Fiona Rice's Story


Fiona Rice's Story

Due to a very simple fall on a front door step, I changed my life forever, at the time I assumed it was just a bumped coccyx and all will fine, after the pain becoming unbearable I attended casualty to be told it was as I thought, unfortunately as the pain was still not easing some weeks later, they soon discovered it was a broken coccyx, after waiting the 6 week heal period the pain was just as severe, I eventually met with a specialist to be told my coccyx was miss aligned due to the fall, I underwent an operation to have it realigned. During my 6 week post op check I was informed I had some disc damage which will get progressively worse, years of pain followed.

After two years I visited a pain clinic, I was diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome, osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis and early stage osteoporosis to name just a few, I would told depression was to come as constant pain causes sleep deprivation which in turn causes increase pain which will eventually cause depression, I was not surprised being told you are going to be in chronic pain for the rest of your life and it will only get worse, we can give you more drugs and one day you will be in a wheel chair……that is not the happiest of news a person could be told! My belief in the medical profession was being tested

I didn’t believe in just sitting there and letting this beat me, my physio therapist was fantastic, so supportive and innovative, I spent the next four years having regular private physio therapy, trying every possible potion, rub and chair/support combo to reduce the pain and maintain mobility, I even had my own tilt table and hung upside down for up to 20 minutes a day. Being told I would need to decline to the point of needing a wheel chair before they would operate on my discs as the risk of paralysis was too high in excess of 70% chance. Going from an active lifestyle enjoying socialising, walking, swimming and aerobics 4 times per week, coupled with global travel I lived life to the full, to spending four years in chronic pain having to take a constant combination of pain medication, having a limited life at 35 is not a way to live, balancing working full time with resting all evenings and every weekend just to maintain a working life. I was extremely fortunate my company supported me, I may not have been so lucky working in other organisations

Life continued, it is amazing how you can adjust, pain putting restrictions on my life I carried on with looking for new ways to aid, however walking down a street one day quite casually my life changed dramatically, all of a sudden it was as if the strings had been cut or the batteries had come out, I felt a bizarre pop in my back, the experienced horrendous pain and then lost all strength, walking became almost impossible, I was distraught, I had not been doing anything excessive, I had been doing as instructed all my exercises each day, resting as needed so for this to happen after everything else seemed so unfair, visits to Physio over the next month saw my ability to walk to reduce to the point that it was only possible with crutches, the pain was unbearable, I was referred to a spinal specialist, I had scans, I was then sent to a neurologist to be told the belief was I had MS, scary times, to find it wasn’t MS, I was told injections would aid the pain then to be told they wouldn’t help as the orthopaedic surgeon could not see why I was in such pain and so weak. They agreed to discuss with their colleagues to see if they could come up with something. I started to believe this was all in my mind, I was obviously imagining the pain, and I was at a complete loss, suffering incredible pain, I thought it was bad before.

My Physio disagreed he could see the area damaged on the scans, he knew of a spinal specialist who did pioneering work for lost causes such as me, at this point I would of tried anything, I was unable to function, work, walk, sleep and my quality of life was nil. I was put in contact with Mr Knight and the Spinal Foundation,  I received some details with information on tests I needed to have done prior to my consultation, tests that despite suffering for all this time I had not had, simple weight bearing x-rays for example, I then met Mr Knight, he listened to my explanation of my life, he examined me, the scans and the x-rays, he then said something utterly amazing, I can see the cause of the pain and I believe I can help you!!!! Finally I was not crazy, this wonderful man can help. Mr Knight then proceeded to show me where the damage was, the options open to me and then asked me what I would want…… well to walk without crutches and a reduction in pain would be superb was my response, what I was really asking for was my life back.

Three weeks later I went in for the operation.  It is an odd experience, quite awful but also quite abstract, being able to see a clock through the operation, the sedation between times meant I lost large moments in time. The team were fantastic, calm and humorous, I felt secure with no concerns, the explanation and detail I had been given to this point kept me fully informed.

That evening I was on my feet but my legs kept giving way, I spent a long time not using them, so it was going to be a long journey to regain muscle, but the pain was much easier, although I had been warned, this was the lull before the storm….they were very right.

Within a few days I was in a full blown flare, the nerves had been twisted and one virtually guillotined so as the nerves were healing the pain was something so unbearable, being consumed by pain, going from numbness to feeling as the nerves started to heal. It felt that this would not stop, I couldn’t think for the pain, after a couple of weeks it started to ease a little, 9 10 on the pain scale was 7 8, within two months I was walking without crutches, walking up stairs, with the pain reducing more, I started Physio, with each extra push I experienced a slight flair, I had to wait for my body to become used to it, then I would push forward again.

I hit a plato I wanted to understand why I was still restricted at 5 months, I was walking over 2 miles without issue I had started swimming with a hydro pool bringing fabulous relief and increase exercise benefit, but I wanted to know where are my wings!!! I had one miracle I can walk so when will I fly? Sounds insane but going from not being able to walk to being able to does make you think there is no limit to what you could do, so then to hit a wall which you can't seem to climb over does make you stumble….that’s when I try and think, what did I tell Mr Knight I wanted ‘well to walk without crutches and a reduction in pain would be superb’ and guess what, I am walking without crutches and have a reduction in pain, that’s at 5 months.

Time has moved on and I am now at 9 months, I am still on medication although somewhat reduced, driving is an issue, sitting for long periods is not ideal I get stiff, I am still seeing a Physio but now it is all about strengthening and building up. The option of a nerve block is open to me when I take the next big step in activity, I took a long time getting to the poor state I was in, the muscle waste was unreal, over five years I did very little activity due to pain so the 18 months heal period I was originally told is not long compared to that.

Mr Knight, Jenny and the team have been fantastic throughout; always there to give an encouraging word or answer a concern, their support is amazing. The work Mr Knight does is something remarkable, he gives hope, he cures insanity (I did seriously question my sanity), he gives back independence, he cures depression (it is hard being in constant pain with no sign of relief), he creates smiles, he cures sleep deprivation, he brings light to very dark tunnels, he reunites families and friends (I had disappeared due to pain), oh and he is an superb surgeon whose skill and technique has reduced my pain and allowed me to walk again.

For a man so brilliant he made be feel comfortable throughout the whole experience, I was treated with understanding, kindness and respect, at no point was I treated as if I was inferior unlike my many past private medical experiences. He made a difficult situation bearable, his sense of humour made the process easy and amusing. He supported me throughout and continues to do so.

Mr Knight's work could bring such relief to so many people, it is appalling that this innovative approach to spinal surgery is not being taken up either in main stream private medical organisations or the NHS, restricting improvements in quality of life to those in pain. The reduced risks and increased success rates found in this operation compared to all other spinal surgeries aimed to provide a similar outcome makes it such a preferred option, why would you choose to lessen the success rate and increase risks of infection, complication and recovery time rather than use this method. It makes no sense, I was one of the lucky ones, I had a switched on Physio who introduced me to the Spinal Foundation and I was able to pay for the surgery, it’s a small price to pay for regaining my life, the costs are far reduced compared to any other spinal surgery aimed at this type of injury, this method has to be adopted by the NHS.

I cannot thank the team enough, my story continues, each day is a new step (something I couldn’t do a year ago) I continue to go from strength to strength and I am at the early stages still in the recovery.