Towana’s Spine Surgery Story

TowanaThumbnail2Chronic pain is a widespread and growing problem, with the American Academy of Pain Medicine estimating that chronic pain affects 100 million U.S. adults. Towana Taylor was one of the many Americans who suffered from back pain that prevented her from living a fulfilling life.

“My back would just go out, and I wasn’t able to do even simple things such as regular house chores,” says Towana.

As time went on Towana’s condition worsened. “As it progressed, there were points in time where I couldn’t move at all,” recounts Towana. “My back would go out for days, even  two weeks. I would be bedridden, and needing someone to help me bathe myself. And I was still in my 30s! I did not want to accept that way of living.”

Towana was given epidural steroid injections, a powerful anti-inflammatory, to try to relieve her pain. At first the shots helped, but subsequent shots became less effective. “The shots wore off over time and eventually this type of therapy didn’t seem to do anything for me,” says Towana.

Time For a Change

Looking for relief, she talked with a friend who recommended she saw Mark Sokolowski, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Westlake Hospital who specializes in back and neck pain. “My friend said to me ‘He’s great and my back is doing so well since I saw Dr. Sokolowski,’” recalls Towana.

Towana made an appointment to see what treatment options would be offered to her, but she had her reservations. “I had gone elsewhere before, but they told me I was not a candidate for some of the treatment options because of my weight,” says Towana. “When I went to see Dr. Sokolowski my experience was completely different. He never once mentioned he couldn’t perform a treatment because of my weight.”

After discussing Towana’s symptoms and her medical history, Dr. Sokolowski used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the cause of Towana’s pain. He found that Towana was suffering from a disc herniation. Dr. Sokolowski recommended a surgery that would remove just a portion of the disc, which had been damaged. He hoped this surgery would offer Towana relief, without the need to completely remove the disc.

The Day of Surgery

“When it came time for surgery, I was nervous,” says Towana. “I get anxiety with surgery, but Dr. Sokolowski had such an excellent team. They made sure I was OK and helped in any way they could to help me relax. Dr. Sokolowski even let me choose my own music to listen to as I was going to sleep with general anesthesia. I felt the entire team was so nice and generous with their time and support.”

Towana says that when she was recovering at Westlake Hospital, Dr. Sokolowski continued to make her his priority. “I’ve had plenty of surgeries in the past, and I would only see the surgeon one time after surgery. Dr. Sokolowski came to see me every day I was in the hospital. He took good care of me.”

After a few days in the hospital, Towana returned home to recover. Within two months, she was back in her regular routine at home. She also found the stamina and will to return to school to get her bachelor’s degree in teaching.

After several months free of pain, Towana began feeling occasional sharp pains. She turned to Dr. Sokolowski again.  An MRI showed that the disc was chipping and not making any lubricant. “When we decided on the first surgical treatment, Dr. Sokolowski tried to spare the disc, or as much of it as he could. And that was great,” says Towana. “I understand that eventually, the chipping disc will have to be removed, but I know a good surgeon who can help me with that, ” she added smiling.

TowanaThumbnailTowana hopes to finish her schooling before undergoing her next surgery. “While I’m still having issues with my back, I can continue with my life,” explains Towana. “Before the pain was so bad that I couldn’t do anything at all. I thank God for Dr. Sokolowski."