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Lifelong Equestrian Reclaims Ability to Ride Thanks to Lumbar Fusion Surgery at Danbury Hospital

Thursday, August 26, 2010 - Danbury, CT

Frank  Ulrich Hermantin, M.D.

Heather Malvarosa thought her days of cantering had come to a close. Horseback riding had always been a constant in the life of the 55-year-old Fishkill, NY resident. However, a fall at the age of 17 would come back to haunt her years later.

Pain from the Past 

In 2009, Malvarosa began suffering severe pain in her hips. Doctors determined the injury was caused decades before, likely from Malvarosa’s fall off a horse when she was a teenager. The pain was especially stinging during the winter months.

“I would wake up in the morning incredibly stiff. Over time, moving around throughout the day became incredibly challenging. Eventually, getting on a horse was something I no longer enjoyed,” she said.

In addition to her recreational love of horseback riding, Malvarosa lives a busy lifestyle. She is a Fishkill Councilwoman and a nurse for special needs children. The pain was progressively inhibiting her ability to complete day to day duties.

Care Well Worth the Drive

She reached her breaking point during a ride, when she went to place her foot on a mounting block and her right foot and leg went numb. It was then that Malvarosa sought out Danbury Hospital spine specialist, Dr. Frank Ulrich Hermantin.

“Heather had a condition called Spondylolisthesis. This is often referred to as spine slip, where a vertebra is out of its normal alignment with the adjacent vertebra,” said Dr. Hermantin.

“It was well worth the drive from Fishkill to Danbury to see Dr. Hermantin. I feel I received the best care possible,” said Malvarosa.

The pain Malavarosa was feeling in her hips was the rest of her body overcompensating for the arthritis that was present in her spine.

An Innovative Approach to Recovery

 In September 2009, Dr. Hermantin performed lumbar fusion surgery on Malvarosa’s spine.

“I was really nervous,” said Malvarosa. “I’ve always been so active; the thought of having spine fusion surgery seemed really intimidating.”

A plate, two screws and a cage were inserted into her lower spine area to stabilize her vertebra.

“The goal of lumbar fusion surgery is to relieve pain, numbness, tingling and weakness, restore nerve function and stop or prevent abnormal motion in the spine,” said Dr. Hermantin. “We strive to bring patients back to an appropriate level of activity.”

Getting Back in the Saddle 

A day after the procedure, Malvarosa was walking and left Danbury Hospital two days later, completely pain free.

“I consider this a miracle,” said Malvarosa. “I have my mobility back and the chance to ride again. I’m so grateful to Dr. Hermantin.”

“Heather is a great example for others of how this surgery can dramatically improve a patient’s life for the better,” said Dr. Hermantin.

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The Hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedicsdigestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

The Center for Advanced Orthopedic and Spine Care at Danbury Hospital remains one of the few facilities in the State to offer surgical treatment of spinal deformities including adolescent scoliosis. A team of board-certified orthopedic specialists have adopted proven, minimally invasive procedures for orthopedic surgery, resulting in less pain, faster recovery, and a higher level of accuracy. The Center continues to be a leader in clinical outcomes for joint replacement and surgical procedures of the spine.

For more information about The Center for Advanced Orthopedic and Spine Care, visit our website at