How a Second Opinion Changed Everything

Elizabeth Chaubin of Gibbs, 75, always takes a coconut cake to church meals. “Well I don’t want to brag, but everybody wants me to make my coconut cake,” she said. “I do like to cook.”

Chaubin had plenty of experience cooking when she was the dietary supervisor at a nursing home in Knoxville for years. But since retirement, the kitchen and any kind of work had become a challenge.

“I’ve had back pain for years, I guess since I was in my 30s. But when I retired it got worse and worse, until I could hardly walk and I would fall,” said Chaubin. “My legs from my hips down went numb about seven years ago.

“I had a walker,” she said. “I could sit down in the kitchen to cook. It got to where I wouldn’t go to the store because it was such a challenge to go. It was really bad.”

Chaubin had a condition called spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows because of a thickening of the bones and ligaments. Over time, the bones and ligaments begin pushing on the spine, which causes pain and numbness down the legs. She also had spondylolisthesis, a misalignment of the lumbar vertebra, which added to the stenosis.

Chaubin consulted a spine specialist about the pain. He told her that surgery would be a major ordeal, lasting 12 or 13 hours long, and have only about a 75 percent chance of being effective.

“He said my spine was closing up and even after surgery I might still be in a wheelchair,” said Chaubin. “My daughter said that’s unacceptable, and wanted a second opinion.”

Chaubin’s daughter, Kimberly Lusby, had heard through work friends about Dr. William Reid, a neurosurgeon at the Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at Fort Sanders Regional and Tennessee Brain and Spine. She took her mother to see Reid last year.

Reid suggested a minimally invasive laminectomy and lumbar interbody fusion. A laminectomy is a surgical procedure in which overgrown ligaments and extra bone are removed from the back of the spine, reducing pressure on the spinal cord. The interbody fusion is performed to correct the vertebral body misalignment.

Reid performs it with minimally invasive techniques, meaning that instead of one long incision, he makes two small ones. He uses special small instruments inserted in the incisions, and he is guided by continuous 3-D imaging during surgery.

The smaller incisions mean less blood loss, less pain and a quicker recovery for the patient compared to surgery with one larger incision.

“I felt like God was right there in the room with us,” said Chaubin. “I thought there was nothing that could be done, but Dr. Reid told me he could help me.”

Chaubin had her surgery on March 7, 2013, at Fort Sanders, coming home in just four days.

“When I woke up I had a hard time moving feet and legs, but I could feel my feet,” she said. “The next day, I got up and walked with a walker.”

She said her stay at Fort Sanders went smoothly. “Fort Sanders was great,” she said. “Everybody from the people who did the paperwork to the nurses were great. It was wonderful. I can’t say enough about them. I hadn’t been in Fort Sanders since my daughter was born 50 years ago!”

After four days in the hospital, Chaubin went home and began physical therapy three times each week. “I’m going to keep doing it because it does help,” she said.

Chaubin said she took very little pain medication, and today is back to doing the things she loves.

“I go to the store and to my daughter’s every day,” she said. “I do all my housework and everything. I had stopped doing a lot of things because I couldn’t, but now I do everything I want to do. I even went to the beach in June last year after I got out of the hospital.”

Chaubin said she would recommend Reid and the Fort Sanders Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery to anyone with back and leg pain.

“I tell everybody I know to go to Dr. Reid. I really believe and trust in him, he saved my life,” Chaubin said. “I really thought I wouldn’t be able to walk. So I really thank the hospital and the doctor. He’s one of the best.”

For more information about the Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at Fort Sanders Regional, click here or call (865) 331-2835.

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