Ella's Spine Surgery-Level 5 Degree

Noelle-Maria S. Reilly ("Ella")
28 years old

- Diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis Level 5 (the worst level), a rare Spine disease that only 6% of the human population has. There is a high risk of complete paralysis, if not operated upon properly.
- Aside from the life-threatening condition, she has been experiencing severe twitching pains every single day, having difficulty walking and even prolonged sitting (severe swelling of the back), and having shooting "electrical shock"pains from the right leg down to her foot due to Sciatica attacks. She has become dependent on pain-killers for how many years now due to unbearable pain (despite having developed high tolerance for pain already), which even then are mere temporary remedies that are harmful to her system. 
- Coupled with the fact that her innate spine structure is abnormal, making the surgery more difficult and riskier.
- Has existing installed Titanium rods from a prior surgery to suppossedly support the implanted bone graft, but were broken and pertruding already, which have to be addressed the soonest time possible, lest it will cause further infections in the event they will pierce through her already "onion skin"
- She tried to qualify for government aid and subsidy, and in fact was suppossed to be operated upon last May 2017 (Ella even posted on her FB account her excitement in undergoing such despite the traumatic first operation, thinking that the day she had been waiting for for several years now has come when she could finally be well), but after second opinion and several consultations thereafter, it was concluded that there are NO qualified and competent government-provided doctors who can handle her very distinct and delicate condition; only an out-of-network surgeon from Sinai Hospital, with a team of other handpicked doctors, that are not amongst the pool of government-provided doctors can do so. Hence, her purpose in going to the US as of today has not been completely realized. The very delicate operation should be out-of-pocket. (estimated at around 3 Million Philippine Peso).

- She has to be operated upon ASAP, hopefully WITHIN THE YEAR, before this disease causes more harm to her already fragile condition.

I am humbly appealing to your kind hearts for any amount you can give so that she could be fully healed. She has been in pain for almost 7 years now, not only physically, but especially emotionally and psychologically due to this condition. The other few have given up, but she has not and will not. She is a fighter, who has learned to accept that God has given her this challenge, only to make her better and stronger in the end. I really hope that you could be a part of her journey in surpassing this great trial. She is a good person, who deserves to at least be able to move freely and work hard in order to realize her dream of becoming a lawyer, among others.

Any amount will go a long way in helping her live life to the fullest and eventually realize her potentials. She values life and has much more to offer if given the blessing of complete healing. I assure you that Noelle, an only child, has nothing but the purest intentions for herself, her Mom (a solo parent who is already a senior citizen), and her community in this battle. She will never forget your kind hearts. 

It may not be readily apparent, but Ella has always been silently in pain and silently fighting until today. She does not want people to pity her. She's not complaining though, only inspiring others. Let us please stand by her all the way. 


This is Noelle's  full story, as narrated by her: 

Back in 2010, I was diagnosed with Chronic Low Back Pain with Sciatica secondary to spinal stenosis secondary to degenerative disc/spondyloptosis L5 over S1 with Cauda Equina Syndrome. (a.k.a Level 5 spondylolisthesis, this is a rare spine condition that only 6% of the human population have been diagnosed with) On that year I was graduating from college  but could not attend school because my legs had already become weak. My back pain was no longer tolerable and I started developing cauda equine syndrome (the inability to control bowel movement and discharge of urine). I needed surgery because I was prone to paralization from my hips all the way down to my legs. Hence, I was home schooled until I could graduate and get my diploma. (Although I was not able to attend my graduation rights)

 On June 10, 2010, I had spine surgery done under the care of one of the best spine doctors in the Philippines, Dr. Mario Ver of Saint Luke’s Hospital (the only doctor who has experienced a case like mine with 3 other patients, but only 2 out of 3 were successful). My surgery lasted for 10 hours. The plan was that the surgery would only be 4 hours but there were several complications, thus a heart surgeon was needed. They opened me up and put titanium screws and rods on my spine and put bone graft for it to grow and build support for my spine. 

 I was released from the hospital a week later. Although I was released from the hospital, I could not walk on my own until almost 5 months later. I had short term memory loss. My legs were still weak. I still had cauda equine syndrome but the risk of paralization had been addressed.  I had to delay going to law school during this period so I decided to work. I was given a certificate to work from my doctor on November 15, 2010 which certificate also stated that my Xrays have already showed fusion of L5 S1. From the day I was released, I was required to have my X-Ray done for monitoring. The results were all the same, “No Signs of Loosening”. 

 The plan was that a year later, I would have to go thru surgery again, but this time just to take out the titanium rods from my spine. The reason for this was because I was getting bursitis over the prominent screw that was rubbing through my skin which might pierce through it and cause infection which could reach my spine. I was already in my first year law at this time but I managed to wait until semestral break to have my surgery done so that it would not interfere with school. I was admitted in the hospital on October 20, 2011. On the day of the removal of my implant, I was already in the operating room and with anesthesia when one of the resident doctors noticed a thin line on my left rod showing breakage. Not only was there dislodgement but a break in the left rod below the L5 screw despite findings in the XRAY which stated “no signs of loosening”. The second surgery was deferred. The impression of union/fusion of L5 S1 segment was changed to NON-UNION. Doctor Ver admitted to have overlooked this during the months that I had my maintenance Xrays. This caused me to be infuriated with him and led me to yell my frustrations while I was still in the hospital.

 Upon asking him what the next step would be, he gave his recommendation. After everything I have gone through during my first surgery, I was afraid to have another surgery performed. They would have to take out the titanium rods and put new ones back in. In short, we had to start from square one. I was not ready for this so I asked if it was feasible not to have it done right away. He agreed with me, and told me to try and finish school first and take the Bar before I have my next surgery done for as long as I could tolerate the pain. The problem is, I always had to miss classes due to my condition. Some of them I was excused from because I went to Doctor Ver to get my medical certificates excusing me from class. Some were unexcused because I just could not afford to keep coming back to him for every pain that I felt when I had medicine to kill the pain (It costs 1,000 pesos per visit).These medicines are narcotics and tranquilizers that put me to sleep almost instantly upon taking them and are required to be taken at least twice a day. I made so many sacrifices in school for my unexcused absences where I got a 65% for getting called on the days that I was absent, and for missed quizzes. It was hard for me to study because the medicine knocked me out most of the time. The bottom line is, the doctor told me that I could continue school for as long as I could tolerate my pain, that he doubted that my spine would collapse right then and there because it has been years since my surgery. However, he said one day I just might feel the drastic effects of my non-union.

 On the year 2015, I was supposed to have my internship at Ocampo and Manalo Law Offices; I have already been qualified for the internship with pay. However, on the first day of my job, I started getting terrible sciatica (this is the feeling of sporadic electricity running from my spine all the way to my right foot) which for the first time, lasted for more than a week. (I usually get them in just a few days which required me to miss class) I couldn’t do my internship because I couldn’t handle the commute going to Cubao all the way to Makati during rush hour. I decided to just stay at home during the whole summer. Finally school started and I am currently in my graduating year but right when class started, immediately for two weeks I could not attend class. My back started getting terrible bursitis, the area was swelling, clotting, and was purple because it was really bruised from sitting down too much, carrying several books to school, commuting and a lot of other factors. My back pains started getting worst and my sciatica more frequent. I am having a hard time walking and standing up from my chair. One of the titanium rods is really protruding my skin and getting infected. I came back to Doctor Ver and asked him what we could possibly do. He told me he was praying I would not go back to him because he was not sure what to do with my condition anymore, being very rare. He gave up. Nevertheless, he gave me two options. The first option was to go through a 3 million pesos surgery since it now required a team of doctors and not just him. He wanted to do my surgery by cutting me not only on my back but on my front as well. To be able to work on my spine from the front, he needed additional doctors to be able to move my intestines and liver around so he could work on my spine and put bone graft. I had to get cut in the back so he could remove the titanium rods and observe the bone graft that was initially placed. He said that it would really be risky and too difficult. The second option would be just to take out the titanium rods and pray. I am not really sure what he meant by that, I guess he meant pray that my spine would not collapse on its own. My doctor refused to issue my medical abstract unless and until I consent to the surgery. I did not want to rush into things so I told him I would think about it. All he was able to give me was a medical certificate stating the second option that needs to be done as urgent.

 I am currently running out of options. I have been to several doctors in the Philippines and they were all dumbfounded. They refused to handle my case. Dr. Ver was the only risk-taker and he has given up as well. I have even written a letter with proper documentation to the Spine Institutions in the United States of America to see if there is anything anyone can do. The first option seems too risky for me and too expensive for us to be able to have done. I have been traumatized by my first surgery and cannot imagine what I would have to go through if I were to push with option one. Besides, we can no longer afford it. Also,, I almost lost my legs before; I do not want to experience that again. The second option I believe is also risky, because no one knows what the effects would be of having to remove the implants from my back. There would be nothing to support my back anymore. One wrong move would be crucial and might lead to my definite paralysis.

This is a decision that will affect me for a lifetime. A wrong decision on my part as to the doctor, the hospital, and the procedure might make me paralyzed for life and might affect my whole nervous system by giving me permanent memory loss/brain damage due to the excessive anesthesia and medicine.

As of today I am lying down with my back brace on, taking heavy narcotics while waiting for any possible remedies. I am trying to minimize my movement to avoid any additional complications. With my condition, I have to be able to start earning money soon. My mom, being a single parent and of old age, is having a hard time supporting me. I have no other siblings. 

 I shall remain forever grateful if you will favor me with any amount. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my story. God bless you all!
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Organizer and beneficiary

Chino Daniel L. Amante 
Noelle-Maria Reilly