Patient Stories

Tethered Spinal Cord


As first time parents, the words, “MRI,” and “spina bifida,” are not what you expect to hear as you are getting ready to bring your newborn son home from the hospital; but that was the reality my husband and I faced on March 14, 2017. We were truly fortunate, however, that our pediatrician, Dr. Rickes had a professional relationship with Dr. Catherine Mazzola and recommended that we take our son, Luca, to NJPNI once two ultrasounds confirmed a diagnosis of tethered spinal cord syndrome. From the minute she held our son and the manner in which she interacted with him (as well as us) we knew (literally) that he was in the best hands possible. Her bed-side manner was exceeded by the thoroughness she demonstrated during our son’s surgery at 3 ½ months old. I will forever be grateful for the phone call I received from Dr. Mazzola herself informing me that Luca was out of surgery and that everything went perfectly. Now, we look forward to visits to her office where we are welcomed by staff who have provided wonderful care to our happy and healthy 6 month old son and are truly invested in our family’s story.


From the first time I spoke to the office to make an appointment for my daughter, I knew things were going to be better here. The office staff was very efficient & knowledgeable but also pleasant & kind. Then we met Dr. Mazzola, Dr. Post, Tom & Tatiana My daughter gets very nervous in doctor offices but at NJPNI everyone made her feel so comfortable by joking around with her & keeping things light.

When it came to explaining things to me & my husband, the doctors were extremely detailed & informative; we didn’t feel silly for asking questions, in fact, they encouraged us to look things up & come back to them with any questions or concerns we had.

I really can not say enough about EVERYONE at NJPNI. Although we are facing some scary diagnoses, being treated by such wonderful people makes all the difference! Thank you NJPNI!!


Our family spent a great deal of time with Dr. Mazzola, Pam and the rest of the staff from the time our son Jed was seven weeks old until his surgery at eleven months old in 2008 for a tethered spinal cord repair. Jed (and his twin big brother, Luke) were born nearly seven weeks early with complications. Jed was our little guy at three pounds and both the neonatologists and our pediatrician, suspecting a spinal abnormality, sent us to Dr. Mazzola.

From the beginning, Dr. Mazzola was direct, informative and compassionate as she guided us through the plan for diagnosing and treating Jed. We needed to wait at least six months before we could definitively test him for Spina Bifida occulta, or a tethered spinal cord. During that time, Dr. Mazzola gave us invaluable advice and counsel that changed the course of our son’s development. When he was slow to develop early gross motor skills, she suggested physical therapy which had tremendous impact. When he showed signs of plagiocephaly she firmly recommended cranial remolding, which had beautiful results. All of these things ere stressful for me and Neil as first time parents of infant twins, but we trusted Dr. Mazzola’s recommendations that the outcomes for our child would be worth it… and they were.

When the day came for Dr. Mazzola to deliver the news confirming Jed’s diagnosis of a tethered spinal cord, she and Pam were calm, kind and informative in the face of my tears. In the days before the surgery, she spent a great deal of time with me and my husband answering the pages of questions I had prepared about the surgery with the same steady, confident and educational delivery. On the day of the surgery, she was present every step of the way, even calling me in the waiting room with an update. Every face she gave us about the surgery and recovery period was totally accurate. She made an otherwise nightmarish episode understandable and bearable.

Today, Jed is a healthy, happy three old who never stops moving and talking! He and his brother are the biggest blessings and loves of our lives. Neil and I are indebted to Dr. Mazzola and her team for changing the course of our child’s health and life in so many ways. As a mother herself I am sure Dr. Mazzola can understand how it is nearly impossible to articulate thanks to the person, who figuratively held your child’s life in her hands, but I am forever grateful; we all are.

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