After 70 Years of Pain, Surgery Has Marlene Kelley Dancing Again

Marlene Kelley is dancing again. Actually, as an 81-year-old with lifelong back pain, Marlene is doing more than dancing. She’s also singing her doctor’s praises.

Dr. Ozgur is my sweetheart,” said Marlene. “He’s given me my life back.”

Marlene was 11 years old when she slipped on her tailbone. In the 70 years that have passed, she has endured on-and-off back pain that she “just learned to live with.” She raised three children, stayed active and even took up tap dancing.

But in the past year, Marlene’s back pain grew excruciating. The pain started to radiate down her leg and robbed her of her independence. She relied on a walker and rarely got out, let alone danced.

She had heard about back surgery her whole life, but most of the stories were cautionary tales. So, when a pain specialist recommended Burak Ozgur, M.D., a neurosurgeon and chief of service for the Neurosurgical Spine Program at Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag, Marlene was more than a bit skeptical.

“I was not enthused about this. I had always heard traumatic stories about going under for your spine,” she said. “I didn’t believe anybody could help me. I didn’t believe what they were saying.”

At the same time, the pain had grown unbearable. Marlene’s quality of life had deteriorated so drastically, that she was willing to listen to what Dr. Ozgur had to say. Marlene said the neurosurgeon’s confidence and kindness convinced her to give it a try.

Marlene’s medical team was confident they could help her, not only because has spinal surgery evolved drastically in the last seven decades, but because the techniques employed by Hoag are among the most innovative in the nation.

Dr. Ozgur diagnosed Marlene with a common condition called spinal stenosis where the nerves are pinched and it causes severe pain, numbness and tingling. He performed a minimally-invasive micro-decompression of the spine through a tiny incision, and was able to shave down some of the bone and clean out the space around the nerves.

Just one day after the operation, Marlene was back home. And less than two months after surgery Marlene joined a line-dancing group.

“When I woke up, I was in total shock about everything. I couldn’t believe how well and how great I felt,” Marlene said. “I always had my limitations, but now there is nothing I can’t do. I haven’t felt like this in years, really in years. I still am careful about things I do. I’m not a young kid. But it’s so wonderful to not have that horrible, horrible pain all the time.”

Marlene’s praise of Dr. Ozgur’s talents and demeanor are effusive: “What a jewel. He’s just such a sweet and gentle man. I love him.”

And she has equally kind words to say about the medical team and staff at Hoag.

“The whole staff and everyone there at Hoag was just so wonderful,” she said. “They took care of me like I was a little baby.

“I just love that man and that whole staff,” she said. “Honey, it feels so wonderful just to be a normal person again.”