Kathryn Ellson's Story


I first started to have minor problems with my back at the age of 16, this turned into serious problems in 1988 at the age of 23. I had frequent periods where my back would lock up and leave me twisted to the left struggling to walk for weeks on end. I saw Osteopaths who told me that I "didn't have a slipped disc, my hips were just misaligned!". I saw an Orthopaedic surgeon at the age of 27 and had a caudal epidural and manipulation under General Anesthetic. This made things worse. What I didn't know at the time was I had two degenerative discs L4/5 and L5/S1 and the frequent periods of being locked up and twisted ("sciatic scoliosis") were due to the disc pushing out material and pressing on a nerve(s). I struggled for 10 years believing it to be my fault, maybe I wasn't exercising enough etc, but I could put my back out from peeling an orange, so life was miserable. Finally, the L4/5 disc which had been 'slipping' for years, became so degenerative that a large section of it tore away and trapped the nerves in my left leg, by now I couldn't walk, I had chronic "sciatic scoliosis" and constant violent pins and needles and even then I was told not much could be offered other than a discectomy and if scar tissue formed after the procedure I would have to live with it and attend a pain clinic.

I had no choice but to go ahead with the Discectomy in 2000 and this did in fact stop the pins and needles and relieve a little of the twisting. However, it took me 3 years after the surgery before I could sit down for more than half an hour and I always felt slightly locked up. A lot of the disc was removed during the surgery so I didn't have the constant episodes of "slipped disc", but I did have constant backache and my movement was restricted. Finally in December 2009 I had moved house and fell down the steps in my garden. The pain was unbearable and I was barely able to move. I was referred back to the NHS who said nothing could be done and I had reached a point where I was in so much constant pain I couldn't leave the house and after 23 years of misery wanted to die. My MRI scans came back showing that I had advanced Osteoarthritis of the Spine (Spondylosis) and Foraminal Stenosis as well as two degenerative discs. I didn't know what Stenosis was, so I did a search on the internet and found the Spinal Foundation. I immediately emailed and rang them to see if they could help and got a referral from my GP. I went along thinking I was beyond hope, but for the first time in my life someone listened to me. Mr Knight and his team have been fantastic, they didn't tell me to "live with my pain and that it was all in my head", they set my expectations of there being a big possibility they could get me 50% or more better.

I have to admit to being really frightened of undergoing spinal surgery in an "aware state", however the not knowing what it was going to feel like was the worst part. Once I was in surgery, the surgical team were brilliant with me. Mr Knight reproduced my pain, but it was only the pain I had been suffering for years and this time I had all the benefits of the wonderful anesthetic medication they give you and it wasn't a frightening experience at all, in fact quite the opposite and extremely interesting. I would have no hesitation of going through the procedure now, plus I was only in hospital one night as opposed to a week the previous time!

I had my ELF surgery mid March 2010 and recovery was slow and steady. I no longer have "sciatic scoliosis", I can stand up without being twisted and I have lordosis (a lovely curve) in my spine that had not been there for 10 years. I can stand straight up from a chair, I can walk miles.  I have hope for the first time in years. The minimally invasive surgery that Mr Knight has pioneered is exceptional, it is low risk due to the patient being in the aware state, it does not produce the scar tissue because lasers are being used to remove it and stop bleeding. There is a camera inside you so the Surgeon is not "just guessing" he can really see what is wrong. I am at least 80% better and still noticing improvements, I have more flexibility (I can actually lean over the sink to clean my teeth and bend to put my shoes on!). 

For the rest of my life, I cannot and never will be able to thank Mr Knight and his team enough.   I intend to raise money for the Spinal Foundation Charity and raise awareness of this state of the art surgical technique for all the people who are currently in pain clinics with back problems, as I believe that this should be the standard procedure to be considered for people with chronic back pain. Something can be done, you don't have to suffer the pain.

Kathryn has kindly offered to give independent email support to patients considering Endoscopic Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Please contact her on kathryn65@hotmail.co.uk or through the Spinal Foundation by email jago@spinal-foundation.org