Carolyn Kelly Wright

Carolyn Kelly Wright

It’s been more than a decade since Caroline Kelly Wright was regularly swapping walking for crawling because intense back pain interfered with her ability to stand.

Her back pain became problematic around September 2008. Her initial treatment included pain injections, physical therapy and chiropractic care, but none of those fully addressed the issue.

“I was having to crawl into the office every day,” she recalled. “I’d hurl myself into the bathtub, and my daughter would have to wash my hair. I’d have to sit on the couch to brush my teeth and spit into a cup.”

She eventually made her way to Dr. Christopher Sliva at Rockford Spine Center in January 2009. Caroline recalled their first meeting like it was yesterday:

“He told me, ‘If I could so surgery on you today, I would.’”

She had three herniated discs in her spine and was in danger of becoming paralyzed.

Dr. Sliva did, in fact, schedule Caroline’s surgery a few days later. He performed a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, or TLIF, which involved installing rods, screws and a cage to stabilize her spine. Caroline woke up from the surgery with no pain and today is celebrating 10 years of feeling better.

“He took me from basically being in a wheelchair back to living my life,” she said. “I can go to the beach, I can work out, I can travel. I can do the things I love. I’m forever grateful to him.”

Caroline, now 51, doesn’t trace her back pain to a specific or sudden injury. She was a dancer and a gymnast and remains active to this day.

She’s diligent about keeping her core muscles strong to help prevent future back injuries. She has a slipped disc but did some physical therapy at Rockford Spine Center. Her son also did PT at RSC.

“I have Dr. Sliva’s number, and I send anybody with back issues to him,” she noted.

Her story was featured in the Rockford Register Star after she had surgery, and the story is framed in one of the exam rooms at Rockford Spine Center. She’s been a teacher for 27 years and has made it her mission to pass along some of the spine care tips she’s learned, such as bending with your knees and not twisting the back when picking up something.

“You have to do daily stretching,” she said. “My daughter always says something like this: ‘You might not feel like going to the gym, but you’ll never regret walking out the doors after you did.’ That’s what our entire family tries to do.”

Looking back, she felt rejuvenated after the surgery, especially when she was able to return to teaching. The little things – such as being able to comfortably take a trip to the grocery store – mean so much more today.

“I just appreciate so many little things I took for granted before,” she said.