After numerous setbacks, Hope Lomvardias thought she was out of options.
In the spring of 2015, Hope was a 17-year-old Archbishop Spalding junior who was excitedly touring colleges around the Northeast in preparation for applying in the fall. However, during the long car trips, she started experiencing intense low back pain, as well as leg pain and numbness. Her mother, Karyn, an infusion nurse at Anne Arundel Medical Center, became increasingly concerned.
“When we would stop the car, Hope could hardly stand up because she was in terrible pain,” explains Karyn. “And, it just worsened. I knew something was wrong, because I’ve had my own cervical spine issues, and I recognized nerve pain.”
Because of Hope’s young age, her healthcare providers were reluctant to diagnose a spinal disc problem. Eventually, Hope had an MRI that confirmed a large herniation in the disc in the lowest part of her spine, between L5 and S1 — an unusual diagnosis at her age. She began conservative treatment options that included medication and physical therapy.
“During all of this, Hope started her senior year of high school,” recalls Karyn. “It really created problems because she was in excruciating pain.”
Hope was able to make arrangements with the school to use the elevator and a rolling backpack, although she hated having to do things differently than her classmates. When Hope was younger, she wore a brace to treat her scoliosis, and she didn’t like feeling different again. However, she had little choice.
The medication and physical therapy did not offer Hope the relief she needed, and school was getting more difficult.
Her parents gave her the option of taking placement tests and going straight into college. But Hope did not want to give up her high school experience, including graduating with her class and going to prom. She continued on with physical therapy, while searching for other treatment options.
Hope then met with Roy Bands, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at The Spine Center at AAMC. Dr. Bands had treated both Karyn and Karyn’s father for spine issues, and now Hope would be the third generation to see him.
“Hope had a degenerative herniated lumbar disc, which in someone her age, we believe is primarily genetic,” says Dr. Bands. “She has a strong family history of this, including her mother and grandfather.”
At first, Dr. Bands recommended Hope continue physical therapy so he could monitor for any improvement. “Unfortunately physical therapy did not improve her condition, so we then discussed her surgical options.”
According to Chad Patton, MD, medical director of The Spine Center at AAMC, “Our philosophy of care is patient-centric from beginning to end. It’s important to exhaust conservative treatment options before surgery is considered.”
A Surgical Solution
Although Hope was hesitant to have back surgery, she also recalls how badly she was hurting. “One time it got so bad right before surgery that I even thought ‘if only I can have my leg amputated’ because I couldn’t stand the pain,” she remembers. “The pain was that bad.” By that point, Hope was ready for surgery.
“The surgery to repair a herniated disc involves opening the spinal canal and shaving off the herniated portions of the disc. It’s called a laminectomy and discectomy,” explains Dr. Bands.
Hope had surgery over the Christmas break to minimize her time away from school, and she emerged in a much better place both physically and mentally.
“Immediately after the surgery, I felt so much better,” says Hope. “It was amazing. I felt like I had my old leg back. I was basically pain free. I’m so glad I decided to have surgery.”
Now, Hope has returned to her life as an active teenager. Dr. Bands cleared her to play sports again if she’d like. Plus, Hope was accepted to Johns Hopkins, where she plans to study history in the fall.
“Hope is a perfect example of how back surgery can make significant improvement in your life,” says Dr. Bands.