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The cure for Erin’s common back condition changed her life

How Erin Lau got her life back after back pain so severe she couldn’t stand for long, much less walk her children to school.

“At one point, I thought it might be my mattress,” Erin Lau says, talking about the cause of the periodic back pain she’d had for years. Then it got worse and the pain became so severe she couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes, much less walk her children to school.

That’s when Erin went to see Dr. Dennis Oh, chief of neurosurgery at Baystate Medical Center. “Erin had a fairly common condition. A spinal nerve was pinched by thickened ligaments and a herniated disc, which caused pain down her leg with numbness and weakness.” Dr. Oh says. He recommended Erin have a mircrodiscectomy, a minimally invasive procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve. The surgery would take about 20 minutes and the incision would be less than an inch long.

SHE ALWAYS THOUGHT SHE’D GO TO BOSTON

Erin was impressed by Dr. Oh’s knowledge and bedside manner. However, as a former social worker at a Boston hospital, she always thought she’d go to Boston if she needed surgery. She got a second opinion in Boston but the Longmeadow resident chose to stay close to home and have her surgery with Dr. Oh. “I trusted him, he was highly recommended and I appreciated how straightforward and honest he was about my condition,” Erin says.

“If surgery is necessary,” Dr. Oh says, “my philosophy is to do the least amount of surgery for the biggest gain.”

Erin Lau in content

ATTENTIVE CARE EASES NERVES

Erin was a bit anxious about the procedure. “As I was prepped to go into the operating room, the nurses and anesthesiologists were very encouraging and put me at ease,” Erin says. She appreciated that Dr. Oh visited her after her surgery to see how she was doing. “I was impressed by Erin’s can-do spirit and motivation to get better,” Dr. Oh says.

“I felt I got the best care I could have gotten anywhere,” Erin says. “My mom is a nurse, my sister is a nurse practitioner—I know about medical care and I got excellent care at Baystate Health.”

It also was incredibly important to me to get this level of care so close to home. Riding home from Boston in a car after surgery would not have been easy,” Erin says.

“Although not every patient is a candidate for this procedure, I think it’s important people know that Baystate Health offers a simple surgery for this fairly common problem,” Dr. Oh says.

NO PAIN, ALL GAIN

Before she saw Dr. Oh, Erin worried couldn’t live her life to the fullest. “I really don’t think I could’ve gone on much longer,” she says. “The surgery changed my life. I’d seen different doctors over the years but Dr. Oh was the first physician who fixed it,” Erin says.

About three weeks after her surgery, Erin was able to begin easing back into the active lifestyle she’d missed. “And I can sleep again—it was not my mattress,” she laughs. “I can do things I couldn’t do before like hiking, working out and walking the kids to school,” Erin says. And there’s one other exciting change. For months, the family put off getting a family dog because Erin wouldn’t have been able to walk it. “Now we have a chocolate Labradoodle named Zoe who joins us on our walks,” Erin says.