rediscover Patient Ambassador

Michelle M.:
Life After Disc Replacement Surgery

I am back to being myself after surgery. Back to being active… back to cooking… back to taking family trips… back to me.

Michelle M.

Real Estate Agent

Age: 45

From: Scituate, MA

Surgery Date: June 2019

Procedure Type: Total Disc Replacement with prodisc C

Interests: Nursing, Cycling, Yoga, and a Mom of 5

Life Before prodisc:

As a full-time real estate agent, a registered nurse, a wife, a mom to five children, a cyclist and a yoga instructor, Michelle is the very definition of living an active lifestyle. In fact, Michelle was also very involved with her extended family—hosting every holiday and family get-together while planning the family reunions and vacations. That is, until, January 2015, when a 35-car pile-up sent 5 vehicles crashing into her car during a sudden blizzard and changed her life.  

Although her SUV was completely totaled and burst into flames, Michelle and her family were extremely fortunate—walking away from the accident with what seemed like relatively minor injuries. However, Michelle suffered severe whiplash with neck pain that manifested into vertigo and tension headaches. Prescribed medication for migraines and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she didn’t drive for six months. Then, upon further evaluation, Michelle was diagnosed with disc herniation in her neck and prescribed non-surgical treatment with physical therapy and pain medication. After 9 months or so, Michelle started feeling better, discontinued taking pain medication, and resumed her active lifestyle.

“I was miserable and never realized how debilitating constant pain is and how it affects every aspect of life”

But three and a half years later, in July 2018, Michelle began experiencing neck pain again, with nerve pain, burning, and numbness in her right arm. In time, the pain became so severe that she was having trouble performing everyday activities, and she couldn’t cycle in the 150-mile Multiple Sclerosis Challenge—a race she had taken part in for the prior 8 years. Michelle went back to physical therapy and was prescribed muscle relaxers, steroid injections, nerve blocks, and many other treatments. Despite her treatments, though, her pain progressively worsened.

The consistent pain didn’t just affect her activity, it also changed her attitude and demeanor. Michelle consistently felt angry or in a bad mood and was unable to enjoy her usual family activities. It concerned the entire family, as her children were very upset to see how much she was struggling and suffering. Michelle felt isolated from her family and friends because many of them did not understand how much pain she was in—especially since her internal pain had no outward manifestation. Michelle stopped going to family functions, spending time with friends, and became depressed after being told pain was no excuse for her change in mood. Her condition even strained her marriage as her husband had to take on all the family work—noting that Michelle was a completely different person since the pain returned.

“The situation seemed hopeless. I wasn’t sleeping at all, and I couldn’t take the combination of prescribed medications after having an adverse reaction,” Michelle recalls. “I was miserable and never realized how debilitating constant pain is and how it affects every aspect of life.” Desperate for relief after the nerve blocks stopped working, and growing concerned over the compression on her spinal cord and nerves, she was referred to a neurosurgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Her surgeon told Michelle that her cervical spine was collapsed and compressing the nerve, causing the pain and numbness in her arm. The surgeon recommended immediate surgery using artificial disc technology, as this would not restrict neck movement.

Following this recommendation, Michelle immediately went home and began researching the proposed surgical treatment. Though she found a great deal of information online that included many patient success stories by professional athletes and very athletic people, she struggled to find any stories written by an average person. She remembers thinking, “Will this procedure work on me? If it works for a professional athlete, then will it work on an average person?”

Michelle decided to have the total disc replacement procedure with prodisc C.

“I want to share my story—the story of the average person who had a successful disc replacement procedure. It changed my life. It brought ME back to living an active life with my family.” 


Life After prodisc:

Michelle underwent a total disc replacement with prodisc C on June 6, 2019. The surgery went as planned and the surgeon was happy with the outcome. Immediately after the surgery, Michelle remembers, “I had no nerve pain in my right arm! It was amazing. I did have some muscle pain and incisional pain from the surgery, but my other pain was gone.”

“I had no nerve pain in my right arm! It was amazing.”

Three weeks post-surgery, Michelle stopped the pain medication, as there was no pain in her neck or arm. She resumed yoga and swimming, went back to cooking, and enjoying family walks on the beach. Her family couldn’t believe the difference in only a few weeks.

Within twelve weeks, Michelle was happy and positive—resuming traveling and even the most strenuous of activities. She is looking forward to cycling on the road again in the Spring with her husband and participating in sporting races and events. She even planned a surprise vacation for her family!

“I want to share my story—the story of the average person who had a successful disc replacement procedure. It changed my life. It brought ME back to living an active life with my family.”

Michelle’s wish is to make sure that others with a similar medical condition receive the proper guidance and information to help them make a good choice, and to confirm that total disc replacement can work well—even for ‘normal’ people!

Important Note: The patient information presented is for general education purposes only. As with any spine surgery, there are potential benefits, complications, and risks associated with disc replacement and spinal fusion procedures. Individual results may vary. It is important that you discuss the possible risks and potential benefits of various procedures with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician’s best judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a specific surgical procedure.

They Regained Their Lives

These individuals can inspire your journey to healing and life after disc replacement surgery—and the hope of freedom from spine-induced pain and discomfort.

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