IU Health North Hospital

Mom After Back Surgery: Standing Tall, Feeling Strong

Patient Stories

February 23, 2018

In high school she cheered from the sidelines at home games of her New Castle Trojans, marched with the band, and spent hours at wrestling matches keeping the team’s stats.

Amanda Shaw was fit and active. Diagnosed in sixth grade at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health with a curved spine, she didn’t worry that it would ever slow her down. She wore a back brace throughout high school and continued with her normal activities. But in recent years, the curvature in her spine became more severe.

“In sixth grade I grew five inches in three months and my back couldn’t keep up. At the end of my sixth grade year I was 5’7.” When I went for my annual sports physical in seventh grade, they said I had a scoliosis. The bottom curve was 30 degrees and the top curve was 18 degrees,” said Shaw, who works in clinical effectiveness at IU Health. Last year, she married Bill Shaw, who works in pharmacy at IU Health.

“At the time I got the back brace, the goal was to stabilize the spine. It worked. My spine didn’t change drastically.”

Her younger brother wrestled his whole life so to keep busy while he was on the mat Shaw offered to keep stats for the team. She grew to love the sport and continued to keep wrestling stats in college. She chose Ohio State in part because of her love for football.

“My dad grew up in Columbus and I grew up on football,” said Shaw. “I wanted to go someplace different and Ohio State is only two hours away.” Her role as a wrestling statistician earned her a varsity letter and season tickets to the football games.

At that time, her top curve was around 25 and her bottom curve was 37-40 degrees. “I was having more pain but I was able to keep it controlled with exercise and at- home therapy.”

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She completed her degree in business administration, worked with financial agencies and healthcare, carried and delivered three children – a boy, 13, and two daughters 9 and 7 - by a previous marriage. She came to IU Health in 2010.

“When you have back problems, you have sore days but I really went through life with scoliosis and there were no limiting factors. I went through pregnancy and delivery with few problems.”

But last fall, the wrestling and football that she loved so much became unbearable to watch from the stands.

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The pain kept her awake at night and sitting on the bleachers at her son’s wrestling match or her daughters’ basketball or soccer games, was more than she could tolerate. A long distance car ride meant she’d be held up the next day with a heating pad.

The pain progressed. She could no longer go on hikes in the park or attend football games of her favorite Ohio State Buckeyes. When she finally broke down and went back to the doctor for another x-ray, they found that the bottom curve of her spine was nearly at 70 degrees.

“Because of tingling in my feet they did an MRI. There was no nerve damage but it showed I had a herniated disc. Not only was my spine curved, it was starting to rotate and twist,” said Shaw.

Under the care of orthopedic surgeon Dr. David G. Schwartz, she had surgery on November 27 at IU Health North - eliminating the herniated disc with two rods, and 24 screws to straighten the spine. She was in surgery for seven and half hours. The surgery straightened her bottom curve from 70 degrees to 12 degrees.

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Since surgery she’s been in physical therapy twice a week and looks forward to a full recovery.

“Thinking about and reading about spine surgery is a scary thing but if you have the right doctor, the right surgeon and the right hospital, you can do this and have a better quality of life. I wouldn’t have waited so long if I’d known the change and relief from pain,” said Shaw. “For the first time I can sleep on my back, sit through my son’s day-long wrestling, enjoy drives to Columbus to watch college football, and make plans to visit Disney with my kids. I couldn’t have done that before surgery.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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Orthopedics

Orthopedics treats problems with bones, joints, muscles and the spine to help you return to your previous level of activity quickly and safely.

Scoliosis

More common among females, particularly adolescents, this condition can cause imbalance, pain and fatigue.