Julie Fortner easily remembers the rainy morning of September 7, 2011. School had just begun that day. She had returned from dropping off her older children at school and was walking through the garage with her four year old daughter. They had tracked in a little water from the rain. Suddenly, Julie’s daughter slipped and Julie reached out to steady her. She managed to keep them both upright but she did twist her body in the process. Later that day, as Julie was buckling her daughter in the car seat, she felt a sharp pain in her back.
“I couldn’t let the pain stop me. Many people depended on me that day. I am a pediatrician and also “mom” to four children. I had to keep moving.”
Julie’s back continued to hurt for 3 weeks. Julie remembers, “I was unable to go from sitting to standing without excruciating pain. Once I was standing, I was fine as long as I did not bend or lift. It was hard to examine my patients if I couldn’t bend or lift!” Then things changed, but not for the better. The back pain went away but Julie began to experience pain in her leg that was more severe than the back pain had been. When she developed numbness and subsequent weakness in her right foot, Julie knew she needed to see a doctor. She saw her family doctor who promptly referred her to Dr. Michael Simpson at Tuckahoe Orthoapedics. Julie didn’t know Dr. Simpson but was very familiar with Tuckahoe Orthopaedics because she refers many of her young patients to their pediatric orthopaedic physicians (Drs. Sharps, Tuten, and Aarons). She also knew Dr. Tuten as they completed their resident training at MCV at the same time.
Dr. Simpson quickly diagnosed her problem. Julie had a herniated disc in the L5 – S1 region of her spine. A herniated disc is also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc. This herniated disc was pressing on a nerve root and causing sciatica. She stressed to him that she needed a “quick” recovery because many people depended on her! Dr. Simpson said that physical therapy sometimes helps, but if she needed a fast recovery, surgery would take care of the problem. He recommended a procedure called lumbar laminectomy with discectomy. Julie agreed with his recommendation and made plans for surgery. She was pleased at how quickly Dr. Simpson and his staff were able to schedule the surgery. She was also pleased that the preoperative testing was arranged for and handled very efficiently.
“I felt better as soon as I woke up,” recalls Julie. “I spent one night in the hospital. I experienced some pain for a few days but the pain medicine helped me deal with the discomfort. Dr. Simpson told me not to lift, twist, or drive for the next 2 weeks. He didn’t want me to stay in the bed or sit all of the time. He encouraged me to walk. So…I began to walk and slowly increased my time and distance each day. I enjoyed my walks. ”
After two weeks, Julie was able to return to her normal life. She was happy to be back with her young patients at The Pediatric Center. She was also happy to get back to her busy family life. She and her husband, who is a dentist, are raising four children along with 8 cats, a dog, and rabbit! It is a hectic life with school, homework, and many after school activities. When she’s lucky, she finds time for her two hobbies – photography and travel. Since the surgery Julie traveled with her family to Denali National Park in Alaska where she enjoyed long days of hiking without experiencing any pain in her back or leg.
Julie enjoys her busy life and is glad she didn’t postpone the surgery! She recommends Dr. Simpson to others experiencing back pain. Say’s Julie, “Dr. Simpson quickly diagnosed my problem, he fully explained the surgery and expectations for recovery, and then he fixed my spine! Thanks to him, I can now care for all of the children in my life. That makes me happy.”