Office of Institutional Advancement

Marina Kauffman

Marina Kauffman and her daughter

Marina Kauffman’s life revolves around her daughter, Lucy. But her life changed when one day, she bent over to pick up her daughter and heard a loud pop in her back followed by excruciating pain. Kauffman soon found that she was no longer able to be the active mom she once was.

“Before the injury we would always like go to the zoo and walk a lot, or go to the soccer field with the dog and walk.  We would even be silly and dance around at home sometimes,” Kauffman recalled. “Once I got hurt I couldn’t do any of that because my sciatica was so bad, it hurt to stand up and to walk. I just had no quality of life with her; I couldn’t pick her up anymore. I couldn’t be a fun parent.”

After a visit to a local hospital, Kauffman learned that she had spondylolisthesis, displacement of a vertebra that causes back pain and numbness or weakness in the legs. For the next year and a half, Kauffman, “went from orthopedists to neurologists to chiropractors,” receiving epidurals and other treatments to block the pain. She knew that ultimately, she would need surgery to fix the problem but the doctors who were treating her at the time considered surgery as a last resort.

Then Kauffman was referred to Jefferson’s Richard H. Rothman Professor and Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD, PhD, MBA.

“When I went to Dr. Vaccaro, he was the only doctor who said I’m not going to do any more procedures; your only option is to get surgery. And he was 100 percent right,” said Kauffman. “I felt confident to go to him, even on the day of surgery he took all of my worries away.”

Dr. Vaccaro performed spinal decompression and spinal fusion surgery on Kauffman in March and April, 2015. Kauffman says she felt “great” less than three weeks after the surgery and “immediately went back to exercising, back to work, back to doing Pilates and exercising five days a week.”

Kauffman’s is the perfect example of the kind of outcome Dr. Vaccaro and his team of orthopaedic surgeons aims to achieve with every patient they treat.

“We want to improve the quality of people’s lives, which is quality of motion, quality of mobility. We’re orthopedic surgeons, so if you’re paralyzed, we help you walk; if you have pain in your limbs, we take that pain away; that’s our goal.”

Now, more than a year after the procedures, Kauffman says she’s feeling like her normal, jovial self again, now with an even greater appreciation for her health.

“Whenever we go somewhere I take full advantage of everything now; I don’t take anything for granted. I felt like I’ve been reborn, and my daughter feels it too. She’s so happy. She’s 6 now, so that 3 year period it really impacted her life and my life,” she said.

“Going through this process with Dr. Vaccaro, it made me a better person and it really taught me a lot about not taking things for granted; especially your health and your body.”