December 13, 2021
Jamie Columbus has a flair for hard work and growth and her journey to healing was nothing shy of it. She lives in Rochester, New York, and is the owner of a boutique real estate agency focusing on the staging, marketing and selling of properties. She’s an artist by nature and finds art to be an appealing way of expression, especially through painting and photography. She passed that love on to her children who would often use her back as a canvas for their creations and wishes of healing for their mother.
Scoliosis and First Surgery
Columbus was born with scoliosis. It caused an immense amount of pain throughout her life, requiring back braces to be worn and anti-inflammatories to be taken on a daily basis since childhood. Despite the pain, she grew up as a tri-sport athlete and adopted the mantra, “mind over back pain.” She was determined to enjoy her life and make it beautiful no matter the limitations her condition presented. However, by 2009, the curve of her spine was at 73 degrees and the pain was debilitating. She was suffering from a collapsed spine and surgery was required with a strict deadline because it was critical. During the first surgery, two long rods and 25 screws were placed in her back. The operation gave her tremendous relief and the ability to get back to a beautiful, active life...pain free!
A Broken Back
After almost 10 years, the instrumentation from the first surgery wore out. She was told when one back rod broke in 2018, it would be best to continue on without repairing it since the surgery to do so was “brutal.” Time passed and she continued on with one broken rod, until the summer of 2020 when she was hosting an outdoor party for clients. She recalls feeling like someone had thrown something at her back, bringing her to tears in front of her guests and once again, dealing with an immense amount of pain. It wasn’t until later that summer over July 4th weekend after she was paddle boarding in the Adirondacks, that she ended up barely able to walk. It became clear that earlier signal she experienced at the party was a sign of a broken rod which became displaced overtime. Columbus was in pain around the clock, unable to find relief in any position with any strength of medication. She describes this time as “traumatic.”
Knowing she again needed surgery, Columbus conducted extensive research and many interviews with surgeons across the country. After the nationwide search, she chose Washington University orthopedic spine surgeon Munish Gupta, MD. She was in favor of Dr. Gupta’s surgical plan, approach and personal style, ultimately deciding he was the best surgeon for the job.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Columbus traveled to St. Louis for her procedure and recalls feeling like she had arrived to a spa. “I thought I’d gone to heaven,” she remembers. Staff immediately started to stabilize her pain and make her comfortable and she was immensely grateful for the assistance and dedication of the professionals taking care of her. Even though she was in the hospital, she remembers the environment being peaceful because everyone was kind and professional. She felt safe and at peace with the upcoming surgery knowing she was in good hands. Dr. Gupta had prepared a surgical plan to remove the two broken rods, and address the issues with 23 new screws and four stainless steel rods that extend from just below Columbus’ neck to the bottom of her back.
Immediately following the six-hour surgery, there was instant relief and Columbus was dedicated to getting back to her lifestyle. The most important thing she could do for her recovery was get up and walk. She walked laps around the surgery wing where she was recovering in the hospital for eight days. She was then transported to a nearby hotel where her husband, Jeff, cared for her for three more weeks. Finally, she was discharged to return to New York where the next six months were focused on recovery, walking, resting, reducing medication and equipping her house with assistance devices.
Focusing on physically healing, running her business, being a mother, a wife and a friend didn’t leave Columbus much time for much else. She was so busy, in fact, she forgot her six-month follow up appointment in St. Louis until the hospital called to confirm. She immediately booked a flight to get to the appointment quite astonished that she had forgotten to include something as important as the appointment on her calendar. As she was sitting in the waiting room prior to her appointment, she says it dawned on her that, “My back was aligned, but the rest of my life was not.”
A Change of Plans
Columbus rerouted her return flight to New York to the desert in California, where she would spend over two months finding realignment in her life and healing process. “My people got me through it.” Her parents welcomed her into a healing environment in their home while she was in California, her husband offered emotional support, her longtime assistant helped her handle business which Columbus was able to continue from the west coast to kept things afloat back in New York, and a contractor spearheaded renovations in her Rochester home to add beauty to her space and eliminate bad memories of her injuries. Columbus felt like this was her only chance to truly heal, sharing “If I don’t do this now, I’ll never become who I want to be.”
She worked so hard in her recovery, her physical training and overall realignment, not only in California, but also once she returned home to New York. She found a triathlon group and slowly but surely began training. When she went to her one-year follow up appointment with Dr. Gupta, she was cleared to compete in a half-mile swim event as a member of a Sprint Triathlon team and created competition t-shirts in his honor. Dr. Gupta is very pleased with Jamie’s outcome and would encourage patients dealing with a similar situation to get the nonunion and rod failure repaired. “This is the reason why I became a spine surgeon,” Dr. Gupta shares. “My goal is to improve lives of patients suffering from disabling spine conditions.”
“I want people to remember to balance pain with motivation and a busy life with personal alignment,” Columbus shares from the successful side of her back and life realignment.
To make an appointment with a highly sought out Washington University Orthopedics Specialist
, call (314)-514-3500.