Patient Ambassador Program – Back to Normal… 

 

Talk with someone who understands 

When you are trying to make a decision about spine surgery as a treatment option, it often helps to connect with someone who has had an experience similar to your own. If you have questions, or just want to listen to what others have to say about their experience, the Spine Associates Patient Ambassador Program is here to help. 

What is the Patient Ambassador Program? 

Created by patients for patients, the Patient Ambassador Program gives you the opportunity to have candid, one-on-one discussions with people who have has spine surgery and have volunteered to share their personal experiences with the patient’s considering surgery. 

Meet Our Featured Ambassadors

Read what others have to say about their experiences with spine surgery and how it has allowed them to get back to normal. The following stories describe the experiences of people who have received treatment by Dr. Francis.

Jodi - Patient Ambassador

Jodi’s Story

Adult Scoliosis Correction & Revision Spine Surgery – Paramedic for Victoria Fire Department (Retired)

“Addressing the issue of spine surgery can be lonely and frightening. It is gratifying to be able to share positive experiences with new patients.”

Read the rest of Jodi's story...

Just a little over one year ago, I believe I had almost come to the point where I felt I might have to accept pain as a way of life, along with the inability to stand up straight or walk normally. After meeting with Dr. Francis and his fantastic staff at Spine Associates, I began to believe that I actually had a chance to improve my quality of life. I just had no idea how true that would be!

Almost two years following the last of two prior back surgeries, my condition seemed to be worsening, and I was in constant pain. I had always been very physically active, and it was difficult not to be able to do so many things that make up who I am.

Now I am almost one year post-operative with Dr. Francis; having found Dr. Francis is just one more thing for which I have to be truly thankful!

Dr. Francis is caring and compassionate and, at the same time, he is honest and straightforward, so that I could be informed and actively involved in decisions regarding my own health. I believe his skill as a surgeon is an absolute gift. He cares deeply about the overall well being of each patient , as well as caring about him or her as individuals.

Thanks to this awesomely talented and skilled man, I feel normal again, and each day brings continued improvement in my condition.

Thank you, Dr. Francis for giving me my life back!

Trisha - Patient Ambassador

Trisha’s Story

Adult Scoliosis Correction – 7th grade teacher and marathon runner 

“I will never forget the feeling of being told I need surgery and the fear that comes along with it.  Seeing others that have had successful surgeries really helped me and I would love to be able to help others with my story.” 

Read the rest of Trisha's's story...

I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was in middle school, during our annual school screening. As if it is not awkward enough going through the screening process, it is even more uncomfortable to be one of the few that had an abnormal curve in their spine. As a child, I did not fully understand what was going on, but my mom took me to the doctor to get some X-Rays. We monitored my curve progression throughout my adolescent years. I took dance classes the majority of my childhood and I was on my school’s drill team in junior high and high school. I did not let scoliosis affect my ability to do the activities that I enjoyed, but it was always in the back of my mind. I knew that it was getting worse and eventually I would have to face the music and have surgery.

Over time, my curve progressed and it became more apparent that my shoulders and hips were uneven. My spine progressed into a double “S” curve and surgery was recommended when I was 21 years old. I had my first surgery in 2007, but only my thoracic curve was corrected.

In 2015, at the age of 30, I began having some minor aches in my back and I decided that it would be a good idea to find a doctor and get a checkup before having children. I came across Spine Associates through an Internet search and I made an appointment. Dr. Francis reviewed my X-Rays and found that my lumbar curve had progressed 10 degrees in the last 8 years. He told me that I would need another surgery to extend my fusion down to my lumbar spine. Dr. Francis explained that my fusion was sitting on an unstable foundation and further progression could eventually affect what I already had done. The thought of having another surgery was terrifying at first, but I knew it needed to be done. After learning about Dr. Francis’ qualifications and his expertise in new surgical technology, I felt confident that I was in good hands.

My advice to others would be to take your diagnosis seriously. Listen to your doctor and consider your options. You should also remember that scoliosis does not have to define you. It can be successfully treated and it is possible to live a normal life after scoliosis surgery.

I often think about how different my life would be if I had chosen not to undergo surgery. I can’t even imagine what I would look like today if I had just let my curves continue to progress. Since my first surgery, I picked up running as a hobby. In the last 3 years, I have run several 5Ks, 10Ks, and 2 half marathons! I’ve even won medals for placing in my age division at a few races. My best 5K time is 28 minutes and I ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles) last year in 2 hours and 15 minutes (without any walking breaks). Yes, I can run short and long distances with a fused spine! Dr. Francis assured me that my recent surgery would not affect my ability to run. In fact, I signed up for a 5K at 11 weeks post-op. I am planning to do some brisk walking/jogging and I will eventually work myself back up to full force running.

I decided to become a Spine Associates scoliosis patient ambassador because I have experienced the fear of preparing for scoliosis surgery TWICE. Unless you are in that position, you may not fully understand the “what ifs” that run through a patient’s mind in the months before surgery. I had a lot of fears and questions going into both of my surgeries and I found myself obsessively searching online for YouTube videos and stories of others that had been through this process. I just wanted to see that someone made it through and was able to live a normal life. Now, I am able to say that I have made it through two surgeries and I feel stronger than ever. I decided to become a Scoliosis Patient Ambassador to be a source of encouragement to others that may be contemplating surgery.

Adam - Firefighter

Adam’s Story

Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement – Firefighter for Victoria Fire Department 

“I am a Firefighter/Paramedic for the City of Victoria. I started having severe back problems in 2011/12. I suffered from pain in my lower back L5/S1 area that shot down my leg causing pain and sometimes numbness. Often times this pain was unbearable and completely debilitating.”

Read the rest of Adam's story...

 Every move I made was deliberate and intentional. I thought before a walked, stood or bent down to pick something up. I couldn’t play softball, golf or do cross-fit, no jogging and no lifting weights as this would cause excruciating pain. I was turning into a couch potato.  I heard about Spine Associates through a co-worker whom had a family member treated by DR. R. Francis. Prior to the disk replacement I had several epidurals, intramuscular analgesic injections, pain medication prescriptions as well as attending several physical therapists for treatment. All of which would only mask the symptoms. It was only a matter of time before I was back with the same issues.

My recovery was fast! The hospital stay was for one night where my care surpassed all my expectations. My pain was minimal and I was released to go home with only a simple small bandage.

Satisfied is not the right word. I am ecstatic with the care I received from Dr. R. Francis and the folks at Spine Associates. I literally feel 10 years younger.

Within 6 weeks I was back to work with no restrictions. I can pick up my 18 month old daughter out of her crib and play with her like her father should be able to. I am also playing softball, golf and exercising for fun again.

I thought at the end of my rope and had all but given into the idea that back pain was a part of my life. I thought I would never be as active as I once was, more over I thought my career was in jeopardy because I could no longer pass the strenuous physical fitness requirements.

I consulted with another spine specialist for a second opinion and he had recommended a multi-level spinal fusion for several disks to alleviate my back pain. Dr. Francis recommended an artificial disk replacement. Needless to say, I went with Dr. Francis and Spinal Associates. They have given me my freedom and livelihood back. I cannot recommend Spinal Associates enough for people suffering from back pain, do yourself a favor and get your back issues taken care of correctly, the first time.

Charlotte - Lumbar Fusion Patient Ambassador

Charlotte’s Story

Lumbar Fusion – Proud Grandmother and Gardener

“Before surgery, I was unable to stand long enough to watch my grandbabies play football and baseball. My life has improved significantly since my surgery.  I wish I would have done it years ago.”

Read the rest of Charlotte's story...

 I was missing out on pretty much everything that I enjoyed in life. I could no longer work in my garden or attend my grandchildren’s sporting events, like football and baseball games. It hurt too much to sit or stand for too long. 

It’s been 4 months since my surgery and now I can work in the yard and care for my flowers, walk my dogs, and mgo to games with all 11 of my grandbabies.  

After surgery, my legs were instantly free of pain, and now I am free of my back pain.  I have not had to take any pain medications.

I value the compassion and understanding that was given to me by Dr. Francis, the Spine Associates staff, and the staff at the hospital where I had my surgery.

 

Brian - Patient Ambassador

Brian’s Story

Lumbar Fusion and Cervical Fusion (ACDF) 

“Dr. Francis gave me my life back… where I had lost feeling in both legs and feet for the best part of 18 years, and then both giving in.”

He repaired my lower spine where I now have full feeling and actually feel every little breeze and sensation… then 2 months later did the same in my neck and restored full feeling and use to both arms and both hand where I was pretty much down to thumb and index finger on each hand. Dr. Francis is a miracle and is the finest surgeon who really cares for and about his patients. I would recommend him to anyone who has any back problems.. .. he saved me from quite likely ending up a quadriplegic… I owe him my life… thank you Dr. Francis… I will forever be in your debt.

Cassandra - Patient Ambassador

Cassandra’s Story

Cervical Fusion Surgery (ACDF)

“I was in excruciating pain. This was a pain that I could never describe.”

I made several trips to the ER and visited my general practitioner as well. None of them could figure out what was wrong. My general practitioner referred me to Dr. Francis. He reviewed my MRI and visited with me. 

Read the rest of Cassandra's story here...

He immediately advised me to have surgery (ACDF). I was skeptical, but found myself on his operating table two weeks later. It was the best decision I could have made. Before I went into surgery, Dr. Francis told me, ͞Don’t worry, I will take good care of you. I was never so scared in my life, but I trusted him. Now, I can say I’m so thankful that God put this man (Dr. Francis) in my life. I am able to sleep again and perform daily tasks that others take for granted.

I would definitely recommend Dr. Francis. He is truly a blessing and works hard to fulfilling the calling that God has placed on his life – Giving his patients a pain free life.

Stephanie - Patient Ambassador

Stephanie’s Story

Adolescent Scoliosis Correction – Student at the University of Oklahoma

“I really appreciate Spine Associates giving me the opportunity to reach out to people with scoliosis. It is such a blessing. I’m an ambassador to Callie, who is about to have her surgery to correct a double major curve. I understand how she’s feeling right now and I’ll text her the day of her surgery.”

Stephanie is a 17 year old who underwent scoliosis corrective surgery in June of 2014. We interviewed Stephanie and her parents so they could share their compelling story.

Read the full interveiw here...

Q. Are you and your parents comfortable with you sharing your experience with scoliosis to the public? Are you comfortable with your friends knowing that you were treated for scoliosis?

A. (Stephanie): I believe that scoliosis and the degree of severity certain conditions can reach is often overlooked or undermined by the public. I am comfortable with sharing my experience with scoliosis to the public because I hope one day people will see scoliosis as a major condition that affects many people. I hope by sharing my experience that I can bring more recognition to this condition. All of my friends know I was treated for scoliosis, and can also see what a positive impact surgery has had on me.

Q. Describe what you felt when you found out that your daughter had scoliosis? Describe the support that you provided for your daughter from diagnosis to surgery and post surgery.

A. (Linda Crowe): When Stephanie was first told she had scoliosis, it was said to us almost like it was no big deal; that everyone had some curve to their spine. Matter of fact, I was told I had scoliosis when I was young, and my daughter Alanna was told the same thing. I figured since nothing happened to me or Alanna, Stephanie would be fine as well. Over the next few years we all noticed that Stephanie’s waist line was much more indented on one side than the other. Next, it became apparent something was wrong with her hips as well. As a young girl, she became very self-conscious of the way her body was developing. At that point we went to see an orthopedic doctor who barely looked at Stephanie’s back, but came to the conclusion there was nothing we could do but live with it. We were not satisfied with his lack of concern, so we asked Stephanie’s pediatrician who she would recommend. That is when we were given Dr. Richard Francis’ name. From the moment we met Dr. Francis, we knew we were in the right place. He genuinely cared about Stephanie, answered ALL of my questions, and spoke to us knowledgeably, with authority in his field. The first set of X-rays and the MRI results showed a 26 degree curvature. Dr. Francis did not seem overly concerned, but wanted to monitor her condition every six months or so. The next visit documented an increasing curvature degree. Over the next 2 months Stephanie’s curvature rapidly became much worse. Her back, waist, and hips were actually deformed to the naked eye. The pain became worse and even stopped her from doing a lot of daily activities. We went back to see Dr. Francis again for another set of X-rays. I will never forget seeing those films on the screen next to her original films. Her curve was horrible! He measured how bad her curve had become and told us we can no longer monitor her. She needed to have this surgically corrected. All of us knew just by looking at Stephanie’s body that surgery was needed, but that did not make it any easier at all. The need did not take away any of the fear. At first her dad and I tried to talk to her about all the positives; what a great doctor she has, how her body would go back to looking and feeling normal, how she could wear the clothes she has been avoiding, how she could go to pool parties without embarrassment, dance without pain etc… At first Stephanie hid her fears much better than I did. She agreed with everything we were saying, but inside was more frightened then I think any of us will ever know. As the surgery approached, more and more conversations were had about how scared she really was. Many nights were spent in tears after reading other girl’s scoliosis horror stories on the internet. I tried my best to help Stephanie work through her fears and all her mixed emotions. I took her to the hospital that morning for surgery and she seemed to be in good spirits, almost relieved the time was finally here. Everyone at the surgery center was so welcoming to me and extremely nice to Stephanie. Dr. Francis came to speak to us that morning; just his presence put us at ease. We laughed so hard while putting on her compression stockings. We joked with each other to pass the time, knowing the time we had feared was at hand. It seemed like we waited for hours, and then all of a sudden the nurse came to get Stephanie for surgery. I quickly had to hug her, kiss her, and say good-bye while they rolled her bed away. Stephanie was being taken away for spinal surgery, and I was going alone to wait for her for hours and hours. I watched television, I worried about Stephanie, I read emails, I worried about Stephanie, I walked outside and I walked inside, I ate lunch, I worried about Stephanie, I read magazines, I worried about Stephanie. It seemed like it was taking so very long, longer than I thought it would. Everyone in the waiting room seemed concerned about Stephanie, or maybe they were concerned about me. I will never forget seeing Dr. Francis walking so quickly around the corner. I thought, “Oh there he is! Finally! Why is he in such a hurry, what is wrong?” I think my heart fell out of place at that moment. I stood up and braced myself for my worst nightmare. He came up to me and grabbed both of my hands in his. He looked me in my eyes and said “She is fine, you can relax! She is fine.”

Q. How did scoliosis affect your daily activities, interactions with friends and physical activities?

A. (Stephanie): Scoliosis affected me not only physically but mentally as well. I was involved in a dance team in the years before my surgery and found it hard to execute certain moves. I also had severe back pain everyday which made it hard for me to dance. Eventually I had to stop dancing. Mentally, scoliosis ruined me. I was embarrassed of how my body looked. I lost all self-confidence I had and never truly felt pretty in my own skin. I didn’t wear tight fitting clothing and missed many pool parties or beach days because I was embarrassed of my uneven figure and was afraid of what people might think. I let scoliosis define me and affect everything I did.

Q. What treatments did you have before surgery? (Bracing, monitoring, etc)

A. (Stephanie): I was told I had scoliosis when I was in sixth grade, but that everyone has a slight curve to their spine and it was nothing to worry about. Four years later I went to my doctor for a physical and was told I needed to see someone for my scoliosis. I was referred to Spine Associates by my doctor, but saw 2 doctors closer to my home before I saw Dr. Francis. Both doctors told me the same thing; that I was not a candidate for surgery and because I was done growing I wouldn’t need a brace. I was also told to come back in six months to monitor my condition. Wanting another opinion I decided to see Dr. Francis. He was unlike any other doctor I met. From the moment he assessed my condition I knew I could trust him. The way he carries himself and is passionate about his practice is why I chose him to be my doctor. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Francis. He recommended I do physical therapy twice a week to strengthen my muscles. It was about a year from my first visit that I found out I had to get spine surgery.

Q. Did another doctor have you wear a brace, how did it affect your daily life?

A. (Stephanie): Although I saw two doctors before Dr. Francis I never had to wear a brace until after my surgery. Because braces work with your body as you’re growing I was not prescribed one due to the fact I was already done growing.

Q. Tell me what you understand as far as the surgery that was performed to correct your scoliosis.

A. (Stephanie): What I understand as far as the surgery I had was that it corrects deformities and deviations in spines by fusing rods, screws, and wires into the spine. Till this day just thinking about there being screws and rods in my back freaks me out, but it’s so incredible. Spinal fusion is a major surgery that takes hours to complete. My surgery was done on the lumbar part of my spine. My surgery helped me to have confidence and also alleviated my back pain which I had every day before I was operated on.

Q. What was your recovery like?

A. (Stephanie): My recovery was probably one of the hardest times of my life. It also used to be very difficult for me to talk about because I would just start crying. Now looking back, it is one of the proudest moments of my life, and it showed me how incredibly strong I am. I was in the hospital 5 days after my surgery. I had to walk and move even when it felt like I would never be able to bend my back again. I had to have an IV in at all times and my blood taken every shift change which led to many blown veins, black and blue bruises from my wrists to my elbows, and many tears. When I was released to go home I had a very bad reaction to the anesthesia which lead to four emergency room visits. I was also allergic to the glue on the steri-strips, and that resulted in a red puffy rash all over my incision. I also became dehydrated and weak during this time. It was about 2 ½ weeks before I started to feel better and about a month before I was completely myself again. During that time I had to wear a brace and a stem belt. I remember saying to my mom exactly one month after my surgery “Look how far I’ve come. I’m so proud of myself.” Now almost six months post-op I can truly say that everything I went through to get where I am today was so worth it.

Q. Are you satisfied with the results of your procedure? Are you satisfied with Dr. Francis and hospital staff?

A. (Stephanie): I am beyond satisfied with my procedure. I, through spinal fusion, became myself again. I got my confidence back sand I feel so beautiful even with a scar running down the length of my back. I’m so much stronger now and so relieved. I remember crying as I left my last post-op appointment with Dr. Francis because I was so happy, relieved, and thankful. Dr. Francis and his staff exceeded every expectation I had. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to perform such a major surgery on me. It’s no wonder Spine Associates have received so many honors and rave reviews. I’m almost speechless in the sense that I have so many good things I want to say about Dr. Francis that I often end up saying “I can’t say enough good things about him.” Dr. Francis is by far the most professional, driven, and dedicated person I’ve met, and I’m beyond grateful to have had him perform such a surgery on me.

Q. Are you and your parents comfortable having TV crew videotape you at home or participating in an activity? What are your interests, activities and hobbies? Looking for something you are passionate about and scoliosis made it difficult for you to enjoy or pursue that passion.

A. (Stephanie): I am comfortable with being recorded at my home or doing activities. My interest and activities include working with kids, dancing, and fashion. I have a part time job at a school where I teach kindergartners. I love children and can still pick them up and run around and play with them even after my surgery. Although I never rejoined the dance team at my school, due to my surgery interfering with try-outs I still have a passion for dance. I also love fashion and clothing. Before my surgery I could never wear what I wanted because my body was so deformed. Now I can confidently wear the clothes that I want without feeling embarrassed.

Q. What advice would you or your parents give other children, adolescents and parents about treatment for scoliosis?

A. (Stephanie): I would advise other people not to take scoliosis lightly and to do all that they can from the moment a curve is present. If surgery is needed I would tell them that they shouldn’t be mad or upset because many conditions and diseases can’t be cured like scoliosis. Also, that they have to be strong because the time before and after the surgery is hard, but that it will be so worth it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for everything and that with scoliosis when you finally reach the light it is one of most beautiful and fulfilling things ever.

Michelle - Patient Ambassador

Michelle’s Story

SI Joint Fusion 

Michelle – International Patient from Trinidad finds relief in Houston, Texas

Michelle had suffered with sacroiliac joint mediated pain over the years.  In the past she had a diagnostic right sacroiliac joint block followed by radio frequency ablation which gave only limited improvement in symptoms. 

Read the rest of Michelle's story...

While in Trinidad she had an open fusion of the right sacroiliac joint using bone graft without instrumentation but this did not help her symptoms and she has progressively worsened. Dr. Francis performed minimally invasive SI joint fusion with iFuse.

Less than one week after her surgery, she was able to travel back to her home in Trinidad. Michelle reports complete resolution of her pain and continues to refer friends and colleagues in her home country to Dr. Francis.

 

Connect with a Patient Ambassador

Please fill out the form below to talk with a Spine Associates patient ambassador. 

Based on your answers to a few questions, we will match you with an ambassador whose situation is similar to your own. The ambassador will then contact you in the method you prefer (by phone or by email) and share his or her personal experience.  Please note that patient ambassadors are not medical professionals and cannot help you decide if spine surgery is the right answer for you. As with any surgical options, you should discuss the benefits and risks of spine surgery with Dr. Francis.

This service is reserved for patients that have been evaluated by Dr. Francis and surgery was recommended for an option for treatment.

Anyone under the age of 18 is not eligible for this program without consent from parent or guardian.

To ensure your privacy, Spine Associates will not sell or share your personal information with any third parties or outside mailing lists.

Patient Ambassador Request Form
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