular exercise, hiking, tennis and kayaking are all part of my life. This year I passed my boards, graduated from residency and will be starting practice as a general surgeon with yearly dedicated time to do mission work with my anesthesiologist husband in Central and South America.I chose to share my story because the diagnosis of scoliosis does not need to be a life-altering diagnosis.
Dr. Lenke put me right back on track, literally better than ever!"
"Can’t say “thank you” enough!
🌺🌺“V” for V I C T O R Y
Today I walked LaFortune (3 miles) without having to stop and with NO back pain.🍾🍾
The last time I tried to walk this distance I had to stop 4 times bent over with pain each time. 😩
Almost 5 months to the day of my surgery I am walking pain free! For me this is “life changing “.💕
Dr. Lenke and your staff, I 💕you! Thank you for changing my life!
#scoliosisfree #painfree #walking
#drlenke #columbiapresbyterianhospital "
"I just wanted to send an update that at 2.5 years post op, I am going to medical school! I had my white coat ceremony yesterday. In the past year I have visited 10 countries, drove across the United States 4 times, learned how to surf, finished a pre-first semester medical course and now started medical school! I could have never done those things without your help.
I feel so much better now that I had my spine reconstructed. Dr. Lenke saved my quality of life. I am a totally different person now than when I initially came in. Today I can do all the things I dreamed about but used to not feel well enough to do. I am hoping to become a surgeon. Please tell Dr. Lenke and the team thank you for me! "
"During my 30’s and 40’s, I saw a number of scoliosis surgeons, and they all said I’d need surgery soon, but I didn’t feel ready. I am a hiking/backpacking Patrol Park Ranger, and every surgeon told me that having surgery would likely end my career.
By 50, I was quite curved and less comfortable than I’d always been, though I could still do all of my favorite physical activities except yoga. I have always been very active. I flew across the country to see Dr. Lenke, and he was so sure that I’d be able keep hiking,swimming ,biking and keep my job after surgery! I finally felt confident about having surgery.
Knowing Dr. Lenke’s reputation and that he was confident that I’d have a full post-surgery life, I wasn’t even anxious about the surgery I’d been putting off and dreading for 15 years.
My surgery went so well! I feel so lucky to have had surgery with Dr. Lenke. I am 2” taller and look much better.
It was definitely tough in the hospital but the nurses and physical therapist were great. It was such a relief to have the surgery behind me, and successful, that I felt pretty positive even when I felt physically miserable.
At 5 weeks, I started swimming, using a snorkel to protect my neck. It was hard at first, but it got easier. I swam most days because I felt so much better afterwards. The stationary bike was helpful, too.
At 3 1/2 months, I hiked into the Grand Canyon wearing a 10 pound daypack.
It’s been 6 months, and I’ve been working (hiking lots and lots of miles) for almost 3 months now. I just completed a 3-day solo backpacking patrol: I went very light and it was great. I snorkel and I swim up a storm on my days off. Every month, things get so much easier. At this point, I regularly forget that I even had surgery! In a few months, I plan to resume my volunteer job of walking dogs at the animal shelter: I can hardly wait!
I am so grateful to Dr. Lenke. I am thrilled with my surgery and more thrilled with my recovery with each passing month."
Dr. Lenke performed a spinal fusion from T4-T12. At that time my thoracic and lumbar curves measured 68 and 53 degrees. Post surgery, my thoracic curve was fixed at 20 degrees and the lumbar was still near 50.
Today, the lumbar curve has corrected and stabilized at 25-30 degrees. I look and feel great and am so happy I had the surgery!
I was first diagnosed with a very mild thoracic curve in 5th grade at a routine nurse’s screening in school. After that, once a year I went for x-rays and through sophomore year of high school, my spine was stable. My orthopedic doctor was not concerned because I was 15 and thought it would probably remain stable.
The summer after my sophomore year, my spine really started to twist and my curves started progressing rapidly. By the fall of my junior year of high school, my back was so crooked that I was put in a brace that I wore 22 hours/day. While all my friends were wearing pretty clothes, I was wearing sweatshirts and baggy clothes. We really wanted to avoid surgery so I was given daily exercises, which were supposed to help realign my spine. I also saw a chiropractor in New York City for 4 hours every week. He put me in traction to twist my spine into the correct position. At home, 3 times a day, I would put myself into the traction apparatus that had weights attached and I would stand on a vibrating platform for 20 minutes. I was waking up at 5:45 a.m. to start the daily routine. It was really awful. I continued this routine for 6 months. I was so unhappy because no matter what I tried, my curves just kept getting worse. It seemed that life would never be fun again.
I am a competitive swimmer and after sophomore year, I had gotten fast enough, that many Division 1 schools were interested in talking to me. It was my dream to swim in college, but because of my scoliosis progressing, wearing a brace, traveling to NYC, doing traction exercises 3/day; I was not able to practice as much as I wanted. I thought my dream of swimming in college and being a normal teenage girl was over.
Fortunately, we found Dr. Lenke and flew out to St. Louis for a consultation. Dr. Lenke thought he could do a selective fusion and hoped I could return to swimming. He could not promise I would be as good, but I was very hopeful in his ability. Once I made the decision to have surgery, I never looked back.
Dr. Lenke told me that I could do whatever I wanted post-op as long as it didn’t cause too much pain. I used pain as my guide, and at 3 weeks after surgery, I was able to swim a few laps in our pool. I was the captain of my high school swim team so I really wanted to swim for my team at the state championships. I was a little afraid to dive off the starting block, but I tried a dive from the side of the pool and I didn’t have pain. At just 7 weeks after spine surgery I competed for the Greenwich High School team and placed 2nd in the state.
At the time I made the decision to go forward with spine surgery, I was being recruited to swim for Harvard. I called the swim coach and explained that I had scoliosis and it had progressed to a point where it would be dangerous to my long-term health and I needed to have my spine fused. She asked if there was a 50% chance I would be as good as I had been before. I said yes, because that was probably the right percentage chance. I was worried that she wouldn’t continue to recruit me, but knew I had made the right decision to go through with surgery.
I am happy to say that I was accepted to Harvard and have completed my freshman year. I was a member of the women’s swim team and have continued to improve. This season I did best times, competed in swim meets across the U.S. and hope to be even better next year. I no longer have to hide my body behind baggy sweatshirts and feel great wearing whatever I want.
I am so thankful that I have my life back and feel very grateful to have found Dr. Lenke! And lucky for me, Dr. Lenke has moved to NYC so it’s now easier for me to see him for my postop appointments! I really hope my story helps others decide to go through with surgery and feel confident that the best is yet to come!
Me doing Pilates! Back to my old stuff prior to surgery!
Feels good !
Thank you, Dr. Lenke !!!
Leanne and I just returned from a family trip to St. Martin. One of the highlights was a climb up Pic Paradis.
It is a short but steep climb, and Leanne was excited to do it.
Wouldn't have been possible without Dr. Lenke and all of you on the team! We are so thankful, and think of you often.
Here are some pictures that show how well Leanne is doing thanks to Dr. Lenke's amazing work, and all the support she received from you and the team at the Spine Hospital!
Mark H. Husband of Leanne H.
She is able to do what she loves because of Dr Lenke and his team.
It is truly amazing the level she can play at, especially squatting for long periods as a catcher. Anyone who watches her play doesn’t believe she had a fusion.
It's crazy that she can make clutch plays like this as a catcher as well as leads her team in batting average after surgery !
Parents of Gabby R. #22