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Maple Ridge mother waits extra year for spinal surgery due to pandemic-related delays

Amanda Ouvrard will undergo surgery to reconstruct her spine March 4
A GoFundMe has been set up for Amanda Ouvrard, a single mother with an 8-year-old autistic son, to take care of living expenses after she undergoes spinal surgery. (Special to The News)

A Maple Ridge woman is finally scheduled for spinal surgery after waiting an extra year because of pandemic-related delays.

Amanda Ouvrard said she first agreed to the surgery to fully reconstruct her spine in March 2020.

At that time, and even before the pandemic, it was already difficult to book appointments to see her surgeon because of his demanding schedule, said the 32-year-old.

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ouvrard’s symptoms started to change. She found herself having to go to the emergency ward at Vancouver General Hospital where doctors there would relay what her symptoms were and how condition was changing to her surgeon. She was only supposed to wait one year for surgery. But then, as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, elective surgeries were put on hold due to the amount of COVID patients requiring beds in the intensive care unit of the hospital and a nursing shortage meant Ouvrard had to wait an extra year.

“If I only waited a year maybe I wouldn’t need such an aggressive surgery,” said the single mother of an autistic son.

Ouvrard was born with scoliosis and was only diagnosed with the condition when she was 11-years-old. Scoliosis, according to BC Children’s Hospital, is when a person’s spine curves from side to side and the spine looks more like a C or an S, rather than a straight line. She started physiotherapy while doctors took lots of scans and monitored her condition. When she was 16, the curve in her spine was about 70 degrees and doctors decided to operate. They inserted rods and screws to help straighten her spine.

However, at the age of 21, her spine started to curve again. In 2012 she underwent another operation where they took out the old hardware and put new rods and screws in, in the hope that this new hardware would stop her spine from curving. But her spine has continued to curve.

“It’s difficult when fusions fail like this. They’re not supposed to fail. Usually it’s a one and done surgery. When it fails it gets really hard to correct,” said Ouvrard, who now has about a 70 degree curve in her spine, making it hard for her to walking, stand, sit, or even sleep.

“Which means I’m hunched forward, my neck is forward. I can’t stand up straight,” explained Ouvrard.

READ ALSO: Woman who had delayed surgery in Alberta says she lost her nose

The hope is that after her upcoming surgery on March 4 that she will eventually be able to stand up straight and be more mobile. The surgeon, explained Ouvrard, will be taking wedges out of her vertebrae column and reconstructing her spine from her neck all the way down to her pelvis using “really big rods and screws and cages.”

Following her surgery, Ouvrard will spend two weeks at VGH where she will be assessed before being transferred to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre where she will undergo months of therapy learning how to walk, how to use her arms, go to the bathroom, sit, and stand.

“They’re going to teach me how to be functional with my new spine,” she explained.

Ouvrard is worried about her her finances since she has had to take leave from her job as an administrator for an electrical contractor.

RELATED: 2020 B.C. begins calling back scheduled surgery patients

Even though she has applied for EI, there is a two-week waiting period, she explained, before receiving the first check after 28 days and being a single parent, she is worried about relying on government wait times for assistance.

A GoFundMe has been set up by Ouvrard’s friend Aisha Pollard-Douglas, who is hoping to raise $5,000 to help Ouvrard take care of basic living expenses while she is recovering.

“I feel really scared, because my parents, they raised me to always be independent, be self reliant and to take care of your family, and that’s what I’ve always been doing for so many years. And now that I’m having to ask for help and be vulnerable – I’m trying to find that strength and courage,” remarked Ouvrard.

While her parents and siblings will be taking care of her eight-year-old son, money from the GoFundMe will go towards food, rent, day care, and general expenses.

As difficult as this surgery is going to be for Ouvrard to recover from, her greatest hardship, she said, will be missing out in the day-to-day activities with her son.

“I love being a mom. I love my son so much. I love bringing him to school every morning. And not being able to do that or pick him up from daycare – I think that’s going to be the hardest part,” she said.

As of Thursday, Jan. 27, $395 had been raised for Ouvrard.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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