I choose Orlando Health.

I had been experiencing lower back pain for about six weeks. I thought I had just pulled a muscle, so I kept going on with my life as usual. Then one morning, while I was getting ready for work, I felt a sudden burst of pain, like a brick went through my back, and I actually lost the feeling in my left leg.

I had a friend take me to a local ER where they diagnosed me with sciatic nerve pain. They sent me home with pain meds and told me that it would be better in a couple days. And I was so relieved and looking forward to being pain-free.

But that was not the case. Four days later, when I still could not get out of bed or walk or sit up at all, I knew I had to do something. My journey included seeing eight doctors before I found Orlando Health and neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Hirschl. After visiting the ER, I went to an orthopedic doctor who correctly diagnosed me. I went to a neurosurgeon who would not operate on me. I went to two different pain management doctors. And more.

When I was correctly diagnosed with a ruptured disk — a rare kind seen in only about 4 percent of ruptures — that made my situation more difficult and complex. While most disks rupture out the back, mine had ruptured out the left side, so it was sitting over my left nerve root, behind the pelvic bone. Sometimes the body will repair itself from a rupture, and people never even know they have a rupture. But with such a rare rupture, that probably wasn’t going to be my case. Surgery was most likely going to be my best option. And I was OK with that, because at this point all I could do was lie down — I couldn’t even sit. I couldn’t take care of myself. And for a person who’s been independent all her life and single, it was very hard. I was used to going to the gym and walking my dog every day. When I got hurt, I couldn’t do anything.

During this time, I also developed regional sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also known as chronic regional pain syndrome. My left leg and foot were turning bright red, and it felt like fire. If I had had surgery sooner, I probably wouldn’t have developed the RSD, and certainly would have recovered from my back pain sooner.

Finding Orlando Health and neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Hirschl brought me hope when I had almost none. He was the first doctor who addressed my RSD and told me I needed surgery immediately – “like yesterday.” He said that the longer I waited, the worse the RSD was going to get, and he talked to me about my options. He was very confident. I told him to “please just do whatever you can to fix it.”

Eight days after my first appointment with Dr. Hirschl, I had back surgery at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center. I was up and walking around that afternoon. When I got home the next day, Dr. Hirschl allowed me to be in bed only to sleep at night. That was fine with me — I had lived in a bed for two months. And he wanted me to walk. That was a gradual process. I started with walking around the block, and as I got stronger, I could go farther. Now, I’m walking four miles a day.

During my surgery, Dr. Hirschl removed the ruptured disk and put a titanium cage in its place, along with a rod and two screws. Most people get two rods, but Dr. Hirschl told me that, because I was petite, he didn’t feel as though he needed to put in both rods. I think that’s an amazing thing for a doctor to be that knowledgeable and confident, and to not put any extra hardware in me that didn’t need to be there. I love that he tailored my surgery according to my needs.

I strictly followed all my post-surgery instructions, and my back healed quickly. And honestly, after the surgery, I have not really had any pain in my back. The RSD has subsided, but I still struggle with it. However, I am so grateful that my back pain is gone, and I can walk and move again.

Dr. Hirschl and his entire staff were one of the best that I have ever dealt with. They got me in quickly and took care of everything for me. And still, even to this day, I can email or call them, and they will get back to me quickly. At my last appointment, in December, I told Dr. Hirschl how grateful I was that I could walk and sit up again. He is an amazing doctor with a very good bedside manner, too.

My experience with Orlando Health has been truly outstanding and life-changing. I don’t have enough words to describe what they did for me. Even the people in the hospital, the nurses and other staff, were so loving and caring and did everything they could to make sure that I was comfortable. I am so grateful for the compassion and the knowledgeable, expert care that I received.

I love helping people, especially those who are struggling in their life. Now, I especially want to help people who are dealing with chronic pain. I try to reach out, and I tell them, “I’ve been there. You’re going to get through it. And when you get to the other side, you’re going to be able to share your experience with someone else.”

Thanks to Orlando Health and Dr. Hirschl, I’m able to give back to others for everything that’s been given to me in my life, and that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m Lisa, and I choose Orlando Health.

Orlando Health MyChart

MyChart is a secure, online tool that gives you easy access to all of your Orlando Health information from any of your devices. View your medications, test results and health history. Request an appointment or a prescription renewal. Or send a message to your care team. It’s all there in MyChart.