Dauphin resident Jill Mulligan is not the type of person you are likely to find standing still.
From breaking in horses at the age of nine to now running a kennel, a grooming business, and a hobby farm with her husband, along with breeding and showing Australian shepherds, maintaining her family’s acreage, and raising her five children, Mulligan is not afraid of a challenge.
After giving birth to her second child in January 2012, Mulligan knew something was wrong with her back. By April of the same year, she was in so much pain she couldn’t hold her baby for more than a few minutes at a time. “I remember thinking, ‘this baby is 11lbs, and I can’t carry him. Something is wrong.’”
After advocating for herself and her symptoms to her local doctor for over two years, Mulligan was eventually booked for an MRI in Dauphin. At five months pregnant with her third child, she was ready for answers about the condition that had her living in pain for years—and was astounded by what she discovered.
Mulligan had a pathological fracture (a fracture due to weakening of bones in her spine)—an injury so serious that the doctor she had seen recommended terminating her pregnancy in order to be immediately operated on. Mulligan is unsure of the direct cause of the fracture but gathers that it was due to repeated injuries obtained while on the farm and in the workplace.
Again, advocating for her care—and the care of her unborn child—Mulligan sought a second opinion and was sent to the Health Sciences Centre to see Dr. Michael Goytan, who asked that she be scheduled for surgery after giving birth. Following the safe arrival of Mulligan’s third child, she was operated on by Dr. Goytan.
“Just prior to surgery, Dr. Goytan said ‘You need to go home and get a will in order; this is a surgery you may not come out of. The chances of you walking again are not good.’ He basically said, ‘Get your affairs in order.’”
Barely three weeks after giving birth, Mulligan underwent a nearly 15-hour-long surgery, during which Dr. Goytan and staff removed spinal sections L5 and L4 and inserted an allograft cadaver femur with titanium screws and rods to stabilize her spine. The surgery was completed through a 12-inch horizontal incision in Mulligan’s chest and an eight-inch lateral incision along her spine.
Mulligan’s husband and three-week-old daughter were waiting for her when she awoke from the surgery. Her daughter was laid in the bed beside her while the doctors examined Mulligan further. Thanks to the exceptional care Mulligan received from Dr. Goytan and staff, the surgery was successful, and Mulligan’s recovery progressed well.
“When it was time for my three-month checkup, I walked into Dr. Goytan’s office. He was standing at his desk when I came in. He watched me walk down the hallway and said, ‘I can’t believe how well you are walking. If I hadn’t operated on you, I would never have guessed you had spinal surgery.”
Life has settled into a new normal for Mulligan. Now, pain-free, she is again able to tackle her busy, active life. She still even has her horses, although she makes more effort to be careful and only rides them on occasion. Jill has turned to dogs as a safer alternative, showing in conformation and using the dogs to herd livestock at home on their acreage.
Mulligan encourages everyone to support HSC. “They are one of the best hospitals. They have the specialists and expertise. If you need something done, you want it done right. That’s at HSC.”
To help patients like Jill Mulligan, please support the Patricia Nord Complex Spinal Surgery Fund. The fund was established by Patricia Nord—former HSC ER nurse and patient of Dr. Goytan—in 2013 to support equipment purchases, research, education, and training related to patient care for the Complex Spine program at HSC. To contribute towards the fund, please call the HSC Foundation at 204-515-5612 or toll-free at 1-800-679-8493. To learn about other HSC Foundation giving options, please click here.
By Heather Milne