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Eliminating Pain, Restoring Hope

Eliminating Pain, Restoring HopeJulie Chasse, 51, of Harwinton, still remembers the last big vacation she took with her husband, Jim. In 2009, they chartered a 32-foot boat in Tortola with friends and sailed around the British Virgin Islands. The Chasses enjoyed it so much, they aimed to return in 2017 and were also planning a cruise off the coast of Alaska this year.

That was before Julie’s back pain became so debilitating she had to cut back on her daily activities.

“For years, I’d experienced low back pain,” said Julie, who is a registered nurse and works as a clinical manager for a home healthcare agency. “The pain was always tolerable. I simply worked through it.”

But when the pain intensified and started radiating down both legs, Julie would come home from work and go straight to bed. Her husband started cooking dinner, and their travel plans were put on hold. “It just got to the point where I couldn’t travel anymore,” Julie said. “I was gradually losing my abilities. I didn’t realize how much I had lost. Then one day, Jimmy and I sat down to talk. It was actually my husband who said to me, ‘I miss my wife.’”

That was a turning point. Recognizing that she would likely need surgery, Julie chose Saint Mary’s Hospital and made an appointment with Dr. David Forshaw, a neurosurgeon with Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics and Spine Specialists (NOSS). Dr. Forshaw found that a disc in Julie’s spine had slipped out of place and needed to be repaired.

The thought of having any type of back surgery made Julie nervous, but Dr. Forshaw told her there was a minimally invasive procedure available, which he could perform at Saint Mary’s using new technology called the O-arm® Surgical Imaging System. Not only would this enhance the safety and accuracy of the procedure, it would result in quicker healing time and a shorter hospital stay.

“The O-arm is a piece of technology that allows us to acquire real-time, 3-D images of the patient’s spine, make an intraoperative map, so we can plan the surgery ahead of time, get the hardware in safer, and know where the critical structures are—the nerves and the spinal cord,” Dr. Forshaw explained. “Precision is one of the goals of the surgery.”

The surgery was very successful, and Julie was up and about the same day. By the following morning, she was back home.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Julie said. “I didn’t have the constant nerve pain. I regretted that I didn’t have the procedure sooner.” After her procedure in July 2014, Julie was able to attend her daughter Kaitlyn’s wedding on Aug. 29. Though she was restricted from dancing the night away, she was able to sway to the music.

“I was in far better condition than before the surgery,” Julie said.

She and Jim were looking forward to hitting the dance floor together at their son Matthew’s wedding on Oct. 4. Tragically, Jim died in a motorcycle accident in September 2014. He was 55 years old, and the couple had been married for 28 years.

On a recent afternoon, Julie pulled a fresh apple pie from her oven and took her 14-year-old Labrador, Sage, outside to play in the yard. She flipped through photo albums from Matthew and Kaitlyn’s weddings and pictures of her and Jimmy from the many trips they took together. Though she is still struggling with her tragic loss, she is grateful that she is able to face the future free from back pain.

Prior to surgery, Dr. Forshaw told her he would be able to decrease the pain but couldn’t promise to eliminate it. “He got rid of it,” Julie said. “This surgery gave me back my future. He restored hope, giving me back things to look forward to.”

To learn more about Julie's story, visit our NeuroSpine page.

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