In spite of having problems with her spine as a child, Elizabeth Sachs lived an active, pain-free life.
When she was 65 she began to have pain, and some trouble walking. Not long after that pain started she began to have trouble standing. Just standing. She says, “I remember one day just hanging onto the kitchen counter because I felt myself sinking.” She also began to have trouble breathing.
A friend at her dance studio happened to be a doctor and recommended that Elizabeth get an appointment with Dr. Peter Angevine at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. “I checked around, and everyone said ‘He’s great, you have to go to him!’” Elizabeth says.
Dr. Angevine found that Elizabeth had severe scoliosis, a spinal deformity. It was so severe that her spine was actually causing her rib cage to press against her lungs. She needed to have surgery immediately to prevent serious problems with her ability to breathe.
The surgery Elizabeth needed was a vertebral column resection. Dr. Angevine detached parts of Elizabeth’s spine, realigned them and put them back together using metal rods to stabilize the spine. It was a complicated surgery that Dr. Angevine spread out over two days, to give her body time to rest in between.
Elizabeth’s complex surgery meant a long recovery in the hospital, but she says Dr. Angevine was with her every step of the way. “He came to see me every single day at 6 in the morning,” she says. “He’d ask me how I was doing, stay a few minutes, talk to me and come back the next day. He organized a team of doctors who came to see me. They looked after me. I always felt very protected there.”
“[Dr. Angevine] is very caring, very concerned. He’s very, very thorough in what he does.”
Today Elizabeth is thankful to be able to go about her daily activities without the breathing problems and severe pain she had before. She has a little pain, but she chalks that up to being nearly 70 years old. “I’ll be complaining about something and my friends will say, ‘Oh, yeah, we have that too.’” I’m complaining, but I’m complaining about stuff that everybody has! I would say I’m doing pretty well!”
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