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Sep 7, 2021

A Caregiver’s Story

Four years later her mother’s recovery is “beyond what we could have hoped for or expected.”

In 2017, Dr. Michael Labagnara, a Semmes Murphey neurosurgeon, performed a risky surgery on Luise Britner to treat her rapidly declining health due to spinal stenosis. Afterward, her daughter (and primary caregiver) Allison Reed, wrote a letter to Dr. LaBagnara to share her feelings.

“Things weren't looking so great for her,” says Allison. “She had become a quadriplegic due to advanced spinal stenosis at the C1 vertebra. The C1 vertebra is at the very top of the neck connecting the head to the spine. Her condition had been worsening over a period of several months.

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In her letter she wrote, “We knew any surgery, if an option at all, would be very risky. You confirmed this very clearly to us, and to her, when you said the surgery would be rough for a 20-year-old, and my mom was not a 20-year-old. As scary as this all was, it was a relief to us that you were very clear about the great risk”.

“As expected, her recovery was rough. She was in the ICU for a while, and spent the following several months in transitional care and in-patient rehab.”

“Thank you is not enough to convey the gratitude we have for you. My mom has experienced a miraculous recovery. She is able to walk using a rollator, and can feed herself, write, use her laptop, and do most of the things she could not do a year ago. This is way beyond anything we could have hoped for or expected.

“My mom has no memory of the day we met you, nor can she recall her surgery or time in ICU. But … I DO remember every single detail, especially how you took on a case that many doctors would not. When my mom talks about you, she refers to you as her ‘rock star surgeon’ or her ‘superhero.’ And that is what you are to each of us.

"’Thank you’ is not enough, but we wanted to say it just the same.”

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We followed up with Allison in April, almost three and a half years after her mother’s surgery.

“Mom is enjoying her life. She is still getting around with her rollator, enjoys spending time with family, going out to eat, reading, cheering on her beloved Florida Gators and doing genealogy research on her computer,” Allison says. Luise, a retired occupational therapist, is now 82. “That made her a tough patient,” Allison laughs. “She was constantly holding everyone’s feet to the fire and telling them what they could do to optimize her recovery.”

“She’s so much more independent than she was before surgery. Caring for her is a lot different now. Of course my two brothers and I still manage her medications and advocate for her, but the surgery changed our relationship. It allowed us to be mother and daughter again, instead of patient and aide.”