CBS46’s Jennifer Valdez, recuperating from back surgery, hopes to return on air later this month

Credit: Facebook photo

Credit: Facebook photo

Three weeks after major back surgery, CBS46 chief meteorologist Jennifer Valdez is still in pain.

“I’ll have a good day, then feel awful for three,” said Valdez, 39, who joined the station 12 years ago.

But she still hopes to be back on air before the end of the month, working from home.

Valdez said she’s had a deteriorating disk in her lower back for years and knew she’d need surgery at some point.

But as a busy 39-year-old working mom with two young kids, she said she kept putting off the inevitable.

“Between personal and work life,” she said, “there no good time.”

By this spring, she could no longer unload the dishwasher or clean the coffee table without cringing.

So last month, she finally decided to get artificial disc replacement surgery using titanium plates.

She did a lot of research, and said she felt this was the best solution. It’s a common procedure in Europe but only gaining favor stateside recently. “Insurance is starting to cover it, and more and more people are now able to do it,” Valdez said.

The more common method has been to fuse vertebrae together, which causes a loss of motion and may require more surgery down the road.

Valdez said many back surgeons don't do this type of surgery. She ultimately found Richard Guyer, the surgeon in Plano, Texas who famously repaired Tiger Woods' back, enabling him to win the Masters again.

Last month, Valdez flew to Plano and got the surgery done at the Texas Back Institute.

Valdez had no idea why her disk degenerated. She was not aware of any accident. It might have just been genetic, she said.

“I am very excited to finally be free of long-term pain and be mobile again,” Valdez said. “I haven’t been able to work out. I haven’t been able to be active. I haven’t been able to be the mom I want to be for my two kids,” ages 7 and 8.

They did the 90-minute surgery via a four-inch incision through her stomach. She said going from the front is safer than going from the back.

Later that day, they even had her walking down the hospital hallway.”

The only complication: they cracked her vertebrae, delaying her recovery a bit and adding bonus pain.

She spent a week in Texas, then came home, wearing a back brace.

Valdez cannot move forward more than 10 degrees. In fact, she really can’t do much of anything in terms of housework or cooking. Her husband Derek is patiently helping her while she recuperates.

“I can’t bend over the sink to brush my teeth,” she said. “I have to do this log roll in and out of bed... It’s driving me crazy. It’s hard to do nothing.”

She has had time to watch ample amounts of TV, binging TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé,” “Selling Sunset” on Netflix and the HBO drama “The Leftovers.”

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