I feel I have made the best decision to enable me to enjoy my senior years. What a great outcome!
For years, Dale Winell experienced back pain. The 78-year-old mother of three adult children says the pain started not long after having her first child. But in 2017, the pain intensified.
“I couldn’t walk more than about a block without feeling pain and weakness in my leg,” the former nurse says. “I would have to bend over and touch my toes to relieve whatever pressure it was causing me the discomfort. I began experiencing right leg weakness when walking downstairs. I feared my leg would give out causing me to fall.”
Dale realized her ability to walk was decreasing. Her husband Marvin, a retired orthopedic surgeon, ordered an x-ray followed by an MRI of her lumbosacral spine — the lower back where the spine curves inward toward the abdomen. These tests showed scoliosis, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis of the lumbosacral spine.
“My daughter Jennifer, who is also an orthopedic surgeon, suggested that I see Dr. Mark Weidenbaum who was her mentor when she was a resident in orthopedic surgery at NYP/Columbia. She had assisted him in surgery and knew firsthand that he was an excellent orthopedic surgeon,” Dale recalls. Dr. Weidenbaum initially tried conservative treatment, including nerve block injections. When the pain persisted after six months, Dr. Weidenbaum, who was no longer performing surgery, referred Dale to Dr. Zeeshan Sardar, orthopedic spine surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital.
Dr. Sardar reviewed Dale’s imaging studies and consulted with the spine team surgeons. It was decided to perform a multi-hour procedure to remove pressure on the spinal nerves and to straighten and stabilize Dale’s spine. “One thinks and worries about having surgery at the mature age of 78. However, after undergoing extensive preoperative evaluation, I realized that this was an optimal time for me to undergo this major procedure. I wanted to continue my desired lifestyle of activity which involved walking my dog, swimming, hiking, going to museums, concerts and traveling,” she says.
On April 9, 2019, Dale and Marvin left their home in Jersey City for the New York-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital. As Marvin waited during the seven hour surgery, he received updates from the clinical team every two hours on his cell phone.
“After returning to my room following the surgery, numerous caregivers were present checking on my status and making sure that everything was going well postoperatively. I was extremely pleased that prompt attention was given to my requests every time I pressed the call button with no delay.”
A day and a half after the surgery, Dale was walking in the corridors with physical therapists. On the following day, she was climbing stairs. Dr. Sardar prescribed walking as her physical therapy.
In the months since the surgery, Dale enjoys walking her dog Camilla for over an hour each day and swimming up to ten 75-foot laps. Her only restrictions are heavy lifting and strenuous bending.
She says: “I feel I have made the best decision to enable me to enjoy my senior years. What a great outcome!”