Battling Bruin: Mary

Posted May 2013

Beautiful Southern California weather … heading home down PCH after a busy day with clients … sitting at a stoplight watching traffic go by. A pretty normal Friday afternoon in L.A. by all accounts, until Mary looked in her side mirror and saw a tow truck coming way too fast to stop with traffic. As the tow truck swerved to avoid hitting one car it hit another and caused a five car pile-up that rammed a car into Mary’s and thrust her into her side door, jarring her neck and shoulders. After spending the night in the hospital, with what appeared to be just a dislocated shoulder Mary was sent home and told she would just need to rest and complete physical therapy. But when a week passed and Mary still could not raise her left arm, nor did she have full range of motion in her neck, it was clear that the injury was much worse and Mary has spent the last 13 years trying to regain her life.

Mary has had 28 different surgeries and procedures since 2000, each time finding further damage that was hidden under inflamed tissues and torn muscles. It started with two surgeries on each shoulder and having her clavicle bone shortened an inch on both sides. Mary was finding it difficult to maintain her hectic schedule as a bank executive and avid volunteer. She was used to traveling throughout the United States, servicing clients, making new connections and participating in various philanthropic events, serving as chairman of the Southern California Arthritis Foundation. Eventually the pain was so intense she had to severely limit her travels and often use a wheelchair if she was going to be out of the house longer than an hour. When physical therapy had stopped having positive effects and the pain was becoming more intense, her doctors sought F.D.A. approval for her to be one of the first patients in the world to have artificial discs implanted into cervical vertebrae 2-4. It was also determined that discs 5-9 were also damaged, but not candidates for replacements.

The surgery was successful, but after five years of excruciating pain, Mary had developed Chronic Pain Syndrome. Her doctors knew they had to find a way to help her overcome this next battle. She spent two months at St. Jude in their Pain Management Program, undergoing intense physical, occupational and recreational therapy. The lack of control over her pain had also led to her developing intense obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia and anxiety. The woman known for being the go-to girl when it came to entertaining clients or organizing galas was trapped by her pain. Two spinal cord stimulators were implanted into her back, as well as a procedure to burn her nerve endings so that new ones that didn’t know the pain could go grow back.

Every day continues to be a battle for Mary. She finds that spending time with her family is the best distraction for her, including her stepdaughter Patricia Lusby and granddaughter Aline Hankey who both graduated from UCLA. She lives in La Crescenta with her husband Paul, and sees her children and grandchildren as much as possible.

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