Advance with MUSC Health

From Wheelchair to Walking: Patient Finds Hero in MUSC Health Orthopaedic Surgeon After Spinal Ordeal

Advance With MUSC Health
February 26, 2024
Sandra Longshore
Sandra Longshore found a hero in Dr. Charles Reitman after severe stenosis and a ruptured disk put her in a wheelchair.

Sandra Longshore says Charles Reitman, M.D., first became her hero one evening a few years ago when she left her phone at work, and he answered her frantic knocking on the clinic door. “I could just kiss you!” she told the orthopaedic surgeon at MUSC Health Spine Center. “Please don’t,” he said with his characteristically dry humor.

Sandra found out Dr. Reitman had a sweet tooth and would often surprise him with homemade baked goodies. The two saw each other often in the ortho department of MUSC Health. Sandra never suspected that Dr. Reitman would come to her rescue again years later when she desperately needed him.

Journey to Spinal Pain Relief

Sandra Longshore 

As a former concierge at MUSC Health, Sandra moved quickly to get things done at work, bustling about and easily walking seven miles a day. She had no issues with her back until one day at work when she moved quickly to get out of a chair and put weight on her left leg; it gave way. The pain in her lower back was excruciating.

“I could barely walk the next day or over the weekend,” she recalls. Yet a visit to the ER and X-rays revealed nothing significant. Sandra was referred to a MUSC Health pain specialist for epidural steroid injections and prescribed pain medicines and physical therapy.

“I could not escape the pain until I was able to get an epidural,” she remembers, and even then, she had to sit in one position to get relief. She scheduled an appointment with her trusted friend, Dr. Reitman, after a second epidural brought no further relief.

“By this time, I was in a wheelchair,” she says. An MRI and other tests showed Sandra had severe stenosis and a ruptured disk. “Dr. Reitman couldn’t believe my stenosis was as severe as it was and that I hadn’t been having back issues.” After several discussions with him about the best treatments, she confidently scheduled laminectomy surgery as soon as possible.

Embracing Stenosis Surgery

“Sandra was a good surgical candidate,” says Dr. Reitman. “She had significant stenosis that accounted for her complaints, and she was a highly motivated and compliant patient who otherwise was in good health.”

“I knew Dr. Reitman was the right man for the job,” says Sandra. “I researched him and felt that the fact that he was a physical therapist before he became a surgeon gave him a hand up, gave him something extra. I also learned he performs a lot of laminectomies.”

After the Laminectomy

Sandra Longshore 

A few weeks after surgery, Sandra was walking four miles a day using her rolling walker. “It might take me two hours to do it, but I was determined to get better,” she says. She soon returned to work part-time and continued to follow doctor’s orders. “I was a good patient and did as I was told with my exercises, care, and physical therapy. I do push myself.”

“Recovery from these disabling spinal disorders is a team sport,” agrees Dr. Reitman. “The surgeon often gets the credit, and while a technically excellent surgery is important, the recovery only starts with the surgery. We have a superb and highly accessible support staff to help patients navigate recovery, but, most of all, the patient has to do their part. Sandra is an outstanding patient, so it’s no surprise she’s done as well as she has.”

Today, Sandra is back on her feet and doing everything she used to do. “I can’t twist yet, but I’m determined that after my 12 months of healing is complete, I will be able to twist,” she says. “Everything and everyone at the MUSC Health Spine Center worked together to get me better.

“You would never know I had been in a wheelchair earlier this year!”

Take Charge of Your Health Today!

If you're struggling with back pain or spinal issues, don't wait to seek help. Reach out to trusted medical professionals like those at MUSC Health Spine Center, who can provide expert care and support tailored to your needs.