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Through 60 years of marriage, raising three children, and going back to get my GED so I could work full time when my husband became ill and was no longer able to work, pain never stopped me from doing the things I set my mind to. At some point, you learn to push past it. That is, until recently when the lower back pain I had been experiencing for five years became so severe that I was physically unable to perform daily activities.

Five years ago, I was still working full time and noticed pain in my lower back, but it was mild to start. As it gradually worsened, I remember having to use my hands to push myself up from my desk because my back bothered me too much to stand up normally. Three years ago, after working as a dermatologist technician for 37 years, I retired at the age of 73.

As the pain continued to increase in my lower back and down my left leg, I saw it start interfering with my life.

Between three children, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren, holiday get-togethers are a highlight for us, and I absolutely love putting on big meals for them. This past Thanksgiving, the pain was so excruciating that I had to go rest as I was cooking and let my family take some of the duties. At that point, I knew I needed to take action.

When I told my primary care provider about the pain, he referred me to Dr. Jonathan Mason, fellowship-trained back and neck doctor at Tidewater Orthopaedics. Immediately, I was impressed by how kind and personable Dr. Mason was. He took time to explain that I had a narrowing pathway in my spinal canal and cysts on my vertebrae that were causing compression on my nerves. He laid out all of my options, and since I really wanted to avoid having surgery, we decided to try some conservative treatments first.

When the conservative treatments didn’t seem to help, we had a thorough discussion on the risks and benefits of surgery, and I made the decision to undergo an L4-L5 decompression fusion with a facet cyst resection. While surgery made me nervous, Dr. Mason seemed very confident that, despite my age, I would be pain free after this procedure. He took time to address all of my questions and concerns, and he explained everything in detail. His assurance in this procedure, along with the positive experiences I had with all the staff members, eliminated my fears going into this procedure.

I arrived at the Orthopaedic Hospital at Sentara CarePlex for my surgery at 5:30 a.m. on December 29, 2016. From the moment I walked in the doors, the entire staff was friendly, professional, and well prepared. Within five minutes, I was taken back to be prepped for surgery and we were underway. Surgery went smoothly and after a two-night stay in the hospital for recovery, I was able to go home.

The first month of recovery was the most difficult, but I had an in-home physical therapist and nurse that came by a couple of times per week, and they made sure I was healing alright, taught me how to move so I did not agitate my back, and helped me regain my strength. My daughter from Oregon stayed with me for the first month as well, and she was able to help me with the everyday activities I wasn’t able to perform at first.

After two weeks, I was able to walk without my walker. By the time I was one month out from surgery, I was feeling much better. After that month, I was able to get around without much assistance, and it has just gotten better and better since then!

Every interaction I had with Dr. Mason and the entire staff at Tidewater Orthopaedics was both timely and personalized—they never kept me waiting, but they never rushed me through either. Prior to surgery, I was limited from doing nearly anything because of the constant pain I was experiencing. Now, six months after surgery, I am completely pain free! I am finally enjoying retirement and taking nice, long walks (I’ve almost worked my way back up to three miles), and I am able to care for my husband again. I owe all of this to Dr. Mason and the staff at Tidewater Orthopaedics.