“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t try now. I wish I would have done something sooner!”
Erin Williams was a college athlete. She played point guard for Rockhurst College, a DII school in Missouri. During her junior year, her lower back started hurting. She was diagnosed with a herniated disc between her 5th lumbar vertebra and the 1st sacral vertebra, also called the Lumbrosacral joint. Her doctors told her that if she had surgery, she would not be cleared to play basketball her senior year. Determined to compete and with her team depending on her, she put off the surgery and played through the pain. Erin’s team made it to the sweet 16 her final year! After graduation, she had a discectomy, started feeling better and was ready to get her masters at Pittsburg State University where she was an assistant basketball coach.
Erin remained very active, working out several times a week, running, hiking, golfing, skiing and enjoying the Colorado outdoors. She met the love of her life, got married and started planning a family. “We had our first son, I felt good, was super active and life was great!” However, after the birth of her second son she started to notice the return of the lower back pain and stiffness she had suffered with in college. But, as a busy mom with 2 boys under 2 years old, she didn’t have time for back pain and again toughed it out.
When she got pregnant with her 3rd son on her 40th birthday, she started to have pain she could not ignore. “When I sneezed, the back pain was excruciating.” Her husband hated seeing her in so much pain, and insisted that after the baby was born they would find a solution. Their third son was born with Down’s syndrome and his doctors explained that he would probably not walk until he was about 3 years old; meaning Erin would need to carry him for the next 3 years. “Although I was still walking, the pain was so intense; I couldn’t even pick him up as a newborn from his crib. To be the mom I wanted to be, I knew it was critical to find some relief from the pain.”
Erin tried all the conservative treatments- steroid shots, physical therapy, chiropractic, heat/cold therapy, stim machine – but nothing helped. Her primary care physician provided her with a couple spine surgeons names and after doing her research, she made an appointment with Dr. Gerlach. “Dr. Gerlach reviewed my images with me and it was obvious that there was nothing left of the disc between my L5 & S1 vertebra. He is very knowledgeable and gave me a lot of options. He knew exactly how to explain things so that I could make an informed decision. He went the extra mile to ensure I was comfortable with surgery and he told me exactly what to expect afterwards.”
Erin had an L5-S1 fusion a couple months after her initial appointment. She spent 2 nights in the hospital and then went home to her family. For the first couple weeks, Erin had to wear a brace anytime she was up walking. For about 6 weeks after that she had to wear the brace only when she went out of the house. The first couple days at home were a little rough, but as time progressed it got better and better. Erin was off pain medication 8 days after surgery and driving again 2 weeks post procedure. “Two weeks after surgery I felt like a whole new person! I even walked the entire Denver Zoo!”
Life is great again! Erin works out 4-5 times a week, can participate in sports with her older boys and can easily carry her 28 pound son up the stairs. She has even donned her skis and hit the slopes again. “There is not anything I wouldn’t try now!”