When Robin Viator was a teenager, she was active in athletics and was even a cheerleader on her high school squad in Berwick, Louisiana. But at the age of 19, she began to experience back pain. The pain continued to increase and just wouldn’t go away. At the age of 22, Robin was diagnosed with a severe herniation of her L5-S1 vertebral disc.
Sharp pains shot through her low back and radiated down her right leg, all the way down to her foot. “It felt like someone was stabbing me over and over again,” she said.
After the birth of her second child in August 2000, the pain increased greatly. Sleepless nights followed, and her job as a schoolteacher worsened the pain, since she stood most of the day. Robin’s physician tried to ease her pain through steroid injections and physical therapy, but she found no relief.
She then received a recommendation from her doctor to try a microdiscectomy to remove the bulging section of the disc. She had the surgery on June 12, 2001, and for one week enjoyed life without pain. But the pain returned quickly, and Robin began to research additional options for relief. She developed a “suck it up and move on” mentality for almost eight years. Robin limited her activities to reduce the chance of irritating her condition, and missed out on many things she wished to do with her three small children. Her pain medication caused various side effects, including fatigue, making her “tired all the time.”
In 2007, Robin moved to Texas and was referred to the Texas Back Institute, where she began treatment with Dr. Sidney Berstein. After further conservative care treatment failed to provide her with relief, she applied to the Activ-L artificial disc clinical trial with Dr. Scott Blumenthal. Robin was accepted, and at 30 years old she had surgery for an artificial disc replacement on May 16, 2008.
Robin was pleased that her recovery took less than time than she anticipated. “My recovery went far better than I expected. I was amazed at how quickly I healed and was back to normal activities. I was walking around only three hours after my surgery and released from the hospital the next morning. I was relatively pain-free after the first couple days.”
Six months after her surgery, for the first time since she was 19, she was able to do the “fun” activities that she’d only dreamed of before. She even went skydiving for the first time and is now able to ride horses without fear of pain.
“After the surgery, people kept telling me that I looked like a different person,” she said. “Before, they could see the pain and fatigue on my face. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. Not any more!”
Robin suggests “doing the research” and talking to your physician about your condition. “I was previously not aware of the artificial disc studies and might have missed out on the opportunity.” In fact, she’s recommended Texas Back Institute and the artificial disc replacement to a colleague and family members.
“It can be scary to make the ultimate decision to have surgery, but if you are informed and have the right expectations, you will be amazed at the relief these options can give you,” she goes on to say. “I’ve already recommended it to others.”
Robin now enjoys exercising, vacationing, activities with her children, adventure sports, and having a full night’s sleep. “I used to feel like I was trapped in a body twice my age; now I feel like I’m 25! I tell everyone how amazing TBI is!”