My name is Janelle Stout. I am 17 years old and have been living with spinal pain for almost four years now. I have been around the country to every single spine expert. Anywhere from Phoenix, Arizona, to Rochester Minnesota, I’ve been there. I have been told everything you can imagine about what could be wrong with my back, and it’s hard to know who to believe! But all doctors have had one thing in common- they can’t help me because I’m too young or underdeveloped.
I have two very bad looking, dehydrated, non-existent vertebral discs located at L4-L5, and L5-S1. Tests show that the upper disc is in worse shape than the lower one, but the lower one is the one causing the excruciating pain. The cause of my injury is unknown. I don’t know how it happened, I just know that the pain is there and it needs to be fixed. Although, genetics plays a very big part in this. My father and his father have both gone through major back surgeries. It’s just dreadful that of all people, I was the one who was passed down that gene, and at a very young age too!
Although I have been to about 15 different doctors around the country, and all being very vivid memories, 2 of the 15 visits jump out at me. My trip to Arizona, and my many, many trips to Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic.
Let’s start with my trip to Phoenix, Arizona. December of 2013, I was ecstatic when I found out that I was going to the Laser Spine Institute. When my mom made the appointment, the care provider assured us that nobody goes to their facility without getting the help that they need. They let us know that it would be a four day trip. The first day was scheduled for a simple office visit; I had x-rays, an MRI, and a CT scan. Second day, I began Pre-Op preparation (even though I had no idea what was going to be done) and I saw the doctor. I was so excited and so sure that this doctor was going to fix me. On that second day, the day before the operation, the doctor explained how he was going to take out bone marrow from my hips, and place it into the disc that was causing me all of the pain. He then let me know that he could not do this procedure because my hips were not done growing, which I thought was strange because I was already 5'10 at the age of 14. I was devastated. I was so fixed on knowing that I was going to get better because “they told me so” that it never crossed my mind that it might not even happen! Why would they tell me that they were for sure going to fix me, then let me down the day before the operation? Even though that trip made me ever so heartbroken, I learned that I need to be very cautious with upcoming doctor’s visits. That even though they tell me that they will fix me, I still have to not be so fixed on the idea.
My trip to the Mayo Clinic was just as memorable as the one to Arizona, if not more. After I was turned down time after time, I was recommended to go to the amazing Mayo Clinic. They were “the best hospital in the world” and they would for sure fix my problems! I was so excited to go there and get better! I was still a bit cautious, but not nearly as cautious as I should have been. I went a few times within the time span of three or four months, all for tests and evaluations, and therapies, following their strict schedule. One of the doctors I saw was to tell us about a program called the Pain Rehabilitation Center, or PRC for short. He told me that lots of kids from ages 12 to 21, go to this program and benefit very greatly from it! He also mentioned that it was my last resort, if going to this for three weeks in a row didn’t work, then he would operate to make things better. I get to this program in June 2014 and I feel very out of place. Yes, these kids were in too much pain to go to school, or do any fun activities that we used to be able to do, like me, but I wasn’t like them physically. I had a physical problem that could be fixed surgically, but the other kids did not. I quickly found that the programs method of healing was brainwash. If you had a mental problem, I could see how that would work out perfectly, but I didn’t. Nonetheless, I gave in to the brainwashing. At the time, I had no idea what the program was doing to me, but looking back, it was very apparent how severe my thoughts and actions were. While being cast under this program’s spell, the head operator of the program, and my case manager pulled my mom and I into their meeting room. It was then when they told me that they thought the program was working wonders for me, and my doctor is not going to operate anymore. That this program was it. I was okay with that at the time because I was one hundred percent brainwashed. But, that program did nothing for me after the fact when I was smacked in the face with reality. This was lesson number two on how much more I need to be cautious for the next doctors visit.
While at the Mayo Clinic, I met a boy who had been to Shriner’s hospital up in Washington state. He and his mother went on and on about how wonderful and amazing the staff is and the facility overall. So I thought, hey, I’ll give it a try but it would honestly be the last people that we go to; we’ve already been to every other specialist in the country. So I pack up my things and head off to St. Louis in November 2014. This time being very, very cautious.
I get there, scared out of my mind that they were going to make me empty promises, and they didn’t! Every thing went very smoothly and every single nurse and doctor in the building were very, very nice and sweet. Unlike anything I had ever seen before! They do a bunch of routine tests like x-rays, MRI’s, CT’s, anything that I wasn’t already used to. Then, after waiting a good hour or so for the doctor to review my file and scans, I get the best news that I have ever heard in my life. He is going to fix me. The next date he had available was in February, which I dreaded waiting that long, but it was nothing compared to three years! I was thrilled, but still very cautious that something might change the day before surgery, like it has in the past.
My entire life changed on that day, February 17, 2015 at Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis. A three year journey came to a relieving stop for once in the past three years. At 8 o’clock that morning, I was headed into the operating room where I would undergo a four hour spinal fusion that would make me a whole new person! The journey I had to go through to get where I am now was very long, emotional, painful, and time consuming. Yet, I’m still glad everything happened as it did, or else I wouldn’t be who I am today. It was definitely worth missing all of my sophomore of highschool and losing most of my friends. In this long journey, I learned that every little detail in life happens for a reason.
The one thing that got me through all of this is my friends and family. Mainly my mom, dad, and siblings- Jenna, Jessica, and Jeffrey. But I could never forget my grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friends. They have all so supportive in my journey that I don’t know how I could ever repay them for their thoughts and prayers.
For all those who are out there that are going through the same pain I did, mentally or physically, it gets better! Just hang in there, keep fighting, and never lose hope. There will be a day that will come that will change your whole life. God Bless!