Eleanor Copeland - minimally invasive back surgery for sciatica

When Eleanor Copeland was struck down with sciatica in her third trimester of pregnancy she never dreamt the pain would become so severe she would become bedridden and wheelchair bound. Her life was transformed after having minimally invasive surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital under the care of consultant neurosurgeon Mr Deb Pal.

After the birth of her baby son, Barney, the pain in her back and left leg became so bad the 33-year-old pharmaceuticals manager from Huddersfield could not walk and was confined to her bed. Eleanor, who also has a three-year-old son, Felix, was unable to care for her sons, so her husband, Paul, took leave from work to look after the three of them.

“The pain became excruciating after Barney was born,” said Eleanor, "I was practically bedridden for six weeks and was prescribed morphine by my doctor to manage the pain. It was so bad I could not walk and had to crawl out of bed to use the bathroom.”

A GP recommended Spire Leeds Hospital. Eleanor was referred for an MRI scan and when it revealed the cause of the problem was a prolapsed disc in her spine she used her health insurance, and, following research, chose Mr Deb Pal, consultant neurosurgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital in July 2013 to carry out her treatment. Eleanor saw Mr Pal within days and had surgery just four days later.  “I was scared about having spinal surgery,” she said. “However Mr Pal was so reassuring and put me at ease right away.”

On the day of surgery Eleanor travelled by car and had to lay flat on the back seat due to the pain. She needed a wheelchair to take her from the car to the hospital. Mr Pal performed a Microdiscectomy, a minimally-invasive procedure to remove part of the damaged disc and free the trapped nerve.

After surgery, Eleanor felt immediate relief and was soon able to look after her baby and play with her toddler. “I was delighted how quickly I was seen for the initial consultation. When Mr Pal told me the cause of the problem it was so lovely to hear him say to me ‘no wonder you were in such pain’. After months of not being able to find out what was wrong, it was such a relief for someone to acknowledge how awful it was that I broke down and cried.”

Mr Pal described the procedure.” It’s a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a portion of a herniated disc is removed and the trapped nerve freed by a surgical instrument or laser while using an operating microscope for magnification. The 45 minute procedure was performed using keyhole surgery. Ninety percent of patients experience immediate relief following this type of procedure. Eleanor should now be able to lead a completely normal life. She just needs to be careful for a few months not to lift anything heavy.”

He added, “It’s difficult to manage back pain during pregnancy because of the limited painkillers that can be taken and it’s not possible to operate during pregnancy because of the risk to the unborn baby.”

When Eleanor woke after the surgery she reported immediate relief from pain. “I felt a billion times better. It’s like a miracle to me after six weeks of being bed bound. Just to be able to walk around felt amazing. It put everything into perspective.”

She added, “Having the surgery really was a life changing experience and I’m so grateful to Mr Pal for giving me my life back. I can now enjoy my two sons. They’ve got their mum back!”