Eleanor Copeland can now pick up her baby and play with her toddler after back surgery. Catherine Scott reports.
It is every new parent’s dream: to pick up and cuddle their baby.
But for Eleanor Copeland it was impossible.
Eleanor was struck down with sciatica in her third trimester of pregnancy.
The pain became so severe that she ended up being bedridden and having to use a wheelchair to get around.
After the birth of her baby son, Barney, the pain in her back and left leg became so bad the 33-year-old pharmaceuticals manager from Huddersfield could not walk and remained confined to her bed.
Eleanor, who also has a three-year-old son, Felix, was unable to care for her sons, so her husband, Paul, took leave from work to look after the three of them. “The pain became excruciating after Barney was born,” said Eleanor. “I was practically bedridden for six weeks and was prescribed morphine by my doctor to manage the pain. It was so bad I could not walk and had to crawl out of bed to use the bathroom.”
What was more heartbreaking was that she wasn’t able to pick up Barney or Felix.
A GP recommended that Eleanor should go for further tsets and she was referred to the Spire Leeds Hospital. Eleanor for an MRI scan.
The scan revealed the cause of the problem was a prolapsed disc in her spine she used her health insurance, and, following research, chose Mr Deb Pal, consultant neurosurgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital in July 2013 to carry out her treatment.
Eleanor saw Mr Pal within days and had surgery just four days later.
“I was scared about having spinal surgery,” she said. “However Mr Pal was so reassuring and put me at ease right away.”
On the day of surgery Eleanor travelled by car and had to lie flat on the back seat due to the pain. She needed a wheelchair to take her from the car to the hospital. Mr Pal performed a microdiscectomy, a minimally-invasive procedure to remove part of the damaged disc and free the trapped nerve.
After surgery, Eleanor felt immediate relief and was soon able to look after her baby and play with her toddler.
“I was delighted how quickly I was seen for the initial consultation. When Mr Pal told me the cause of the problem it was so lovely to hear him say to me ‘No wonder you were in such pain’. After months of not being able to find out what was wrong, it was such a relief for someone to acknowledge how awful it was that I broke down and cried.”
Mr Pal said Eleanor was in incredible pain by the time he saw her.
“Her quality of life was so bad from her pain that she could not do simple things like holding her baby. She was one of the worst patients with sciatica that I have seen recently,” he said.
The treatment was minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a portion of a herniated disc is removed and the trapped nerve freed by a surgical instrument or laser while using an operating microscope for magnification.
“The 45-minute procedure was performed using keyhole surgery. Ninety per cent of patients experience immediate relief following this type of procedure. Eleanor should now be able to lead a completely normal life. She just needs to be careful for a few months not to lift anything heavy.
“It’s difficult to manage back pain during pregnancy because of the limited painkillers that can be taken and it’s not possible to operate during pregnancy because of the risk to the unborn baby.”
When Eleanor woke after the surgery she reported immediate relief from pain.
“I felt a billion times better. It’s like a miracle to me after six weeks of being bed-bound. Just to be able to walk around felt amazing. It put everything into perspective.
“Having the surgery really was a life changing experience and I’m so grateful to Mr Pal for giving me my life back. I can now enjoy my two sons. They’ve got their mum back.”
Mr Pal said: “This case is an example of how one of the commonest spinal conditions we see in practice, i.e. disc bulge causing sciatica, can cause debilitating symptoms. However following conservative treatment if the symptoms persist then surgery in the correct patient can offer excellent results.”
Range of help for patients
Many women have back pain and sciatica during pregnancy and this can often get worse subsequently.
Once they have had their baby, it can be very difficult to cope with their pain and to look after their baby. For these patients as well as for other general patients there is advice and help available.
If they have tried conservative measures like physiotherapy or even spinal injections and yet their pain persists, surgery remains an option.
In the correct patient, the outcome is excellent in at least 95 per cent of cases.