At 70 years young, Shirley DePasse is aging brilliantly. Jetting off to Mexico to go zip lining with her granddaughter, golfing with friends and continuing her career selling real estate. The sky is the limit for DePasse today, but her last couple of decades were encumbering.
It all started when DePasse was a cheerleader in junior high school. Active and athletic, the last thing she could imagine was being in a body cast. But as back pains worsened, she was taken to the Children’s Hospital where she learned she had scoliosis. The solution? An operation that would leave her in a body cast for two years and unable to pursue her athletic passions. “No way,” was DePasse’s answer. She was only 16 and the thought of losing her youth to a body cast was unbearable. The doctor told her the alternative was to stay limber as long as she could so her mother put her in tap, ballet, and jazzercise, and regularly took her to the chiropractor. She stayed fit throughout the years and that helped her physical condition but it took a toll on her self-esteem.
“I hated most of my life because I had this bulge on the right side of my back and I always had to hide it with my jacket. It was ugly!” DePasse exclaimed.
But it became more than a self-esteem issue as age finally caught up to her, and from her 40s onwards, her quality of life was going in a downward spiral. Her back was compressed, the space between her shoulders and hips was compacting and her rib was grinding into her hip bone. She thought back to her youth and remembered her cousin who also had back issues and received an operation. “Back in those days, they put a rod in your back that made you perpetually stiff. My cousin had that and one day she fell off a horse. It killed her.” DePasse sighed. She was losing hope but kept pursuing treatment options.
In 2015, DePasse went to a sports doctor for treatment but he had the same answer the doctor from her teenage years did: invasive surgery followed by a body cast and immobility for a year. These were her golden years and being stagnant would mean losing the opportunity to do what she loved most – going on adventures with her grandchildren.
DePasse decided to forgo the surgery and just live with the pain of her scoliosis. It was then when she discovered her first guardian angel at a dermatologist’s office. She was there to treat a skin issue near her eye and, as always, she put a pillow behind her back before laying in the doctor’s chair. This time she was being tended to by a new nurse. “You have scoliosis,” she proclaimed matter-of-factly.
It was the moment that changed DePasse’s life forever. The nurse went on to tell her about her friend with scoliosis who went to Dr. Alleyne at Tri-City Medical Center and was up and walking the next day. “I never saw that women again or had the chance to thank her, but she is my angel,” said DePasse.
On Oct. 11, 2016, DePasse visited Dr. Alleyne’s office and learned that if she didn’t have an operation, she would end up on a wheelchair and be on oxygen for the rest of her life as her right lung would collapse. Her only option was to get treated. “Luckily for me, Dr. Allyene is the best thing since popcorn. He is the greatest!” DePasse gushed with delight.
She was at the right place. Tri-City Medical Center is the first in North County to utilize the innovate da Vinci Xi Surgical System for minimally invasive procedures. Dr. Alleyne was DePasse’s second guardian angel. Coupled with the attentiveness of the nurses and staff at Tri-City Medical Center, DePasse received the best care she could have asked for. “I was walking just two days after my surgery, three inches taller and had the rest of my life to enjoy to the fullest with my eight grandkids and family,” DePasse said. “Dr. Alleyne and his team were very receptive and there for me every step of the way, even post-operation.”
All it took was a 13-hour operation to change her life. These days, DePasse is having the time of her life doing all that she loves with nothing holding her back. She can golf at her senior living community in Hemet, take long walks, and even do thrill-seeking things like zip-lining, which many of us decades younger than her would never dream of! Her acid reflux is gone, she doesn’t need pain medication and she can almost touch her toes at the age of 70!
Her advice to others suffering from back issues? “Go to the magic man at Tri-City Medical Center. He will transform your life!”