Janet Hubert’s Breakthrough Recovery

Montclair resident Janet Hubert was helped by Dr. Darren Lebl from the Hospital for Special Surgery, the only doctor to find a way to assist Hubert.

janet hubert
Photo courtesy of Janet Hubert.

Dr. Darren Lebl treats Montclair Resident, Janet Hubert, who suffered a spinal injury.

Janet Hubert, Montclair resident, recently recovered from a debilitating spinal injury after receiving innovative treatment at the Hospital for Special Surgery and working with Dr. Darren Lebl. Hubert struggled to walk for many years throughout her life, being declared disabled after 11 years and visiting countless doctors. Dr. Lebl determined that her issue was a spinal disk herniation, finally allowing Hubert to receive treatment and get her life back.

“I was a professional dancer, actress and singer; about 11 years ago I sustained a neck injury,” said Hubert. “It started with a severe case of vertigo that would last as long as three months. Severe jaw pain also accompanied it.”

Janet Hubert went to multiple physicians, from neurologists to ENTs (medical specialists who are concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the head and neck). Hubert went to multiple specialists before she was led to Dr. Lebl, and her condition was worsening. “I started to develop strange tremors,” said Hubert. “I would lose my hearing from time to time, and it would go from one ear to the other. No one could tell me what was wrong; I was trapped inside a body that I no longer knew.”

Eleven years later, Janet Hubert had been advised not to have surgery on her neck, although nearly every disk was herniated. She suffered severe headaches that prevented her from driving. “One morning after making it home I would suffer a fall down my basement stairs from these symptoms,” said Hubert. “I fractured my finger and would do further damage to my neck.”

Dr. Lebl was referred to Janet Hubert by Dr. Galli, who told her that there was no one that would ever operate on the neck except the Hospital for Special Surgery. “I happened to be sitting next to a patient of Dr. Lebl’s who had just done a tri-level fusion,” said Hubert. “I asked her how she felt, [and] she said wonderful. When people give up on you, and doctors no longer want to see you, and pass you along to the next one, I was so very happy they passed me to Dr. Darren Lebl.”

Dr. Lebl’s career began during a volunteer mission to the Gambia in West Africa in the 1998. “For approximately three months, I worked in a small village in a malaria clinic where I learned of the rewards the practice of medicine can bring,” said Dr. Lebl.

Dr. Lebl then received a scholarship to attend Stanford Medical School, where he researched stem cell therapies, regenerative medicine and the surgical subspecialties. These experiences brought Dr Lebl to Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he trained as an orthopedic and spinal surgeon. Dr. Lebl has now been at HSS since 2010, where he coordinates courses for other physicians and conducts research about cervical spines and motion preservation.

Photo courtesy of Hospital for Special Surgery/Brad Hess.

“You must not give up when everyone tells you that they cannot help you anymore as I was told.” said Hubert. “There is no shame in being disabled, and I have learned not to judge anyone’s disability. Just because someone looks fine that may not be the case.”

Dr. Lebl’s practice provides services to patients for cervical spine conditions, degenerative conditions and complex spinal deformities. According to Dr. Lebl, the focus is to preserve mobility and restore function to the spine to maximize the quality of life by focused surgical intervention. Patients benefit from a customized approach to each individual patient and a multidisciplinary team that is involved in their care. “It is particularly important in modern health care that each patient receives focused attention such that his or her goals and expectations can be met,” said Dr. Lebl.

Janet Hubert is still working back up to her old self, but she intends on doing a one-woman show in the fall. According to Hubert, it will be at the Laurie Beechman Theater in NYC. “My dream is to be able to take it on the road,” said Hubert. “So many people ask me if I can still do that dance episode that I did on Fresh Prince; the answer is no I cannot, but I am one step closer to being able to go back to class one day just for myself.”

To hear more about Janet Hubert and her story, visit the website at backinthegame.hss.edu/story/janet-hubert/.

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