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Kristina - Navigating Surgery and Recovery during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Navigating Surgery and Recovery During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Kristina is a 48-year-old mother of two living in San Jose. For 15 years, she was a project manager for a tech company and is now an active volunteer who teaches art, helps with student fundraisers at her daughter’s school, leads couples’ retreats and supports many community grassroots efforts.

About 20 years ago, Kristina had a minor car accident and for years afterward she saw a chiropractor for neck and shoulder pain. In November of 2019, her neck grew worse and it was painful bending her head forward or backward. By January, Kristina had tingling in her hands. She saw a physiatrist who ordered x-rays and an MRI and referred her to a surgeon. Kristina was told she had severe cervical spinal stenosis which is a narrowing of the space for the spinal cord and essentially, her spinal cord was being choked. She was also experiencing increasing clumsiness, a loss of balance and tingling in her hands with occasional shocks going down her arms when she moved her neck.

“This was a really scary time for me. If I were to fall, I could have become paralyzed,” explains Kristina. She saw two other surgeons before she met with orthopedic spine surgeon Yazeed Gussous, MD, who performed decompressive laminectomy surgery to remove the lamina (top) of the vertebrae and bone or soft tissues pinching the spinal nerves to create space for the nerves and reduce pressure on the spinal cord. Dr. Gussous also fused her C3 and C4 vertebrae.

“My husband and I knew right away when we met Dr. Gussous he was the best surgeon for me. He is hands down the best doctor I’ve ever had. He listened to all our concerns and was very empathetic and never judgmental. He very calmly explained what needed to be done and we never felt rushed,” says Kristina.

Before the surgery, Dr. Gussous and Kristina were able to Facetime with her sister who is an endocrinologist in Hawaii so he could share her x-rays and images on his screen. He took the time to explain what the surgery entailed to make sure Kristina and her family fully understood the procedure.

She had surgery on March 12. The Shelter-in-Place Order started five days later. Prior to the surgery, Kristina went to the hospital for her appointments where hospital staff carefully screened her for potential exposure to COVID-19. Kristina spent one night in the hospital and was discharged home the day following her surgery. She was impressed that staff members introduced themselves to her when they came in to provide care or therapy and everyone was extremely responsive to her questions. “The staff was great at anticipating my needs and were so organized. They were also very careful about sanitizing their hands and wearing gloves at all times. Everyone who entered the room used sanitizer when they came in and when they left. I always felt very comfortable during my stay and Dr. Gussous has an excellent bedside manner” says Kristina.

After she was discharged from the hospital, Dr. Gussous texted Kristina to see how her recovery was progressing, and he continues to keep in touch regularly to monitor her health. “Dr. Gussous offered to come to my house if I was concerned about going to his office for follow up care. At the two-week mark, I was scheduled to have the staples removed from my surgical site. When I came in for that appointment, I was screened again for COVID-19, but I was never worried. A week later, we had a virtual visit to see how my incision was healing. Dr. Gussous always took the initiative to ask if we would be more comfortable meeting virtually rather than coming to his office. I appreciate that he’s sensitive and aware of my concerns,” says Kristina.

Kristina’s recovery is going well and Dr. Gussous continues to stay in touch via texts and phone calls to monitor her progress.