“You are in the right place. We can help you.”
In 2018, Emily Greene noticed that she was having some pain in her arms and shoulders, which she originally thought was an outcome of her weekly workout classes. The pain became excruciating in October of 2018 and she was referred to an orthopedic surgeon at the UNC Spine Center in January of 2019. She was then diagnosed with severe cervical kyphosis by the first orthopedic surgeon who evaluated her. It is for this condition that Dr. Deb Bhowmick performed spinal fusion surgery.
Dr. Deanna Sasaki-Adams told Ms. Greene that a biopsy was required to rule out cancer in preparation for surgery. Around a month after the biopsy, Ms. Greene realized that she was quickly losing her fine and gross motor skills. She stated that she could barely walk without holding onto the wall. At that time, from September to November, the orthopedic surgeons were extremely hesitant about performing the surgery. Dr. Sasaki-Adams told Ms. Greene to get an opinion from a neurosurgeon specializing in spinal surgery and referred her to Dr. Bhowmick.
After her initial meeting with Dr. Bhowmick she was told, “You are in the right place. We can help you.” Upon hearing this, she almost cried with relief. This was the first time someone had told her that there were possible solutions and that she was going to be okay. When reflecting on this time, Ms. Greene referred to Dr. Sasaki-Adams as her “shining star,” because if she had not sent her to Dr. Bhowmick, Ms. Greene doesn’t know where she would be today.
Ms. Greene said that she admired Dr. Bhowmick’s attention to detail and expertise, but what amazed her most was his technical skill level. She said, “His fine motor skills must be worth a zillion dollars.” When she woke up from her twelve-hour surgery on March 16, 2021, the first thing she realized was that, finally, she was no longer in pain. Over the next few days, she was visited continually by Dr. Reed, Dr. Shastri, and Dr. Bhowmick. Ms. Greene said that every surgeon and resident that cared for her was absolutely wonderful. She was amazed at how individualized her care felt and, even though she was hospitalized during the start of COVID-19, she never felt that she was ignored or thought of as a burden.
Prior to her surgery, Ms. Greene stated that she could not hold her toothbrush or floss her teeth without crying. The pain spanning from her left middle finger, across her shoulders and upper back, all the way down to her right middle finger was excruciating and debilitating. She stated that these small actions—things as small as unloading the dishwasher—were what she missed most while going through this time. As someone who loves to stay active, Ms. Greene is getting back into swimming and fitness since in recovery. She is incredibly grateful for all of the staff members for making this possible and stated that she would return to UNC Hospital for absolutely anything that she needed to in the future!