Personal Story: When Back Pain Won't Take a Vacation
In between taking care of her family, patients and her home, Dr. Kim White, an OB/GYN at Garden State Obstetrical & Gynecological Associates, attempted to handle her increasing back pain.
For a year, she managed with physical therapy, injections, and acupuncture. She thought the pain was just part of being an active woman in her early 40’s – one that puts down her own garden rocks, and runs and was once a ranked tennis player.
Eventually, the back pain expanded to sciatica pain, and ran down her leg. She could not walk for more than five minutes without her leg going numb. Her goal: Get through three more days of patient appointments, and then use her vacation time to figure out the problem.
Before day three, she reached her breaking point. It was on her bucket list to see U2 live in concert, but when the day finally came, it was a far cry from a “Beautiful Day.” She could not stand for more than 10 minutes without having to sit and bend over to relieve the pain. “I felt like one of my patients in labor,” says Kim. That was it.
The next day, she went to the Virtua Voorhees emergency room. She arrived crying and in excruciating pain: “On a scale from 1 to 10, my pain level was a 15,” says Kim.
Seeing the agony on her face, Dr. Hardis and nurse Robert jumped into action and got her back to an ER exam room. “They paid attention to every detail, took a thorough medical history, did their best to make me comfortable, and quickly got my MRI completed,” remembers Kim.
The ER doctor called Robert Greenleaf, MD, a spine surgeon at the Virtua Brain and Spine institute, and before Kim even made it out of the Virtua Voorhees parking lot, Dr. Greenleaf’s office called her and told her to come in to see him. Dr. Greenleaf looked at her MRI results and saw that the disc between her L5 and S1 vertebrae had slipped and was compressing the nerve that ran down her leg.
While Kim was in Dr. Greenleaf’s office, he gave her an injection and medication to help with the pain until he could operate. When Dr. Greenleaf checked in on her the next day, he found out the injection did not work and the medication only provided temporary relief. He told her to get to Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly for pain control, and he would rearrange his schedule so he could operate on her the next day.
“My experience at Virtua was wonderful,” says Kim. “Even as a doctor, I do not like hospitals and neither do my husband or son, but it was different at Virtua. We felt comfortable and taken care of at both Voorhees and Memorial.”
After Kim’s discectomy, she felt a million times better. Two days after surgery, no longer needed to take pain medication and just nine days later, she was back to work seeing patients.
“As a doctor, I know how hard it is to find a surgeon who is technically skilled and also has an amazing bedside manner. With Dr. Greenleaf, I had both.”
Updated October 10, 2017