"My proudest moment is saving my own life from becoming quadriplegic, in spite of multiple doctors telling me they could not find anything wrong with me.
I have lived with chronic, debilitating neck and back pain for seven years. Before my third spinal fusion surgery in May 2019, I had already been paralyzed once before, and had two spinal fusion surgeries—one in my neck at 3-level and another in my mid back at 1-level. During the months of March, April, and May 2019, I was writing my thesis and preparing to defend it for the end of graduate school. The combined pressure of grad school and chronic pain sent my mind and body into a highly stressful state. One day when I was in a ton of pain, I simply turned my head and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground screaming and unable to move my arms.
By the time I was able to get to the emergency room the next day, the doctors sent me home with medication despite my request for an MRI or CT scan, because by then I could already move my arms. Knowing that I needed more help than medication, I continued to fight. I went to my general practitioner, a pain management specialist, and a rheumatologist. None of these doctors thought there was any way I could have yet another ruptured disc when it had only been two years since my other spinal fusions. So I trusted them, and again they each gave me prescription drugs and sent me home.
Finally, I took my health completely into my own hands and decided I had to do something drastic for anyone to believe me—I went to the ER at 4:00 am and I wasn’t going to leave until they did a scan of my spine. Sure enough, they found a ruptured disc right under my previous 3-level fusion and immediately sent my scans to a neurosurgeon. The next day at my appointment, the surgeon walked in, looked at my MRI and said, “If you don’t go in for surgery now, you run the risk of going quadriplegic.” A disc was protruding so far into my spinal cord that it was barely hanging on by a thread. I was supposed to walk to graduate honors with my master’s degree the next day. Instead, I ended up having an emergency third spinal fusion surgery.
Over the past seven years, doctors continuously dismissed me and my symptoms, but this time was by far the scariest. At first I thought if they weren’t giving me the scans, it must just be a flare-up and would eventually subside. People put so much trust into doctors and the medical system that we feel guilty when we do something different than what they tell us to do. It took a tremendous amount of courage and intuition to do what I knew in my gut was right. And… I did this almost entirely on my own. It was in those moments that I realized just how strong I am and how spot-on my intuition is." -Theresa
You can follow Theresa's journey at: