For over 14 years, Lockport resident Elizabeth “Liz” LaFollette suffered from severe back pain. She had multiple surgeries and was doing well until last September when she started experiencing foot pain. By December she was unable to walk. It was determined that Liz suffered from a failed Lumbar fusion surgery and SI (Sacroiliac) Joint Dysfunction which was causing pressure on her sciatic nerve leading to severe left leg pain, weakness and gait instability. After enduring yet another surgery, Liz was depressed because she was not able to work for eight months and was facing months of physical therapy.
“My therapist, Rich, gave me the hope that I desperately needed,” Liz said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have my life back. He saved my health and my career.”
Dr. Anthony Rinella performed a revision surgery to correct a failed spine fusion to alleviate her pain. He then referred her to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) at Silver Cross Hospital in Homer Glen for physical therapy. RIC has been ranked the #1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. The same specialized care that has earned RIC its pre-eminent reputation is available at four Silver Cross locations in Homer Glen, New Lenox, West Joliet and at the Hospital.
“Since Liz’s condition was unique, I knew she would receive high quality therapy at RIC,” said Dr. Rinella, board certified spine specialist with the Illinois Spine & Scoliosis.
When Liz’s physical therapy started in March, she was doubtful that she would ever work again. However, through the encouragement and tools she received from her therapist, Rich Bryniarski, she conquered her fears and was working and walking pain-free by August.
“At 41 years old, even after four surgeries, I was not ready to be considered disabled for the rest of my life. Rich was as invested as I was in getting me to work again,” said Liz. “Through his vast knowledge, he showed me how to do exercises that would relieve my pain.”
Key to Success: Personalized Treatment Plan
Liz believes the specialized treatment plan that Rich designed specifically for her was the key to her success.
“Not only did Rich teach me stretch exercises to do at home, he taught me how to align my SI joint and condition my body so my back won’t take the hit from all the pressure from my body movements,” she said. “Rich also goes the extra mile to help his patients. He actually had me bring my court reporting machine to therapy to simulate my work day, so he knew what my body was going to experience daily. He customized my exercises so I could do them throughout my work day.”
“Liz’s case was more challenging than a regular fusion case due to the fact that it was a revision of a previous spinal fusion. This had caused her to be in a great deal of pain for a long time,” Rich said. “Her spine was unstable prior to her surgery, so she couldn’t exercise. Fortunately, with the specialized therapy and equipment we offer here at RIC in Silver Cross’ Homer Glen facility, we were able to arrive at a functional level that allowed her to move pain-free at home and at work. Part of her success is contributed to that fact that Liz was an excellent patient. She always followed through with her home exercises and practiced what was taught to her.”
“By coming to Silver Cross, patients have access to specialized care plans similar to those that are offered at RIC’s downtown Chicago location,” said Valerie Paluszak, Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. “We are fortunate to have such highly trained and experienced physical, occupational, and speech therapists working at Silver Cross who truly make patients’ treatment successful enabling them to thrive so they can return to their daily routines.”
For more information about RIC at Silver Cross or to schedule a free low back screening at the Homer Glen facility located at 143rd St. and Bell Road, call (815) 300-6288.