Published on March 08, 2018

Amanda Van Buskirk - Bouncing Back from a Broken Spine

Confined to a wheelchair at 19…until Henry Mayo came along.

Amanda was a vibrant, fun-loving and active teenager. She loved music, treasured her friends, worshiped her Facebook and cherished her mom and dad. However, at 19 Amanda found herself confined to a wheelchair due to ongoing back problems.

“The pain was so horrific that I could barley move by my junior year in high school,” said Amanda Van Buskirk, now age 21. “I missed so many milestones in my early years…movies with friends, my prom and I even had to attend an alternative high school since I missed so many days of school.”

Amanda’s journey with inconsolable back pain began around age 14 with on-again, off-again back spasms.

“Amanda saw so many doctors between the ages of 14 and 20 that even I have lost count,” said Carol Van Buskirk, Amanda’s mother. “Amanda was treated at some of the most prestigious hospitals in Southern California by some of the most respected physicians in the country. However, it was Henry Mayo that was finally able to help our baby,” she added.

“I received multiple diagnoses over the years” said Amanda. “Everything from degenerative disk disease, traumatic injury, dissociation syndrome, arthritis and herniated disks…you name it and I had it. Everyone had a different diagnosis, but nobody could ever treat it.”

By Amanda’s 20th birthday in Summer 2011, her condition had deteriorated so badly that she went from standing on her own to using a cane, a walker and finally was confined to a wheelchair fulltime. Amanda’s pain had increased so significantly that even standing in front of the sink had proved too much.

After two unsuccessful spinal surgeries, years of physical therapy and recommendations for ‘traditional,’ ‘eastern’ and even unconventional medical treatments, it was an unplanned trip to the emergency room at Henry Mayo that gave Amanda and her family hope that she could lead a normal life again.

“It was early one morning and I heard a huge “thud” and ran upstairs to find Amanda lying unconscious on the bathroom floor,” said Scott Van Buskirk, Amanda’s Dad. “We immediately called 911 and the ambulance took her to Henry Mayo.”

That fall was probably one of the best things that could have happened to Amanda as it set into motion a partnership with Henry Mayo and Dr. Mark Liker that would take Amanda from a wheelchair to a dance floor in a little less than a year.

“The second Dr. Liker reviewed my MRI (the same one that others had looked at for the last two years) he immediately recognized the problem. I will never forget his words “You have a broken back, no wonder you are in such pain.”

Dr. Liker immediately recommended and scheduled spine surgery for Amanda at Henry Mayo.

“Dr. Liker redid the fusion from L4 to S1, building a protective “cage” around the original fusion and added metal screws and plates to secure my spine,” said Amanda.

The surgery was an amazing success. Amanda was sitting up by day two, which was the first time she had sat normally in over eight months, and took her first steps several days later.

“Jarrod, one of my nurses, in Med Surge One was amazing, he was so patient and compassionate,” said Amanda.

After 10 grueling days of recovery and initial rehabilitation, Amanda was transferred to Henry Mayo’s Acute Rehabilitation Unit where she spent the next six weeks on the road to recovery.

“Terrance and Ace were my angels,” said Amanda. “They got me walking again and I felt so safe and comfortable with both of them.”

“Suki and Gayle were also amazing,” said Carol Van Buskirk.. “They cared deeply and were extremely compassionate despite the challenges of teaching a 20-year-old to walk all over again.”

“I was in so much pain by the time I was 17, that I had to put 17-20 on hold,” said Amanda. “That has all changed now. I haven’t touched a cane, walker or wheelchair in three months and even was able to celebrate my 21st birthday on the dance floor.”

Amanda has enrolled in college, is driving on her own and is back to loving life.

When asked if there was anything else she would like to say, Amanda said,

“Thank you Dr. Liker for giving me my life back.”

“To Gayle, Suki, Terrance, Ace and all of the Med Surg One and ARU staff, thank you for putting up with me and getting me back on my feet.”

And most importantly, as Amanda’s eyes filled with tears, she said, “Mom dad, thank you for being there through all of it. For the endless days and nights you held me while I cried, for putting your lives on hold for me and for doing everything possible to make me happy. I would not be here today had it not been for both of you. I love you both so much.”