Teresa Annis thought there was no hope for excruciating back pain, but SBL Orthopedics & Sports Medicine proved her wrong.
Over the course of 30 years, Mattoon resident Teresa Annis was always on the go. She became a wife and a mother; she worked in home healthcare and was an elementary school supervisor. She loved hiking in the woods by her house, taking care of her animals and traveling, but for much of those 30 years, Teresa was in great pain. In fact, she believed she was beyond hope. Then she met Sarah Bush Lincoln Orthopedic Surgeon and Spine Specialist, Michael Chioffe, MD.
“The pain in my left leg had started during my pregnancies, but the X-rays didn’t show anything,” Teresa said. “At first, I managed it by going to the chiropractor, but then my back started going out.”
Teresa began getting injections to help her deal with the pain, but the relief only lasted a day or two. She avoided oral pain medications because she wanted to be alert and active for her children. Despite regular visits to multiple doctors, Teresa said she found no relief, and no answers. The pain was so severe that she couldn’t walk into her chiropractor’s office without assistance. “I did whatever I had to do to be a good mom, but I was in pain every single day,” she remembers. “It affected every aspect of my life.”
By the time an MRI revealed bulging discs, Teresa had gained weight because the pain had rendered her nearly immobile. She spent 80 percent of her time on the couch. In 2014, Teresa had an extensive back surgery that involved implanting screws, a mesh cage and cadaver bone in and around her spine. She vividly remembers the difficult recovery. “It was worse than my C-section,” Teresa said. “Everything made it worse, even walking. Physical therapy was almost unbearable.”
After a six-month recovery period, Teresa tried to modify her daily activities and return to work, but the pain was so great that she was forced to resign after only two weeks. “At that point, I thought there wasn’t any hope for me,” she recalls.
In early 2017, Teresa received a call from the SBL Orthopedics and Sports Medicine office inviting her to set up a visit with Dr. Chioffe, because he specializes in injuries and diseases of the spine. He was then new to the SBL medical staff. Her husband convinced her to give the doctor a chance. During her first visit, Dr. Chioffe requested several sets of X-rays and carefully reviewed each one, along with her previous MRI records. In a consultation with Teresa, he pointed out the places in her spine that could benefit from surgical intervention.
Teresa remembers Dr. Chioffe saying, “I can help you. I can make you feel better.” Since her husband had been a constant source of support over the years and could not attend that first visit, Teresa requested a follow-up appointment so her husband could hear Dr. Chioffe’s plan for her treatment. Teresa recounted how Dr. Chioffe patiently reviewed the X-rays again with her husband, pointed out where the problems were, explained his treatment plan and answered all of her husband’s questions. “He was so patient and very nice,” Teresa remembers of that second visit. “I felt, ‘Here is someone who actually cares.’ He showed compassion.”
On July 17, Teresa underwent a second extensive back surgery. She said she was apprehensive about the pain reoccurring, but as soon as she woke up from surgery, she knew that her recovery would be different. After less than three weeks, Teresa was able to stop her pain medication and start aqua therapy in the SBL Physical and Occupational Therapy Department. “I was nervous,” Teresa said of starting physical therapy, “but the therapists listened to me and encouraged me.”
Today, Teresa is able to walk and sleep without pain. She is able to find joy and excitement in life again. To those who are experiencing back pain, Teresa has a message of encouragement and hope. “Do your research and don’t give up. There is someone out there who can help. If it wasn’t for Dr. Chioffe, I don’t know where I would be.”
To make an appointment with Dr. Chioffe, call SBL Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at 217-238-3435 or go to www.sarahbush.org.