Patient Spotlight: Kelley Dean
Tenacious is a word everyone uses to describe Kelley. She credits a lifetime of sports – mostly softball – for making her tough, and her mom for making her a fighter. Tenacity has served her well, especially since her spinal cord injury 15 years ago. A fluke diving accident as she was entering the ocean at a New York beach snapped Kelley’s neck. She knew she was paralyzed as she floated face down in the water – luckily her friends noticed, and a chiropractor and a neurological nurse were nearby on the beach that day. They got her to an ambulance, and surgery to insert a titanium plate and stabilize her neck followed.
Kelley’s was an incomplete injury, so her spinal cord was not totally severed. She went to the Kessler Institute, where Christopher Reeve rehabilitated, and this is where her tenacity paid off. She noticed that other patients’ success was based on attitude and hard work – so she knew she had to be positive and work very hard – which she did for four months. She regained strength, built muscle and essentially became a walking quadriplegic. Now Kelley could walk with one arm cane, she could go up the 14 stairs in her home, and she could drive a car.
Kelley was enjoying her independent life with her wife and two dogs and her job at Home Depot, until she had a fall into some stairs in her garage while she was in a hurry. The fall increased the damage to her already compromised L5-S1 disc. Now she was in a lot of pain, she couldn’t sit, she couldn’t walk and lying in bed was her only comfortable position. It was a long 18 months of pain for a woman used to being independent. After only focusing on treatment for her pain, her friend recommended she see Dr. Gary Ghiselli. Dr. Ghiselli immediately understood that a spinal fusion surgery could increase Kelley’s stability and decrease her pain.
Kelley had the surgery three years ago. She said the decision was easy based on Dr. Ghiselli’s reputation and warmth, his “no bureaucracy” team (including her go-to Chris Tomasi), and the comfort she felt in their care. She says she “would recommend the ‘Ghiselli Package’ to anyone.” Once Kelley got her strength back, her athlete’s tenacity took over again – this time at Craig in Colorado. Without the pain, Kelley could focus on getting back to her previous activity level.
Kelley continues to persevere today, she returned to her job at Home Depot earlier this year and is working – very hard – toward getting back to her one arm cane and recovering her previous fearlessness. We have no doubt she’ll get there.