Back Surgery Patient is Dancing Again

June 12, 2023

A Successful Back Surgery at BID Plymouth

Ellen Keir dances with son at weddingStepping onto the dance floor at her youngest son’s wedding was a dream come true for Ellen Keir. Six months earlier, in December 2021, she was inside the operating room at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Plymouth (BID Plymouth), waiting to undergo back surgery. The future was uncertain, and though she trusted the care team at BID Plymouth, she wondered whether she’d ever get to dance again.

Dancing Was Her Passion, but Ellen Almost Had to Say Goodbye

Ellen is a lifelong, passionate dancer. “It kind of runs in the family,” she told us. “My mother tap danced into her eighties, and my daughter has taken dance classes while living in Damascus, Syria.”

After spending several years working in the Boston publishing industry in the 1970s and 1980s, Ellen decided to plunge head first into her first love. She packed up and went to San Francisco, where she took dance classes whenever she had time to herself. From California it was onto New York City then to Paris, dancing through the world’s cultural centers at each stop. Even as a chronically bad back caught up to her, Ellen credits dancing with helping her mitigate the pain.

But the dance floor could only do so much. Ellen’s back problems were subtle at first but worsened with time. “I used to horseback ride,” she said, “and that may be what initially caused some of the problems.” Even though she hasn’t ridden a horse in years, the pain stayed with her. At times, it was so bad that her legs would give out, and she’d have to take time to sit and let the pain pass.

Despite the serious inconvenience her back pain caused her, some of Ellen’s friends urged her not to have surgery. Her back would never be the same again, they warned. The possibility of never dancing again seemed real, and that frightened her.

While she weighed her options, other members of her family underwent back operations of their own with Dr. Justin Massengale at BID Plymouth, and both surgeries were resounding successes.

She was convinced: She needed back surgery and she wanted Dr. Massengale to perform it.

Back Surgery Gave Ellen Her Future Back

In medical terms, Ellen had what’s called a laminectomy in her lower lumbar. She was told that the pain she experienced was partly due to arthritis and partly to physical trauma, possibly from her earlier horseback riding days. A cleanup was all that was needed to relieve her of the pain.

After collaborating with Ellen’s physical therapist and other members of the BID Plymouth care team, Dr. Massengale went in and removed some of the damaged tissue in her lower back area. Like the other members of her family, the surgery was a success. Ellen was back on her feet.

“I probably started physical therapy within a month,” she recounted, “but I was doing things at home too that I knew I should be doing to regain some strength.”

Now, thanks to Dr. Massengale and the care team at BID Plymouth, less than two years since her surgery, Ellen is back on the dance floor with a lot to celebrate.

Learn more about the spine care services offered at BID Plymouth.