Overcoming My Fears and Reclaiming My Life – As told by Marleen Press

Doctor Spotlight

Mar 01, 2023

I hadn’t been bothered by my spinal stenosis in years. That is, until last summer.

In June of 2016, I noticed my big toe on my right foot started becoming numb. I didn’t think much of it, but when it started spreading up my leg, I became concerned. I made an appointment to see Dr. Jonathan Mason in August, and after an MRI, he determined I had severe lumbar stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal, and degenerative spondylolisthesis, which means one of the vertebra in my lower back had slipped forward over the next. He recommended doing a minimally invasive lumbar fusion using X-ray guidance to place two rods and four screws in my vertebrae.

Immediately, I burst into tears. The thought of back surgery was terrifying, but I am a breast cancer survivor, so I have had to face fears and fight through before. I was encouraged when he explained that he is one of few people in the area doing this procedure with a minimally invasive technique and that this technique would reduce the postoperative pain and recovery time.

He let me take a week to digest the information. Then when I went back, he showed me models to explain all my options. His bedside manner was so kind, and he wanted to make sure that I would be 100% comfortable with whatever I decided. Between his thorough explanation and some reassurance from my husband, I decided surgery was something I needed to do. I am a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school, so I scheduled my surgery for the day before Thanksgiving to align my recovery time with school breaks.

On November 23, I arrived at the Orthopaedic Hospital at Sentara CarePlex for my surgery around 5:30 a.m. I was very impressed by the entire experience. Dr. Mason explained everything to my husband and me, so we felt confident in what to expect from both the surgery and the recovery. The staff was extremely professional but also very kind. The facility was incredibly clean and safe, and the entire process felt streamlined and smooth.

I came out of surgery, and they had me up and walking that same day. I stayed overnight the first night, but the next day—Thanksgiving Day—Dr. Mason took time away from cooking his turkey to come look at my incisions and check everything over. He gave me the best Thanksgiving present, which was going home!

The recovery process was not easy, but I listened to everything Dr. Mason told me to do and made sure to get up and walk around as much as I could, even when I didn’t feel like it. Since it was the middle of winter, I would often take my walker and go walk at the mall.

Between Dr. Mason’s precision, God’s strength, and my husband’s constant support, I was able to make a great recovery. I went back to work on January 8 with some restrictions and have gone back to see Dr. Mason for periodic checkups since then. Every time, the staff would take an X-ray, and he would show me so I could see how well I was healing. On April 7, I had my last appointment, and we had a little “graduation” celebration!

Before surgery, it got to the point where I couldn’t even walk without feeling pain. Now, I am able to walk my dog, do my job to the fullest, and this summer, I plan on doing some swimming. Even though the thought of surgery can be frightening, I highly recommend considering it for anyone who is experiencing debilitating pain. It is important to find a provider you have trust and confidence in, and I found that in Dr. Mason. He did an amazing work, and now I am back to living the life I love!

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