Ginna's Story

More than two decades ago, Ginna Kopecky, 63, of Wheaton, fell in love with Jazzercise as an exciting way to stay in shape. She loved the dance moves and all-over body workout it gave her. Performing Jazzercise also seemed to relieve the chronic back discomfort she experienced since she was in a car accident as a young girl.

“About 18 years ago I started teaching Jazzercise,” Kopecky says. “Today, it is different but still dance-based. It incorporates strength training, kickboxing, and stretching. It really is my passion, and I will continue to do it as long as I can.”

Back Pain, Diagnosis, and Conservative Treatment

Recently, however, her ability to teach and perform Jazzercise was jeopardized when back pain hit her hard. She experienced a reduction in her range of motion and debilitating pain in her back which extended down her leg. Sitting was the most comfortable position, so she modified her movements and continued to teach through the pain. She visited a chiropractor who eventually admitted that he had done as much as he could to treat her.

One of her Jazzercise students suggested she see an orthopedic physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. Kopecky agreed and underwent an MRI followed by an evaluation by Dr. Joshua Blomgren, a sports medicine physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

“Dr. Blomgren gave me the hard truth that my condition was called spondylolisthesis which was causing the painful nerve compression in the L5/S1 area of my spine,” Kopecky explains. At Dr. Blomgren’s suggestion, she performed a course of physical therapy followed by injections, but unfortunately neither worked to reduce her pain.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

“I broke down and cried,” she says. “Dr. Blomgren gently recommended that I take the next step and see Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush minimally invasive spine surgeon Dr. Frank Phillips to discuss surgery.” She met with Dr. Phillips and liked him right away. Kopecky explained her pain, lifestyle limitations and told him, “at this point, I’ll do whatever you recommend.”

Dr. Phillips recommended a minimally invasive spinal fusion procedure which would involve the insertion of the specialized cage and tiny screws through a very small hole, disrupting less tissue and allowing for a shorter recovery than traditional open surgery. She agreed and the successful surgery at Rush University Medical Center took approximately two hours.

Following surgery, Kopecky stayed in the hospital for just two nights. The day after surgery, the staff supervised her walking up and downstairs and along the corridors of the hospital. Once home, she walked every hour and followed all of Dr. Phillips’ instructions. In her first follow up visit, she asked Dr. Phillips if she could give him a hug and he kindly agreed. “He saved my life!” she explains.

“If I have my time again I would do it all the same. And not change a single thing.”

What’s more, her recovery milestones keep on coming. At three months post-surgery, she walked 30,000 steps in one day and hiked in the mountains of Vail, Colorado. At six months, she was back to teaching Jazzercise. At the start of her first class as a teacher again, Kopecky played the song ‘Rush’ by Big Audio Dynamite as a tribute to Dr. Phillips and all the care she received at Rush. She loved its opening lyrics:

If you have been told that you need spine surgery and would like to schedule an appointment Dr. Frank Phillips, call 877-MD-BONES or request an appointment online.