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My Mom's Story

My mom, Cynthia, has had countless health complications in the past six months due to a back surgery gone wrong that have left her disabled, hopeless, and in constant pain. She has always such been a wonderful role model to us, so it breaks us apart to see her suffering.

Our family is turning to you for much needed financial assistance so that we can continue to provide care for mom during her recuperation. In making a contribution you’ll also be helping to erase the hopelessness that often compromises her recovery.

Cynthia's nightmare began when it was determined she needed surgery to correct her scoliosis, which has been rapidly progressing for the past 5 years and causing more and more problems. She has terrible white-coat syndrome and was horrified of the possibility of surgery, but we all encouraged her to go through with it so she could finally live pain free and be able to pick up and hold her granddaughter.

Cynthia Scoliosis Surgery Nightmare Hardware Failure Dr Richard Francis Houston


(Open wound with sharp metal protruding that mom had
on her back for over a month. Something's not right.)

The series of unfortunate events started the moment she went in for her first surgery, which was located in another city over 2 hours away from home. She had psyched herself up and was actually ready to go through with the procedures. However, the small surgical hospital she was at made a mistake and never got the surgery approved by her insurance. After spending all day sorting out the insurance fiasco instead of having surgery, my mom left the hospital sick and anxious. The surgery was rescheduled for 5 days later, except this time my mom was not psyched. She was terribly afraid and took every ounce of courage to go back.

The corrective procedure actually required two surgeries: one to remove the disks in her back, and another to install the metal hardware that keeps the spine straight. The first surgery went well, but the doctors noticed her hemoglobin was down, so they postponed the second surgery for another 4 days. During that time, she couldn't get out of bed.

The second surgery nearly killed her. She started losing a lot of blood, so the surgical team had to close her up early. Despite this, they were able to dial in most of the straightening of her spine before closing up the wound. They gave her blood for the next two days, and she had to stay in the hospital for another week, since she was then too weak to go home. She was then transferred back to Victoria to a rehabilitation facility. Around this time, she started getting terrible pain from her sciatic nerve. Unfortunately, the rehab facility didn't have the resources to treat the condition which made physical therapy very difficult for her, if not impossible some days, due to the pain.

Then one day she became very sick. She kept saying she was dying and she was so cold. The doctors didn't think much of it since she didn't have a fever, but then her temperature became abnormally low. She was rushed into the nearest ER where it was determined she had a severe infection. Her white blood cell count was 29,000, when normal levels are 7,000 to 10,000. We didn't know if she was going to make it. She was started on IV antibiotics and rushed back to the surgical hospital over 2 hours away. Fortunately, the infection was caught just in time, and she responded well to the antibiotics. After another surgery to clean and close the incision on her back and another week in the hospital, she was transferred back home for another 3 weeks of rehab.

Cynthia Scoliosis Surgery Staff Infection First Street Surgical Hospital Bellaire
(In the hospital again for a severe infection.)

During the second round of rehab, her physical therapy became more difficult and her sciatic nerve pain dramatically increased. She was so weak from the surgery and infection at this point, plus the IV antibiotics made her sick so she barely ate. Since rehab could not properly address her pain, most therapy focused on trying to stretch out her leg to ease the pain, instead of the standard physical therapy that she needed to gain strength. After only getting worse in rehab and no closer to pain management or proper therapy, she had to go back to my parent's house since their insurance lapse began at the end of the year.

But, the medical nightmares continued.

At home, my parents encountered another enormous setback. Their new insurance carrier approved to start Jan 1st continuously relayed all through January that they were inundated with new applications in December, and due to this, they were unable to setup my parents' account, which left them without insurance during this time.

This meant they weren't able to bring in a physical therapist to help my mom get any better, and they couldn't see any doctors for pain management. They were forced to hire an in-home nurse out-of-pocket to care for my mom at home, which they can barely afford–after all, it costs hundreds of dollars each day. Every day my mom either laid in bed, or sat hunched over in a wheelchair, weak and in pain. Her spirit was disappearing before our eyes.

After a few weeks at home, she started getting excruciatingly painful muscle spasms due to her atrophying muscles and other surgery complications we would learn about later. This is when we all began to break down. She could not move in or out of bed without crying in pain due to muscle spasms, along with her sciatic pain.

Then it only gets worse...

One day at home, the home nurse noticed an open wound on my mom's back. Over a few days, the wound became bigger and got infected. The nurse then noticed metal within the wound, so we began thinking something was wrong with the rod on her spine. With no insurance and no access to wound care, she was taken to the ER to be assessed, which would be paid out of pocket since there was still no insurance at this time.

The ER doctor confirmed there was metal in the wound and did not believe he could treat it properly. Her original surgeon was contacted, and once again she was transferred back to the surgical hospital, after a heartbreaking and difficult intervention from our family convinced her to go, despite the fact she didn't believe she had the mental strength to go back.

Her surgeon told us there was no problem with the rods in her back, and the wound was a pressure wound caused by malnutrition. It was hard for us to believe this, but we figured that this was the surgeon's specialty, so we should trust his diagnosis. The doctor put her under for a fourth surgery to clean and close this new wound. He assured us again there was no hardware issue. She was put on another 6 weeks of IV antibiotics to prevent another infection and sent back home.

We did get a message around this time that my parents' new insurance policy was written up on February 1st, but we found out that the new policy does not offer any coverage for "out of network" coverages, and all of her specialized doctors and surgeons up to this point were not approved for "in network".

After just two days at home, some of the staples on her wound began to pop out and the wound opened up again, and the nurse and doctors again saw metal inside the wound. My mom's surgeon again requested we come back to the surgical hospital where he said he would bring in a plastic surgeon to cover up the wound and protruding metal with a flap. We were told her stay would be 10 days and they everything would be taken care of this time. We were skeptical to go back, considering that the problem was not properly addressed the previous trip, and that every trip requires my mom to ride in an ambulance and be heavily medicated. This not only causes her stress and pain, but we have to pay for the cost of the ambulance. (In case you weren’t aware, an ambulance ride can cost over $3,000, depending on the services provided while en route to a hospital!)

Feeling like we had no other options, we decided to go back to a surgical hospital under the care of the original surgeon, after another grueling ambulance ride. Both surgeons looked at the wound and clearly saw the metal rod protruding. Instead of scheduling plastic surgery to cover the wound, or even address that the protruding metal was a problem and had to be dealt with, they told us that she has a problem with low protein causing the wound not to heal. The new plan was to send my mom back home to increase protein intake for 2 weeks, then come back again for the plastic surgery, which may require 2 surgeries (and 2 trips back). Furthermore, the plastic surgeon was not in our network, so we would have to pay $20,000 for his fees alone for this surgery. Mom was sent back home with an open wound and metal protruding out, which baffled all of our local doctors when they heard the story.

Cynthia Life Saved from Spine Infection Dr. Paul Holman Houston Methodist Hospital
(Trying to stay active and positive while in the hospital yet again.)

After yet another hopeless and hard trip to the hospital, we were again out of options. We decided to schedule an appointment with an experienced local plastic surgeon to see if the flap was even a viable option. He told us that plastic surgery was definitely not an option and that our doctors have been negligent about this very serious issue. He advised us to go to a large hospital immediately to get this looked at.

Then the situation brightens, just a bit.

It’s about time we caught a break, right?! By the grace of God we were put in touch with one of the top neurosurgeons in our area who agreed to take our difficult case. My mom made another ambulance trip out of town to go to Houston Methodist Hospital. The new surgeon discovered that one of the rods in her back was coming detached from the spine, and the detached screws were tearing through her back muscles, causing her pains and muscle spasms.

These complications could have been dealt with many months ago, but our original surgeon was not willing to offer any viable solutions. My mom had two more surgeries to start fixing the complications and spent another two and a half weeks in the hospital. The first surgery removed part of the broken hardware and the second surgery finally closed up the open wound. After the surgeries, the neurosurgeon said her problem was the worst he had ever seen.

As of now, my mom is at home recovering from the latest surgeries. She is still very disabled and requires 24 hour care. Currently my dad, Clay, is her primary caregiver, which has taken a very heavy emotional and physical toll on him. To provide him with respite from these responsibilities, we for hire a home nurse out-of-pocket.

Cynthia Holding Granddaughter Before Scoliosis Surgery