Presque Isle senior, doctor shares experience staying active
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With a bit of determination and some help from modern medicine, 84-year-old Dorilla Bagley is keeping active despite dealing with osteoporosis and a recent spine fracture.
“I’ve never been anything but active and I’ll be 85 pretty soon,” said Bagley, who has always tended a garden at her Presque Isle home. “I was late to gardening this year. The day they worked up my garden, was the day I broke my back.”
Earlier this year, Bagley suffered a fractured spine while lifting a bag of mulch. She heard the sound of the crack in her back and couldn’t walk, waiting for help from her daughter. For years, she’s dealt with osteoporosis, a common bone-weakening condition associated with aging that affects more than 3 million Americans and raises the risks of bone fractures.
Bagley said she was in terrible pain that wasn’t helped by painkillers. She said her options included a lengthy rehabilitation stay and a minimally invasive surgical intervention called balloon kyphoplasty where an acrylic bone cement is injected in the vertebrae to inflate it.
“I said, well sounds good to me, I’ll be able to do what I usually do,” Bagley said of the option for kyphoplasty. “I knew I wasn’t going to to go to Portland for a half-year disability.”
Bagley’s physician, Dr. Andrew Lederman at Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, thought she would be a good candidate for the procedure, although it’s not something he recommends all the time.
“The patients that I often see come to me with acute or chronic pain,” said Lederman, who specializes in physiatry, physical medicine rehabilitation, and conditions resulting in pain and disability. “The majority of what I see is spine related, usually at their most severe after patients have exhausted more conservative options, like physical therapy and medications.”
Lederman said that Bagley was a good candidate for kyphoplasty, but that he and others are working to help seniors avoid having to receive the intervention. The procedure is minimally invasive and has a strong success rate, but does come with some low risks for complications or adverse events such as heart attacks, strokes and embolisms.
“The procedure is there and available in the rare and unfortunate event there is a fracture,” Lederman said. “Our hope is that we prevent these things in the first place.”
Lederman recently gave a talk to a group with the Aroostook Agency on Aging about ways to manage osteoporosis. Among the several recommendations is optimizing calcium and vitamin D levels, with supplements, considering special medications and continuing to stay active with weight-bearing exercises.
“Staying active and doing weight-bearing exercises is great. Strength is just as important as flexibility.”
Also important is preventing falls, especially for people at a high risk of fractures, with simple home modifications like removing things such as slip rugs, Lederman said.
For Bagley, the recovery from the surgery was short, and she’s spent the rest of the summer doing what she enjoys: gardening and spending time with grandkids.
“I was late to gardening because I got the surgery in June. I just grew sunflowers and tomatoes. It could of been a lot worse.”