Molly Pearl, 84, has spent her life savings on an operation to keep her dancing. Catherine Scott reports.
When Molly Pearl started to experience the debilitating pain of sciatica she feared her dancing days were over.
But the next steps she took changed her life, and today, just five weeks after undergoing major spinal surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital she is pain free and back doing the job she adores, teaching ballroom and Latin dancing.
The operation cost Molly her life-savings of £12,500, but she and husband Harry decided it was worth it to stop Molly being in so much pain and to get her back on her feet, and the dancefloor, as quickly as possible,
What makes Molly’s story all the more remarkable is that she is 84 years old and, as an IDTA professional dance instructor, she has taught her craft for more than four decades.
Her pupils range from three-year-olds to pensioners of 89.
Just three weeks after surgery, the great-grandmother from Cleckheaton resumed driving her car and last week returned for her first day at work, completing her usual 15-hour day.
“Much of the day involved dancing as I demonstrated dance moves. I took it steadily, however, I felt absolutely fine,” she says
Problems first started for Molly in September last year when she experienced pain in her left leg and reduced mobility.
Her GP prescribed painkillers and although Molly carried on working she says she was in agonising pain. By November it worsened, and Molly was in constant pain, although she preferred to keep working to help keep her mind off it.
“The pain was excruciating. I really couldn’t stand it anymore,” says Molly, who has a son, two grandsons and two great-grandchildren.
“I decided to use my savings to have private treatment.”
Her husband Harry carried out some research which led them to Deb Pal, a consultant neurosurgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital and she booked a consultation.
An MRI scan revealed a large cyst arising from the facet joint in her spine, which was severely compressing the nerve.
“The cyst was formed due to wear and tear of the joint,” explains Mr Pal.
“Molly was struggling to walk, and analgesics (painkillers) had not helped relieve the pain at all.
“If she continued without surgery, her walking and mobility would have deteriorated and the active lifestyle she thrives on would have probably come to a halt.”
For Molly it was an obvious decision.
“I had no hesitation after Mr Pal explained everything to me. I wanted to have the surgery done as soon as possible,” she says .
She underwent minimally invasive microsurgical dissection and removal of the cyst on April 26, this year, which involved first shaving the bones to access the nerve before dissecting and removing the cyst with the aid of a microscope.
Molly said she felt relief from the pain as soon as she woke up from the surgery.
There was a little pain as expected during the healing process, however she was soon pain-free.
Mr Pal said the surgery demanded special considerations as the nerve was tethered to the cyst and removing it while keeping the nerve intact presented challenges.
However, the results were excellent and the effect was immediate.
“Having freed the nerve, once she was noted to be moving her legs normally the pain relief was instantaneous, as expected,” says Mr Pal.
“At 84 years of age, she is extremely active and works very hard. With such an active lifestyle, once inactivity due to pain creeps in, things tend to deteriorate in a steep way.
“Molly was determined to get well and hopefully now she can remain active and get back to dancing as normal for a number of years to follow,” he added.
Molly is indeed looking forward to many more years of working and is also planning a Caribbean cruise with husband Harry to celebrate her 85th birthday in October.
“It will involve a lot of dancing with Harry, as well as laps around the deck every morning.
“Activity is vital to keep both your brain and your body feeling youthful.”
And she has praised her surgeon. “Mr Pal is brilliant. I cannot thank him enough for what he has done for me. “I thought my dancing days might be over. It’s been a wonderful life and he has given me a second chance of it.”