Do you need spine surgery?

Jessica M – 21 – August, 2009…

Where do I begin! My name is Jessica and I’m 21 years old. I found out that I had grade 3-4 spondylolisthesis last February 2008. I was experiencing extreme pain in my right leg, numbness in my left leg, and lower back pain that made it difficult to do normal, every day activities. Leaning over the sink to brush my teeth, sitting for long periods of time, bending over to pick things up off the ground and even sneezing would throw me to the floor in pain.


My condition reached the grade 3-4 level over the course of several years because it was overlooked by my primary care doctor and I had no idea I had this spinal condition. The only thing I knew was I was only 17 years old when the leg pain began, and each year I felt more and more pain until life in general was miserable and my physical capabilities were extremely limited.

When I was finally referred to a specialist in my home town, I was informed that surgery was a must—and the procedure for doing so was extremely risky. According to that specialist, the surgery used an invasive approach that required making incisions in both the front and the back. This particular neurologist left my parents and I feeling overwhelmed, helpless and emotionally deflated. So we moved on to get a second opinion. This time we headed to Boston, hoping for a better outlook after meeting the orthopedic surgeon. Let’s just say he painted a very bleak picture and described the surgery as near-impossible. He looked at my MRI while we were in his office and the first word out of his mouth was “Wow.” He was totally unprofessional, and for a second time, we left crying.

The third neurologist we made an appointment with was from the same hospital in Boston-but we couldn’t get an appointment with him until 6 months later, but we made one anyway.

During this time, my aunt had been doing some research on the internet and typed in “spondylolisthesis,” and Dr. Antonacci was the first result to appear! We looked into it and although his offices weren’t right down the block, we were still willing to give it a try. My mom called Dr. Antonacci’s secretary, Chris and explained to her that I had grade 3-4 spondylolisthesis and mom asked if there was a way to meet with him. Well, without hesitation, Chris said, “Absolutely, he’ll definitely want to meet with her, is two weeks from today too soon?” Two Weeks?! We had been waiting months in between specialist visits, so this felt like Christmas!

Two weeks later, on July 8th, my parents and I drove 3 ½ hours to his Manhattan office. Let me just say, it was well-worth the trip! Dr. A met with us that morning and we fell in love with him! For the first time, we heard optimism and confidence. Of course there can be complications with any surgery, and yes, sometimes things go wrong—we already knew that; but Dr. Antonacci focused on the positive.

He didn’t look at me like a number, or treat me like a “patient with grade 4 spondylolisthesis,” he examined me and made a determination based on my body’s physical condition. He noticed that my posture was perfect and upright, which isn’t normally the case with this grade of spondylolisthesis. He was the first and only doctor to notice that about me! Based on this observation, he determined that he would only need to make one incision through my back without having to manipulate my spine. Already his procedure would be less-invasive by far than any of the other doctor’s approaches. Every other doctor I went to treated my case the same as the next patient; they never acknowledged my upright posture, combined with my young age and overall physical health—I was merely another number and operation to them.

Dr. Antonacci barely blinked an eye before he knew the exact procedure he would do for me. His humble confidence in his ability was a breath of fresh air. We never felt rushed by Dr. Antonacci on any occasion. He answered all of our questions with extreme detail and never made us feel for one moment that we were wasting his time or using too much of it. My parents and I felt so thrilled and relieved after meeting with him that we were high-fiving each other when we left his office! All of our searching had finally paid off. We knew we found the man for the job!

We began to get the ball rolling as soon as we met with Dr. Antonacci. Unfortunately, I had many difficulties with my insurance company for months because Dr. Antonacci was out of my network in my health plan—typical health insurance glitches. But that didn’t stop his secretary Chris from being one of the most HELPFUL people to deal with throughout every aggravating moment. I had to call Chris with question after question for weeks on end, but she was always cheerful and glad to be of assistance! Bonnie is the other secretary at his New Jersey office and she was just as great! They made every appointment easy and breezy, and many a time—Chris had to do the dirty work and hunt down people from the insurance company numerous times on my behalf. Every person who worked behind the scenes for Dr. Antonacci before, during, and after the surgery was respectful, helpful, friendly, caring, and considerate and the most professional crew my family and I have ever met. Thank you Chris, Bonnie, Joel (for answering all of my crazy questions!), Dr. Sandel (for being so sweet and so awesome!), the staff at the Hospital, and every other person who helped me make it through that week in the hospital after surgery!! I couldn’t have done it without all of you!!!! I had my surgery February 9th of this year—without any complications whatsoever! Thank you Jesus!! Dr. Antonacci’s cool, calm, and collected bedside manner kept me and my family comfortable and sane throughout the entire experience. It has been 2 months now, and I already feel the changes in body from the surgery, and how they are positively affecting my life. For the first time in a year, I CAN SNEEZE AGAIN!!! AND IT FEELS GREAT!!! I was so nervous to sneeze for the first time after surgery—I was expecting to fall to the floor in pain as an unconscious reaction, but I don’t need to anymore! The surgery was worth it for that change if nothing more….But that’s not all I’ve noticed! I’ve been sleeping great at night without any discomfort, brushing my teeth over the sink doesn’t strain my back….and I’m sure there’s only more to come! I feel like I have my life back again, and I haven’t even started physical therapy yet! I know the road to recovery is long but it is completely worth it—trust me, if you are in the same situation I was—take a chance on Dr. Antonacci!!! Make the phone call—it can only help, and once you meet him, you’ll know exactly what I’ve been talking about. I trusted him with my life, and he didn’t disappoint! I know God sent him our way!!

Dr. Antonacci, words can’t express the gratitude I feel toward you. There isn’t a “thank-you” out there that seems good enough. You’ve turned what seemed to be an impossible journey into a positive one. My family and I will always remember the way you made us feel each time we saw you and the love and care you extended to us. You’re a blessing from above. God Bless you and your staff!

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