Althea A. Fung


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‘Amazing’ Recovery After Spine Injury — Everyday Health

After a hard fall in a hallway, Kimberly Moore embarked down a path of bizarre medical symptoms that ultimately led to a diagnosis and successful spinal surgery at Memorial Hospital.

Ms. Moore, 47, an office administrator, was at work when she fell. “I was wearing heels and a pair of slacks with a deep cuff. I think my heel caught in the cuff,” she says. “I fell forward, jerking my head back, and fell hard on my hands and knees.”

Soon after the spill in October 2010, Ms. Moore began exhibiting strange symptoms that confounded even her doctors.

“I was having numbness and tingling but only when I coughed, then I began losing the feeling in my fingers. Eventually I couldn’t walk without assistance,” says the Chattanooga resident. “I went to my primary care physician; she wanted me to have a brain MRI because she thought I might have multiple sclerosis.”

It wasn’t MS. 

Meanwhile, the condition got worse. Ms. Moore says she found it difficult to write her own name or tie her shoelaces. After seeing another doctor, she was referred to Todd Bonvallet, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon at Memorial Hospital, who diagnosed her with cervical spondylotic myelopathy. 

Spine Injury ‘a Great Masquerader’

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy is better known as a spinal cord compression. It occurs when there is a degenerative disc disease with narrowing of the spine canal or a herniated disc that compresses the spinal cord, says Dr. Bonvallet. It can cause unusual symptoms. Such as?

“Myelopathy is a great masquerader. It can be mistaken for many conditions because of the strange symptoms. It’s a condition that isn’t common, but when you put the symptoms together, you realize myelopathy is the likely source of the problem,” Dr. Bonvallet says.

Symptoms for the condition vary greatly—in some cases, patients might not have pronounced signs. 

“Some patients experience only minor symptoms, but after further examination it is apparent their condition may be serious,” he says.

Finding Immediate Pain Relief

Spinal cord injury is treated with surgery to decompress the spinal cord. Dr. Bonvallet warns that patients shouldn’t hold off seeking treatment because the neurologic condition will only get worse. 

“For people with pain, there is a vast improvement overnight,” he says. 

This was true for Ms. Moore, who had surgery in February 2011, within two weeks of meeting with Dr. Bonvallet. She regained function in her hands, arms, and legs, and was discharged from the hospital after one night and was back to work within two weeks. 

“I’m back to doing anything I want to do. I was at the gym every day before this, then walking became my biggest problem,” she says. “Now I’m concentrated on getting back to walking again. I’m not doing 5K runs, but going from not walking to this is just amazing.”

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