Thirty years ago, Marilyn Scholl consulted with a world-renowned spine surgeon at UCSF Medical Center regarding her scoliosis. The 45-degree curve in her spine was causing her pain and threatened to impact her active way of life. But as a competitive long-distance horse rider, an 18-hour surgery and months of recovery wasn't part of her plan.
A few years later, Scholl met with local up-and-coming spine surgeon George Picetti, III, M.D. Despite her discomfort, Scholl again decided it wasn't the right time in her life for surgery.
"I decided not to go forward with the surgery, and although my scoliosis would cause me pain, I never let it stop me," Scholl says.
She continued to work, ride her horses up to 155 miles a day and endured hip dysplasia and a hip replacement surgery.
"Three months after my hip replacement I was back riding," she says. "But soon after I started suffering from painful stenosis in my spine that limited the control I had of my left leg."
Scholl researched scoliosis surgeons online and learned that the young spine surgeon she met years ago, Dr. Picetti, was now making a name for himself. She was even more excited when she learned that he was with Sutter Health.
"I went in to see Dr. Picetti, and he counseled me on the urgent need for surgery," Scholl says. "From talking with him, I knew he cared about me and what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to move forward with the nine-hour surgery, which included 32 screws and rods from my neck to buttocks. Recovery wasn't easy, but I was eager to do my part with my recovery. Dr. Picetti told me I had to keep moving and to begin to walk, so I did."
Scholl joined a gym, and continued to walk and work on her balance. Six months later she was able to get back on a horse.
"It wasn't easy," Scholl says. "I could feel the rods and my balance wasn't 100 percent. But I was able to sit higher because my curve was almost straight. I never gave up and continued to work at it. And with time, I was back to my long-distance backcountry riding."