Imagine taking care of six children on your own and not being able to bend down. That was me about two years ago.
Let me back up. I’m the proud foster parent of six children aged three to nine. Four of them are my grandchildren. I was a foster child myself, and I always wanted to be a foster parent. I was born with cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes, but I never let either slow me down. I’ve always been pretty active.
But back to not being able to bend down. It was Mother’s Day and I was putting my grandson in a time-out. He was almost three years old, and not a big fan of having a time-out. I was holding him and he put his feet up against the front door, which forced me to the floor. I landed hard on my tailbone and could feel everything being shoved upward. The fall knocked the wind out of me.
I had no choice but to lie there for a minute because I couldn’t catch my breath.
After that I only did the bare minimum. I made sure the children were bathed and fed, but that’s about it. I couldn’t bend down in the traditional sense. I would bend straight down with my legs and hold on to the side of something with my hands. I did whatever I had to do for the kids each day but nothing else. I stopped volunteering at church in the children’s ministry and food pantry. I was in pain all the time.
I made myself walk as slow and straight as I could, and I walked with a cane. I’ve never been a fan of wheelchairs, but I felt like I needed something to hold on to. I was also having trouble taking deep breaths because it was so painful. It felt like being stabbed in my back.
When I went to the doctor, they took X-rays and MRI’s. They found I had a vertebral compression fracture caused by osteoporosis, and they gave me a back brace to wear. I was a mess. Then my doctor came in and told me about balloon kyphoplasty.
This was the first and only treatment he recommended. He said, "We have to put you back together." I told him, "Oh, so I'm Humpty Dumpty now," and he said, "Yes, but I can put you back together again."
I took his word for it for two reasons. In my 54 years I've had a lot of different procedures due to my cerebral palsy, so I put my trust in with the doctor's ability to do things. Secondly, when you're in that much pain, and someone’s standing in front of you saying they can help you, your reply is, "Yes, please."
I had the procedure two weeks later. My doctor explained the kyphoplasty to me this way. He injected a kind of “glue” to put the fractures back together and used a balloon-type procedure to get everything pushed back up to the correct spot in my back. The whole thing only took about an hour.
The moment I woke up, I felt instant relief. I went home that day. I didn't need the back brace. I didn't need the cane. The procedure was a godsend.
I was prescribed prescription-strength vitamin D (which I already took because of my diabetes) and they told me to take high levels of calcium to rebuild my bones.
Everything was great. I had my mobility back, could take care of my kids and returned to my normal activities.
Two and a half months later, I was moving some things in my yard when I felt something give in my back. The pain was much worse than the time before, so I knew I'd really messed something up. It was hurting near the bottom and in the middle of my back. It turned out, I’d broken vertebrae in two different locations.
My doctor’s office was very helpful in working with me and my insurance company, so I was able to schedule this kyphoplasty in a timely fashion.
After the procedure, it took me a little extra time to get back to normal because there was more stiffness since I had fractures in two different places. But I still felt instant relief from the pain.
Honestly, if a friend of mine had a vertebral fracture and their doctor didn’t recommend kyphoplasty, I’d tell them to get a second opinion. Before this happened to me, I had never even heard of such a thing, and when my doctor first told me about the procedure, it did seem daunting. But I have my life back now.
I'm taking care of six babies between the ages of three and nine. We moved in February and I didn't have any problems. I’m outside playing with them every day. We have water gun fights and go bike riding. They jump on the trampoline, but I'm not brave enough to do that!
I can understand that with COVID-19, people might be apprehensive about going to the hospital, but I wouldn’t wait. My doctor explained that if I didn’t get the procedure, the pain would continue and I might get additional fractures because I was putting pressure on other parts of my back to make up for what was injured.
God forbid, if I have another fracture, I’ll get the kyphoplasty again, without question.
Georgia Reber has a Masters in education and lives near Columbus, Ohio. She’d like to remind people that there are many kids out there that need a loving home. If you have a spare bedroom and room in your heart, please consider being a foster parent.
This procedure is not for everyone. A prescription is required. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of Balloon Kyphoplasty and whether it's right for you.
This resource was created with support from Medtronic.