Brenda Climbs to New Heights with Spine Surgery

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Neck & Back Pain

“Hello, is anyone there?” yelled Brenda Trimble, 79. She thought she heard someone coming. Should she call out louder? She felt for her phone. She was worried, a little embarrassed, but mostly scared — what was wrong?

Brenda was trapped on the stairs of the 5th floor at the Cerritos Center for Performing Arts. She couldn’t feel her legs. She tried to send the message to her legs to get them going, but nothing happened. She couldn’t bend her knees to sit or shift down the stairs. She would have to wait until help arrived. Then as sudden as it had gone, the feeling in her legs returned. 

Immediately afterward, Brenda reached out to Amandeep Bhalla, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon, Spine Center, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. Brenda shared details of this experience with Dr. Bhalla, and other issues she had been managing, including pain in her legs.

Even before this incident, Brenda’s leg pain was interfering with her active lifestyle. She tried conservative treatments, including therapeutic exercise, oral anti-inflammatory medicines and epidural injections, but only achieved temporary pain relief.  

After some imaging studies, Dr. Bhalla diagnosed Brenda with spinal stenosis. With spinal stenosis, patients can feel low back, gluteal leg pain or numbness, which may increase with activity. Often caused by age-related wear and tear, spinal stenosis can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves within the spine, causing discomfort into the lower back, buttocks and/or legs.

Brenda knew she wanted to get back to her active life. As a young woman, Brenda enjoyed participating in a tennis club.

“I’m all about girl power,” says Brenda. “Back then Billie Jean King was fighting for equality in women’s sports and I felt empowered to play tennis. I loved it.”

Later in life, as a mother of two, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of three, Brenda is always on the go. She keeps even busier by helping her neighbors, and as a volunteer (art ambassador) at Cerritos Center for Performing Arts for nearly 25 years. 

Brenda was even in attendance when the venue opened on Jan. 13, 1993, when Frank Sinatra performed at the opening. As an art ambassador, she provides customer service, ushers and directs patrons, helps in emergency procedures and more.

Brenda didn’t want her spine condition to slow her down and knew she needed a more permanent solution.

“Helping to educate patients about their condition is important. Back surgery is most commonly an elective surgery,” says Dr. Bhalla. “Spine surgery should always be a joint decision between a patient and their surgeon. If someone is living with chronic neck or back pain, particularly with radiating symptoms to the extremities, they may benefit from consulting a spine surgeon to learn more about treatment options that could help them.”  

Dr. Bhalla worked one-on-one with Brenda to determine what surgical procedure was best for her.  

“Dr. Bhalla was incredible, he even drew me pictures and explained the entire process to me,” says Brenda. “He was totally transparent and answered all of my questions to help me understand what to expect with surgery.”

After discussing her custom treatment plan with Dr. Bhalla, Brenda participated in the spine surgery pre-operative (pre-op) education class held for patients and “coaches” scheduled for spine surgery. A coach, although not required, is the person that the patient selects to be their source of support or caregiver during the spine surgery experience — Brenda’s husband was her coach. The spine pre-op class is multi-disciplinary and led by Debi Fenton, RN, Spine Care Coordinator.

“Preparation, education, continuity of care and a pre-planned discharge are essential for optimum results for spine surgery,” says Fenton. “Pre-op class prepares patients — and their coaches — for the entire journey of spine surgery, setting expectations for surgery and recovery and giving participants a chance to ask questions.”

Today, Brenda is back to enjoying her life with the people that she holds dear to heart.

“I took my recovery step-by-step,” says Brenda as she confidently walks up to a flight of stairs at the Cerritos Center for Performing Arts. “With my husband and my care team by side through recovery, I was back to feeling like superwoman. There is no stopping me now, not ever.”