By Kate Scriven
Do you remember being told to “sit up straight in your chair” when you were a child? While this may be a laughable shared memory for most, for Jessica Matriotti it’s a reminder of how many years she’s suffered with an undiagnosed curvature of the spine making it impossible to “sit up straight”.
In elementary school, Matriotti’s parents noticed the “slump” in Jessica’s upper back. Despite repeated doctor’s visits, her parents were told Matriotti just needed to sit up straighter. However, try as she might, her spine would not allow it. When they pressed the doctors for a closer look, x-rays were taken while she was lying down, making the abnormal curvature unnoticeable.
Matriotti wasn’t too bothered until middle school when she began to notice pain in her back. It wasn’t constant and seemed tolerable. Matriotti’s pain increased, however, as she entered high school, as did the abnormal forward posture of her spine. She graduated in 2004 from Olympia High School and headed out into the workforce. By this time the pain was so constant she’d take breaks from her desk at work to lie on the floor, straightening her spine as much as she could, easing the pain. “By the end of the day, I was always in a lot of pain, and I finally just couldn’t put up with it anymore,” shares Matriotti.
She wasn’t hopeful for a diagnosis, let alone a cure, for her chronic back pain and increasing spinal curvature after so many years without help. Her primary care physician had previously referred Matriotti to Olympia Orthopaedic Associates for physical therapy and pain management with Dr. Abbott. Despite their best efforts, the pain persisted.
“It was around the time that I was getting married that I talked with a friend who had recently had surgery with Dr. Clyde Carpenter at Olympia Orthopaedics. I told her ‘I’d love to look normal for my wedding.’ I had my primary care doctor refer me to Dr. Abbott,” explained Matriotti. Ultimately, she visited Oly Ortho again in September 2012 when the physical therapy wasn’t providing any more benefits. “I knew surgery was the next option and decided to it,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Manista in the Olympia Orthopaedics Spine Center met with Matriotti and finally had an answer. “I was diagnosed with Scheuermann Kyphosis,” Matriotti reports. “Everyone has a kyphotic curve [the outward rounding of the upper back below the neck] up to 40 degrees. Mine was at a 94 degree curve. Anything over 70 is considered very serious.” She learned, from Dr. Manista, that the condition is genetic and after attending a summer BBQ recently, she realized many family members presented a form of Kyphosis.
“It was a relief to hear a diagnosis after so many years of being told to just ‘sit up straight,’” Matriotti shares. It wasn’t just the name for her condition, either. Dr. Manista’s willingness to educate her about the surgery and condition was refreshing. “It was nice to have a doctor that actually had the patience to sit with you. He was willing to answer anything before going into surgery,” said Matriotti. “I felt comfortable right from the beginning and wasn’t scared at all. In fact, I was really excited knowing that Dr. Manista had a plan and knew he could help me.”
The five to six hour surgery was performed at Capital Medical Center on November 28, 2012. Dr. Manista and his Physician’s Assistant Omar Gonzalez visited several times to check on her pain and recovery.
During the surgery, Dr. Manista made a 19-inch incision down Matriotti’s spine. He discovered that her vertebrae had fused over the years, requiring him to break her back in eight places. After straightening the curve Dr. Manista placed two rods and 26 screws along her newly straightened spine fusing it from the T2 to L3 vertebrae. For the first time, Matriotti could truly “sit up straight”.
After six days in the hospital Matriotti returned home. While the recovery wasn’t easy, she knew it was worth every minute of it. Physical therapists at OOA taught her proper protocols for movement during recovery, including sleeping in a recliner and wearing a back brace for 12 weeks. In addition, Matriotti was the mother of a then 2-year-old. “She was surprisingly understanding of why I couldn’t pick her up or play on the floor. She was great,” she adds.
The result? “I have no pain and that is the best thing I could ever ask for. And, my posture is amazing. The first time I went out to buy clothes, I felt like I had a new body. I’d been given a whole new me,” Matriotti beams.
Now, 18 months post-surgery Matriotti is living the life she only dreamed about before. “Olympia Orthopaedic Associates has helped me get my life in motion,” she states. “I’m able to actively participate in a circuit training class without pain and play with my daughter like I couldn’t before. Living a life in motion, pain free – that’s the best gift I could have asked for.”