An artificial facet joint inserted in her lower spine three months ago has made a night-and-day difference in her level of physical activity and mental outlook, a Durango woman says.
The artificial joint duplicates the job of a natural one. Located on the back of the spinal column, the facet joint holds the vertebrae of the lumbar region together and controls movement and flexibility.
"I was in an amazing amount of pain, so bad I was bent over and using a cane," Janet Spear said in a recent interview. "My life was on hold because I was restricted - literally - to moving from chair to chair. Walking half a block was out of the question."
It was the cruelest of fates because she had always been active, said Spear, 65, a fiber artist and founder in 1995, with two sons, of Lady Falconburgh's bar in downtown Durango. The bar since has been sold.
The incapacity came on virtually overnight, Spear said. She was in Florida in December when she noticed an odd twinge in her hip and leg. Pain struck in earnest on Jan. 10 in Durango, and by Jan. 20 she was hobbling in excruciating pain.
Magnetic resonance imaging revealed that two cysts were putting pressure on her spinal nerves. The cysts were drained, but two days later the pain returned. Spear was referred to Durango spinal surgeon Dr. Jim Youssef, who was preparing to join a nationwide clinical test of an artificial facet joint.
Spear had surgery March 17 and was back on her feet the same day. In spite of being fitted with a brace that she said made her walk like Frankenstein, she did 18 laps around the recovery ward, the equivalent of one mile. She recuperated for four weeks at home, then began physical therapy - stationary bike, treadmill, stretching and walking.
"I could tell as soon as I stood up after surgery that the pain in my hip and leg was gone," Spear said. "Since I left the hospital, I've continued to walk - two to five miles a day - rain or shine."
Now, with her life back to pre-op level, she can drive to Santa Fe to see family or prepare a sit-down dinner for six at her place.
"It's been an interesting journey, going from chasing grandchildren to being in such pain as to need surgery," Spear said. "I could have tried other remedies - not drugs because I'm allergic - but I opted for the artificial facet joint.
"I feel independent and pain-free," Spear said. "I'm always in high gear."