On any given day, you can typically find Shandie Ingrao in the garden tending to her flowers.

She’s a loving mother with an active lifestyle and was a professional cake decorator for 20 years. But all this was completely stripped away from her after her fist surgery back in 1997. Her spine had curved itself into an S shape and she needed surgical intervention. Shandie is an Achondroplasia Dwarf, which can cause issues with the spine and back.

“Beginning in 2005 I had trouble walking because I had a sense of numbness from the hip down. This caused me so much pain, but all my doctors would do was prescribe me with pain medication.”

Then things got unbearable for her. In 2012, she had to quit her job as a cake decorator because the pain prevented her from being able to do her everyday routines. Last year in June, the pain became so excruciating that she was bedridden. She could no longer do any of the things she loved to do.

“I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t go walking. I couldn’t take my son to the park. I couldn’t keep my house clean or keep up with household chores. I couldn’t even do any of my gardening. The pain was so bad, I could barely go from my bed to the restroom, or to get into the car.”

“A dwarf’s spine is very different and more difficult to perform a procedure on and there weren’t any doctors in the states I have lived in previously who could do my surgery. I moved to California, to get the help I needed. All little people can get pain relief and help from Keck Medicine of USC.”

Determined to overcome this pain, she went searching for a surgeon who would be able to help her recover her life. Her insurance company kept sending her to surgeons who had never worked on the spine, or never worked with a dwarf before. After countless phone calls and with the help of her son and her caregiver, they found Dr. Patrick C. Hsieh, MD of the USC Spine Center of Keck Medicine of USC.

On December 15, 2015, Shandie went in for surgery. She was in the ICU for three days, then spent the next few weeks in recovery and doing rehab.

“While I was in the hospital, everyone was so kind to me. Dr. Hsieh came to check on me every single morning. The nurses would cater to my every need. Everyone is just so sweet and patient.”

Because Shandie decided to do her rehab in the hospital, she was discharged 20 days after surgery.

“I don’t have any pain. In fact, I have my life back. I’m just so happy, I want to thank everyone at Keck Medicine of USC,” she says. “I want everyone to know that Keck Medicine of USC has the most caring staff. Dr. Patrick Hsieh is an excellent surgeon, especially for dwarfs. He will do your back surgery the right way.”

With the help of her caregiver, Shandie is regaining her independence and doing all the things that she loves. Her garden is back to being in full bloom and she is able to tidy up her home and invite friends over for homemade cupcakes.

That’s another example of The Keck Effect – giving patients the opportunity to live without pain, doing all the things they love to do.

By Leonard Kim