Learning to walk again just in time to cruise into Puerto Rico

Julie Buhrer lived a very active lifestyle.  As an Independent Stylist with Cabi, a successful women’s clothing business, she is often required to move heavy racks of clothes. Pilates has always helped her stay in shape and flexible for her job.

The Spring clothing season was about to begin in January when Julie started experiencing debilitating headaches, so painful that she labored to sit up on her own.  She thought it was a sinus headache, but it wouldn’t go away.

After multiple CT scans, CT Meylograms, and MRIs at different hospitals, Julie was finally diagnosed with a rare, spontaneous Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak which was the size of a buttonhole.

“Dr. Frank Culicchia, a neurosurgeon at West Jefferson General Hospital, took such great care of me.  When he realized that I needed specialized neuro care, he became a fierce advocate for me to go to the Mayo Clinic.  With his help, I became a patient in February and was put on strict bed rest until my blood patch procedures in March and surgery in April.”

“I was very nervous to have this surgery, but I knew it was necessary.  My quality of life had drastically decreased, and I couldn’t do any of the things I use to do,” said Julie. “I had full faith in Dr. Culicchia because he took such great care of me when others hadn’t done so.”

Julie boarded a plane for Rochester, Minneapolis for the Mayo Clinic the second week of March. Her doctors performed two blood patch procedures to plug the leak in her spine.  This procedure was safe and non-invasive, and afterward, they sent her home.

Unfortunately, the first procedures did not work.  She would have to return to the Mayo Clinic in April in a snowstorm for a 5.5-hour spine surgery including a laminectomy of T6-T9 to repair the Ventral Anterior Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak at T-8. Dr. W. Richard Marsh (Mayo Clinic) performed the surgery.

During the surgery, Julie sustained minor nerve damage, and as a result, lost feeling in both her left and right sides.  She regained feeling an hour post-op of the closure of incision wound.  After 1 1/2 weeks in the hospital and the surrounding area of Rochester for monitoring, she traveled back to New Orleans using the assistance of a walker.

Julie said, “A couple of weeks after my second surgery, I returned to Dr. Culicchia for a check-up.  It was extremely difficult for me to get up and I could only walk baby steps.  My gait was bad, forcing me to start at the beginning and learn how to walk again. In addition, I experienced intense pain near my incision and I wanted to wean myself off the pain medication.  Dr. Culicchia recommended physical therapy.”

Julie found Baudry Therapy Center and scheduled her first appointment on May 15 with physical therapist Taryn Cohn and PTA Christina Combel.

“Taryn and Christina were awesome.  They tailored a physical therapy program to my needs and were extremely patient with me and my fear of being reinjured. We started with simple functional exercises to help me get out of bed and rise from a chair. Then they performed soft tissue massage to decrease my inflammation and strengthen my muscles. I received a customized exercise routine, and with their help, I got stronger and gained my confidence to walk normal again.”

“When I met Julie, I knew right away that she was determined, focused on her recovery, and resilient,” said Christina Combel, PTA. “She always gave 110% in the clinic with everything we gave her. Even when she was in horrible pain, she managed to put a smile on our faces with her amazing attitude and her unwillingness to give up. It’s been amazing watching her progress since starting PT!”

Twelve weeks post-surgery Julie’s MRI showed no fluid in the spine and no brain swag.  She was cleared to go on her cruise to Puerto Rico and the southern Carribean.

“I was so excited to be able to go on my cruise and have the strength to tour Fort El Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.”

Taryn Cohn, MPT, OCS said, “Success in physical therapy relies almost entirely on the attitude of the participant.  Desire to succeed and faith that it is possible is required to overcome the sort of obstacles Julie was facing when she started rehab.   It has been a real pleasure watching Julie achieve her goals and get back to the life she loves.”

“My overall experience with Baudry Therapy Center has been phenomenal.  Everyone knew my story and was wonderfully supportive and compassionate throughout my PT journey.  I can’t say it enough. I couldn’t have done it without them. I am so blessed.”