Spine surgeon helps teen realize dreams

A patient shares a touching letter of thanks for being more than just a surgeon.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with scoliosis while having a physical exam for high school athletics at Presentation Academy. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand the severity of the situation. All I knew was that I had a cool curve in my spine to show my friends and family.

I went from doctor to doctor for treatment plans to stop the scoliosis in its tracks, but it ultimately progressed. Along the way, we had spine fracture scares, muscle spasms that kept me from athletics, work, and going to school comfortably, and hundreds of physical therapy sessions to try and help alleviate my pain.

Every person we knew who had dealt with back injuries/conditions recommended Dr. Puno. Ever since then, my life has changed.

Dr. Puno showed a hopeful and passionate attitude toward my care. My family and I went into every appointment with at least 10 questions about my condition. Though he sees dozens of patients a day, Dr. Puno never once got frustrated at the abundance of questions; he answered them fully with immense knowledge. It was like I was his only patient.

Unfortunately, my condition worsened to the point of needing surgery two years ago, just after I was recruited to pursue my tennis career at Union College. It sent my family and me into a lot of questioning. What do I do next? Is surgery the best option for me?

After months of debate and hundreds of questions, I decided spinal correction surgery was the best option. This surgery was no joke. I was in excruciating pain that kept me from doing everything that I was so used to doing. As an athlete and very active person in general, I was scared.

However, I found comfort in knowing I was under the care of a world-renowned surgeon and someone who had been rooting for me since day one. We asked the nurses in the hospital to page Dr. Puno pretty much every day, multiple times. He always came to check on me and was ecstatic about the work he and his team had performed on my spine.

Words cannot even begin to express how excited I am for the future because of this surgery. I no longer have to worry about chronic pain, not being able to do the things I love because of the pain or not being able to stand on my feet for 12-hour shifts when I become a nurse. I now get to serve on a mission trip to Haiti this summer, play college tennis painlessly and pursue my dreams with excitement because of the work and success of Dr. Puno. For this I will be forever grateful.

So, thank you, Dr. Puno. Thank you for working countless hours to ease this patient’s pain. Thank you for going above and beyond the responsibilities of a doctor. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my dreams. And thank you for changing my life for the better.

– Ellen Denham, patient

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