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    Posted May 12, 2014 by
    Tampa, Florida

    Osteoporosis Month: How I Didn’t Let this Silent Disease Get the Best of Me

    May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, and for many baby boomers and seniors – you may not know you are suffering from this often silent disease. Osteoporosis affects about 10 million people in the United States and one in every two Americans over the age of 50 are at risk for a fracture due to osteoporosis and low bone mass.

    Like most men and women suffering from this disease, I was not aware that I even had osteoporosis. I had always led an active life. As a nurse, I was constantly on my feet, lifting patients and moving about without issue. Even with my background in healthcare, I had no inkling that a silent disease was slowly making my bones weak. However, in 2007, my mother-in-law, Corrine, took a minor spill. When I bent over to help her up, I felt a sharp pop in my back and I could barely walk. I knew something was wrong, and called 911 to help both my mother-in-law and me.

    Rushed to the emergency room with what I thought was a bad muscle strain, I was shocked when the MRI determined I had fractured my spine due to osteoporosis. At 53, I thought I was too young and healthy to have osteoporosis or suffer from a spinal fracture. Little did I know that spinal fractures are the most common osteoporotic fractures, with more than 700,000 occurring annually in the U.S., according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. About two-thirds of spinal fractures go undiagnosed, which can lead to pain, decreased mobility, spinal deformity and the development of a ‘dowager’s hump.’

    Resigned not to let that happen to me, I set out to learn about my options. I learned that I could wear a brace, take pain medication and stay in bed for a several few weeks/months until the fracture healed. However, as a nurse, I knew that this option was not for me. I was relieved when my doctor introduced me to a minimally invasive procedure called balloon kyphoplasty and told me I was a good candidate for it. During balloon kyphoplasty, a physician inflates an orthopedic balloon inside of the fractured bone to lift and return the bone to the correct position, and then fills the cavity with bone cement to stabilize the fracture.

    For the three weeks before the procedure, I was home bedridden and in severe pain. However, after the procedure, my health and livelihood rebounded quickly. Within two weeks, I was back taking nursing shifts and walking my dog, and within a few months, I was back to golfing regularly with my husband, Roger. Roger and I are also traveling more. Last year we took our first canoeing trip, and this June plan to try our hand a kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico. This experience has made me truly grateful for my active life—even more so than I was been before my spinal fracture. At 60 years old, I’m looking forward to continuing to make the most of my life, and balloon kyphoplasty has helped me do that.

    This Osteoporosis Month, I urge other women to talk to their physicians about bone health and get a bone density scan. If you or a loved one have osteoporosis, be aware of your fracture risk and be proactive about knowing your treatment options.
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