Britt's Spinal Fusion Surgery

tl;dr Britt is having a pretty major surgery to strengthen and stabilize her spine.  This will alleviate a ton of the very serious chronic pain she's been dealing with for a long time.  Unfortunately, medical care comes with cost, and we need help getting the money together for the up-front costs of the surgery.  These costs are due by the 17th of January.  It's so important to us to get Britt healthy again and delaying this any more than we alrady have could mean major, long term complications for her.  We really, really appreciate all of your love and support.


For a fuller explanation, here's the copy of a Facebook post Britt made describing the entire issue:

"I’m throwing in the towel. In a few odd weeks I will undergo a spinal fusion. In the last two years I’ve gradually gone from feeling very uncomfortable to feeling miserable. 
It’s pretty amazing how we can completely forget what it’s actually like to not hurt. Instead, some of us just find ourselves less social, less physically active, mentally fatigued easier, and possibly more irritable than we used to be. Dealing with pain like this can feel so “normal” that we don’t make those connections even when we hurt everyday for years. It all makes sense in hindsight. When your energy goes into putting up with it all, how can we have any energy left to do anything else?

It was at least a year ago when I fully adopted a strategy for handling everyday clutter. Grab a box, sit down on the floor, gather everything you see in an arm's length, scoot to another spot, repeat. Any chore that involves bending or squatting is handled this way if I want to avoid worsening pain or spasms. As long as I kept to this method, never lifted anything over a few pounds, and never “overdid” it, I could avoid worse days. Now, you might imagine how well I could keep this up with two young kids. (hint: Not so well.)

I’ve had low back pain since I was a pre-teen. I remember distinctly getting an electric shock from the base of my spine into my glutes when I tried a trampoline for the first time. I jumped twice and it hit me. I climbed down from the trampoline and declined to get back on. I never said anything to anyone. (I think I was 11 or 12 at the time.) I noticed having frequent aches and pain from then on. It wasn’t until a CT scan for an unrelated issue revealed isthmic spondylolisthesis at my L5-S1 level. I was 25.
“Oh. So, that’s why.”
My doctor called me and explained that I have an old fracture in my spine (bilateral pars interarticularis defect) that has allowed my L5 vertebrae to slightly slip out of position. He said that the injury was old.
“At least 10 years old. Maybe 10-12 years old. Were you an athlete or do gymnastics, ballet- or that sort of thing?”
Usually, this common pars defect is seen in athletes who do a lot of extension to their spines. I’ve heard several specialists liken it to bending a paperclip back and forth until it breaks. 
I am not and never have been an athlete but he was right about the age of that fracture.

Note: The pain is essentially caused by the vertebrae slippage. It slips so that the nerve roots are compromised, a.k.a squished.

I kept the diagnosis in mind and did several rounds of physical therapy. Later I started seeing my pain management doctor (who is great, by the way). I had been able to ease a lot of that pain over the last several years through things like, PT, facet steroid injections, and had a huge success with an ablation of the nerves. That procedure granted me two years of way less pain. 
The pain did come back and it was worse than before. New MRI shows that there is further movement of the L5 vertebrae. So, in other words, my foraminal nerves are being crushed more than before. My PM doctor recommended that I speak to a spine surgeon, (who is also great, by the way). The spine surgeon confirmed what my PM doctor had.
“Your stenosis of those foraminal nerves is definitely worse. The right side is bad but the left...the left side is flattened, like a pancake. Your symptoms fit exactly what your MRI shows.”
He worded it well. He told me that if he were to do surgery it would be a one level fusion to relieve those nerves and try to return a natural lordosis. He left it up to me and to let him know if I was interested. 
We just bought a house, one of our kids has dance classes, we have Sallie Mae breathing down our necks-- we are very happy with our recent change in resources but this surgery is not cheap. I almost considered not doing the Ireland trip because I was worried about being a burden and slow the trip down. No regrets. Heidi was very patient and I did a lot better than I thought I would.
I decided to try and ‘buy myself more time’ by getting another radiofrequency ablation since it worked so well for me last time. It did not. I am home with Willow and Lil after school. Upon waking, I slouch slowly to the kitchen to get breakfast for Willow and I. Willow knows the routine and happily plays with her toys while I lie back down in bed, max out on ibuprofen, and wait until the inflammation is down some for me to actually get up for the day. She’s very easy going for this part of the day, and I’m so grateful for that. As the day goes on though, I’m out there slouching around doing the best I can. Right now, I am in my most comfortable position; flat on my back, knees up. Although I get pain if I shift around, I’m at least mostly comfortable.
This is a quality of life issue. It’s been controlling my life for far too long. 
I need to remember to breathe and take the next few weeks, day by day. It’s going to be hard."


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Michael Kennel 
South Bend, IN
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