Charity runner back on the streets to thank Sheffield surgeon for spinal care

Jo (far right) with friends Clare and Geraldine
Jo (far right) with friends Clare and Geraldine

A dedicated runner whose hobby was ended by a debilitating spinal condition, is back in trainers and hitting the streets for Sheffield Hospitals Charity to thank doctors for their care.

Jo Glenn, aged 51, from Sunnyside in Rotherham, was forced to quit the sport she loves having battled a curved spine for decades.

But then she was referred to a renowned surgeon at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital who operated on her spine, enabling her to take up her fitness passion once more.

Jo said: “At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with scoliosis - a medical condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways twist or curve - which was discovered by a back specialist.

“I was offered corrective surgery once the initial diagnosis had been made. However, back in the 1980s the operation was very crude compared to the surgery offered today. I was told that my movements would be quite limited, I wouldn’t be able to participate in some sports and it may impact on my wish to have children in the future.

“I took all these factors into account and made the decision not to have surgery– a decision which I regretted every day after.

“However in the years that followed, I had two children and continued with my sports. My back continued to deteriorate though, and at the height of the pain I was taking a cocktail of painkillers, but I tried to cope as much as I could without.

“It also affected my self confidence. On one occasion I was choosing a wedding outfit for my nephews wedding. I caught glimpse of my back in the changing room mirror and I had a complete breakdown. I always wore baggy clothes to disguise my scoliosis.

“From around the age of 40 the pain and discomfort in my back increased to the extent that I had to stop running. I was devastated. My curve began to deteriorate rapidly - so much so that I had to rethink my wardrobe to disguise my wonky back.

“Then I had a chance meeting with a neighbour, a nurse and now a really good friend, and she mentioned she hadn’t seen me running for a while. I explained why and she told me that her then 15-year-old son had recently had corrective surgery on his spine due to his scoliosis.

“I thought I had left it far too late for surgery but she advised me to look into it and gave me the name of a fantastic surgeon based at the Northern General Hospital. I discussed the pros and cons with my family and we decided the operation was worth the risk. The rest is history.

“I had my operation in the summer of 2011 and have never looked back. Prior to the operation the curve in my spine was 60 degrees. After the operation they reduced it to around 20 degrees - a miracle!

“A year after the surgery I went back to visit my consultant, where I was discharged from his care. I asked about the feasibility of returning to running and although he wasn’t 100 per cent happy, he said it was important to weigh up the physical impact of running on my spine with the mental well-being it would bring.

“I started back running and in 2014 ran the Race for Life, a 5k run and several 10k events after. I joined a local running club and now run with a group of friends several times a week.

“I was extremely fortunate that things turned out so well and have never looked back. To say it’s completely changed my life is an understatement and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my wonderful family and friends.

“In order to thank the amazing surgeon, Lee Breakwell, together with his amazing staff, and to help other people suffering from spinal injuries and conditions, I have decided that I have one half marathon left in me! So, together with two of my running buddies, Clare and Geraldine, I will be competing in the North Lincolnshire half marathon to raise funds for Sheffield Hospitals Charity.”

To sponsor Jo, Clare and Geraldine Click here