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Betty Long

Betty Long

When she was 52, Betty Long of Palatka, Fla., found out that she had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Her doctor discovered the scoliosis during a check-up for tennis elbow, but he did not recommend surgery at the time, hoping the condition would stabilize. She continued her active lifestyle, including playing basketball and skiing.

At age 65, Betty was back in the doctor’s office. Not knowing her scoliosis had progressively worsened, Betty had helped her husband clear 21 acres of land and had developed back pain. Surgery was now required to stop the curvature from increasing to a point where it could cause permanent nerve damage. Her doctor placed rods in her spine and packed the area with her own bone to fuse it.

Betty did fine for nine years, then developed kyphosis adjacent to the scoliosis fusion. Kyphosis is a curvature of the spine that keeps patients from standing up straight. Fortunately, the condition was caught early, and her doctor performed a second surgery to extend the rods. This time, he used donated bone to fuse her spine. Her doctor reports that now she is in great shape.

“I’m lucky I don’t have nerve damage in my legs,” Betty says. “I try not to bend over or pick up heavy things and I try not to run too much, but I can do almost anything I want.”

An active great-grandparent, Betty watches her great-grandchildren and helps tend to the family’s acreage. She tries to walk every day, and she and her husband still go camping.

“I knew I couldn’t go on like I was,” Betty says. “I would have been in a wheelchair by now if I hadn’t had that surgery.”