The following content is created in partnership with Medical City Spine Hospital. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC Dallas editorial staff. Click here to learn more about the Medical City Scoliosis & Advanced Spine Center at Medical City Spine Hospital.
Deborah Naughton-Butter is the poster child for tolerating chronic pain. Diagnosed with scoliosis at age 5, Deborah says she can’t remember a single day in her five-plus decades without pain.
Deborah is one of the 2-to-3 percent of the population affected by scoliosis—that's about six million people in the United States alone. But Deborah, a North Texas resident, stopped being a statistic when she had—literally—life-changing orthopedic surgery at Medical City Scoliosis & Advanced Spine Center at Medical City Spine Hospital in Dallas.
By then, Deborah had an 82-degree curve at the top of her spine and an 89-degree curve at the bottom. She experienced terrible pain and a chest deformity that made breathing difficult. (The complications of living with scoliosis vary for each person.)
Five years earlier, Dr. Richard Hostin, the orthopedic spine surgeon who corrected her scoliosis, told her that her spine was collapsing. But—thinking she could still manage her pain—Deborah decided she’d rather put off the ordeal of surgery.
Deborah remembers the day her family first realized she had a problem: “My mom was making a pink gingham sundress for me and couldn’t get it straight. That’s when she noticed my shoulder blades were uneven.”
Often, children with scoliosis have no pain—the problem is typically discovered by a parent or during a school screening. Deborah’s case, though, was more severe. At six years old, she was fitted with a brace that she had to wear 23 hours a day. A large metal and leather contraption with a chin strap, Deborah wore it a year before complications made even this corrective measure impossible.
The next several decades were a blur of excruciating pain marked by chiropractor and pain management visits, a ruptured disk and a revolving door of specialists.
“I would go to a surgeon but then I’d rally back because surgery was just so radical back then,” she said.
Despite the setbacks, Deborah didn’t let her deformity keep her down. She competed in the Miss Tennessee pageant, had a successful modeling career and raised her daughter as a single, working mom.
In September 2017, Deborah was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in her neck, a condition that narrows the spinal column and starts compressing the spinal cord. She underwent a cervical fusion surgery.
“I was in so much pain, I felt like a zombie most of the time,” said Deborah. “I couldn’t work anymore. I couldn’t shop or cook. I really couldn’t do much of anything.” She also had trouble sleeping and breathing, needed a cane to walk and had been having persistent, involuntary muscle twitches for months.
Finally, Deborah was ready for the scoliosis surgery—though she worried she had waited too long and might not ever walk again. Deborah spent eight months researching physicians, talking to patients and inquiring about different surgical methods. After waiting this long, she wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Ultimately, she decided she wanted the Dallas-based Dr. Hostin, to perform the surgery. She said she wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it.
At the time, she had just married retired U.S. Marine Colonel Jeffry Butter, living with him at the time in his Georgia hometown. Jeffry told her that, if she couldn’t find a local surgeon she liked as well as Dr. Hostin, he would move to Dallas for her.
In early December 2018, the Butters moved to Dallas-Fort Worth. On December 18, Dr. Hostin performed a spinal fusion on Deborah’s T1 through S1 vertebrae—virtually her entire back from the bottom of her neck to the top of her sacrum. She was home by January 7.
Before surgery, Deborah had 10 percent strength in her left leg. By June 2019, she had 70 percent and was able to travel alone to Alaska to visit her daughter’s family, where they camped on the beach. She said it was hard to convince people that, just six months earlier, she had been nearly immobile.
“There were so many things wrong with me, I can’t remember them all!” Deborah recalls. “Now, I’m three-and-a-half inches taller! I can sit in a straight-backed chair and stand in line at the grocery store. I feel like a walking miracle.”
Deborah is one of many patients who have benefited from this life-changing procedure at Medical City. If you or someone you love is living with adult scoliosis, know that, at Medical City Spine Hospital, expert fellowship-trained surgeons are dedicated to the treatment of scoliosis deformities, complex spine conditions and revision surgeries. Our concierge experience is truly centered on the needs of our patients and their families, offering a healing environment with advanced, specialized care. Click here to learn more.