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A young mother suffered sudden, crippling back pain and fractures

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Aimee Lucido had hoped the worst was over. Ten weeks after her daughter, Lyra, was born in July 2023, Lucido, then 32 and a resident of Berkeley, Calif., developed pain in her lower back that quickly escalated from mild to incapacitating.

Her parents flew in from North Carolina to help. Their 10-day stay freed Lucido from the frequent bending and lifting that is a mainstay of infant care and had increasingly fallen to Lucido after her husband returned to work.

“I felt so much better,” recalled the children’s book author who also devises crossword puzzles for the New Yorker and the New York Times.

Her relief proved to be short-lived.

Several days after her parents’ departure Lucido stumbled into the bathroom early one morning and unintentionally sat down hard on the toilet. Instantly she felt a sickening shudder in her lower back followed by the sensation of an electric current shooting up her spine. Intense nausea came next. Worried she might pass out from the pain, Lucido lay on the bathroom floor. Then she woke her husband to tell him she needed to go to the ER, where she was given medication to treat back spasms.

It would take a second trip to the ER, consultations with several specialists and a fortuitous online search to unearth the little-known cause of the intense pain that left Lucido temporarily dependent on a walker and nearly unable to take a shower, dress herself or care for her baby.

The condition has upended her life, prompting an unplanned cross-country move to help facilitate her recovery, a process expected to take months.

“I really want people to know about this disease because lack of awareness is the reason it often becomes so debilitating,” she said. Had she known what was wrong earlier, Lucido could have taken simple steps to reduce her risk and minimize the damage.

Before and during her trouble-free pregnancy, Lucido ran, lifted weights and bicycled. She wasn’t concerned when she developed mild back pain.

Her friends who’d had babies had dealt with a variety of ailments and Lucido was no stranger to back problems. In July 2021 she had slipped and fallen at home, smacking her back on the edge of a wooden stair. An X-ray revealed a compression fracture of a vertebrae in her spine.

Lucido wore a back brace while she recovered. After three months, she said, “it was like the injury had almost never happened.”

But at the urging of her parents, both of whom had been diagnosed with osteoporosis before their late 50s, Lucido convinced reluctant doctors to order a DEXA scan to assess her bone density. The noninvasive scan, which uses an enhanced form of X-ray, revealed a score of -3.3, unusually low particularly for a young adult and an indicator of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak, brittle and to break more easily.

“I really want people to know about this disease because lack of awareness is the reason it often becomes so debilitating.”

— Aimee Lucido

The endocrinologist Lucido consulted in 2022, who knew she was trying to conceive, advised her to consume sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D and return for a consultation when she was finished having children. (Osteoporosis drugs are not advisable during pregnancy.) Because of her low bone density, he offhandedly suggested she might consider limiting breastfeeding to about six months.

A year and a half later, after her first visit to the ER, Lucido sought to determine whether breastfeeding might be related to her worsening back pain. The response from a second endocrinologist, a primary care physician assistant, a physical medicine doctor and several lactation consultants was a resounding no.

They told her they had never heard of such a connection and suspected that something as yet unidentified was causing her pain.

Unable to schedule an appointment with the endocrinologist she had seen previously, Lucido saw a second endocrinologist. The doctor told Lucido she suspected she had wrenched a muscle.

“She said, ‘I wouldn’t want to deprive you of breastfeeding just because you have osteoporosis,’ ” Lucido remembers.

By mid-November, a few weeks after her ER visit, walking had become difficult. Lucido was popping copious quantities of anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxants and spending much of her day on the couch. Her sister arrived from the East Coast to help.

An X-ray and an MRI ordered by the PA she saw for primary care revealed something unexpected: two new mild fractures of her lower spine along with herniated disks, which are usually caused by age-related degeneration or an injury. It wasn’t clear what caused them, although they might have been the result of the toilet episode.

What alarmed Lucido was that no one seemed interested in investigating. She recalls feeling increasingly apprehensive about what might happen next.

One morning in early December 2023 while brushing her teeth, Lucido felt an odd ache in her lower back “as if my spine was made of two sharp pencils balancing point to point.”

She gingerly inched her way downstairs, pulled milk out of the refrigerator and, fearing she had missed the counter, twisted and lunged to prevent the carton from crashing to the floor. Within seconds it felt as if her lower back was on fire. Lucido dropped to the floor screaming in pain.

Her husband and sister raced into the room to find her curled in a fetal position and called 911. Paramedics, who gave her a strong anti-inflammatory drug, suggested she might have sciatica, nerve pain that starts in the lower back and is sometimes caused by a disk problem.

At the ER, the doctor…

Read More: A young mother suffered sudden, crippling back pain and fractures

2024-06-22 16:01:22

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