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good help is a second chance at life

It was nearly 12 years ago, but Ashley remembers it like it was yesterday. “I was a junior in high school and I was trying on homecoming dresses with a girlfriend. And she just noticed that there was something funny with my back — it seemed a little abnormal.” The next day, the Roanoke native scheduled an appointment with a local doctor, who ultimately diagnosed her with scoliosis — a condition in which the spine rotates or curves and bends out of its normal alignment and essentially rotates to the side. At the time Ashley wasn’t in any pain so doctors treated her conservatively with bracing until she was thought to reach skeletal maturity and the curve would stop progressing.

But over the next several years, and particularly after graduating from college, as the outdoor enthusiast began to increase her activity, a chronic, unrelenting back pain began to take its toll.

“I think what really kind of put me over the edge was waiting tables and bartending and spending a lot of time on my feet, carrying heavy trays,” said Ashley. “Normal, like everyday activity, just being more active, kind of pushed the pain to a new level.”

Eventually the pain became so severe that it began to affect her quality of life. Searching for answers, Ashley turned to Dr. Jed Vanichkachorn, an orthopaedic surgeon at Tuckahoe Orthopaedics.

“When Ashley came and saw us she had been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis when she was a child, treated conservatively with bracing and it was released thinking that her curve had basically stopped progressing,” said Vanichkachorn. “A small population of adults will continue to have their curves get larger and as they get older they’ll get more deformity and more pain. So Ashley presented about 10 years after her last evaluation with a significant progression of her scoliosis, which was causing both pain and increasing deformity for her.”

After carefully discussing all of her options with Vanichkachorn, Ashley headed to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital for a thoracolumbar fusion — a new procedure that often yields dramatic results for adult scoliosis patients.

“It’s very similar to the technique we use for scoliosis for pediatric patients,” said Vanichkachorn. “Now with some of the instruments we were able to not only stop the curve but correct it back to normal alignment for her.”

Today, the newlywed is almost completely pain-free and back to enjoying an active lifestyle that includes skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, hiking, boating and even caving — all of which would not be possible without the exceptional care she received from Dr. Vanichkachorn and Bon Secours.

“I would say this surgery has really changed my outlook on life,” said Ashley. “I am 100 percent physically able to do these things and I don’t want to take that for granted anymore. I want to get out there and do whatever it is that I want to do, experience things and really enjoy life as much as I can.”

For Ashley, good help is a second chance at life. And for Dr. Vanichkachorn, it’s what drove him to practice orthopaedics in the first place.

“Being able to help people like Ashley… kind of correct of almost the entire deformity and make her nearly pain free is the reason why we do this.”

good help is a second chance at life

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Jed S. Vanichkachorn, MD

spine surgeon

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St. Mary's Hospital

Richmond, VA

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spine surgery

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