By Gale Ritterhoff
Last Christmas, Anne Marie Devoe went to the mall to do some shopping. But once there, she wasn’t focusing on finding the perfect gifts. She was looking for places to sit down.
“My only goal was to get to the next bench to rest,” she recalled. “I could barely walk. The pain in my groin was excruciating.”
A nurse’s aide for 45 years, Devoe was no stranger to the aches and pains that result from physically demanding work.
“There was a lot of pulling and tugging and lifting,” she said.
In addition to the strain associated with her job, Devoe had developed osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage that acts as a cushion between the bones in our joints wears away, resulting in pain, stiffness and swelling. In fact, she had been suffering from back and hip soreness for over a decade.
But this level of discomfort was new. And, although she had retired in 2019 at 62, her pain was worsening. Before that day in the mall, Devoe had visited doctors to seek relief. Their efforts had focused on non-surgical inventions to manage her pain, including nerve block injections targeting her lower back and hip.
“The relief was wonderful,” she said, “but it didn’t last.”
Devoe knew she needed a more serious intervention, and for a very important reason. Two of her children, both of whom live within 10 miles, were about to start families.
“Once I found out I was having grandchildren, I just had to get healthier,” Devoe said. “I wanted to be able to play with them and to help with child care.”
The first stop on her road to recovery was a visit with neurologist Dr. Ashlesh Dani at CareMount Medical. He suspected that her pain was a result of pressure on nerves within her back, and immediately referred her to Dr. Marshal Peris, spine surgeon and director of the Spine Section of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Peris listened to Devoe’s history and ordered X-rays and an MRI, which quickly confirmed a diagnosis. She was suffering from spinal stenosis, a condition often caused by the wear and tear on the spine associated with osteoarthritis. The nerves within Devoe’s backbone were being compressed, a problem aggravated by a curvature or scoliosis of her spine that had developed as well. The pain in her groin was actually emanating from her back.
Surgery to relieve the nerve pressure was the solution, Peris advised. When Devoe stepped into Peris’ office and he looked at the pictures and scans, he immediately said “I can help you.”
But Devoe had to wait. The diagnostic appointment occurred in April 2020, during the height of the pandemic’s first wave in our area. All elective surgery was put on hold.
In June, Devoe was cleared to undergo the procedure. Although the pandemic was far from over, she said the medical personnel’s professionalism at Northern Westchester Hospital reassured her. Nurses and technicians were following strict protocols regarding cleanliness and the careful use of PPE, Devoe noted.
The surgery, during which Peris removed her damaged discs and inserted titanium spacers, was a success. She stayed in the hospital for two nights, and was up on her feet the first night, shortly after returning to her room from post-op recovery.
“Within a week, I was walking nice and straight and steady. I wasn’t hunched over at all, and I didn’t need a cane,” Devoe said.
Her family, extremely supportive throughout, was thrilled to see her new and improved condition. Two weeks post-surgery, Devoe “felt completely comfortable.” She has dutifully followed up her operation with physical therapy and continues to stay as active as possible, swimming during the summer and walking now.
The next part: Her grandsons, Parker and Quinn, now four and eight months old, are already helping her stay active. Devoe is now a hands-on grandma, babysitting a few days a week and looking forward to keeping up with the two as they grow.
To learn more about state-of-the-art orthopedic and spine care at Northern Westchester Hospital, visit www.nwh.northwell.edu/osi.
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