Personal Story: When Back Pain Won't Take a Vacation
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 40s—one that puts down her own garden rocks, runs and was once a ranked tennis player.
Eventually, the back pain expanded to sciatica pain, and ran down her leg. She couldn't 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 couldn't 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 Virtua Brain and Spine Institute spine surgeon Robert Greenleaf, MD, 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 do surgery. When Dr. Greenleaf checked in on her the next day, he found out the injection didn't 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 do surgery on her the next day.
“My experience at Virtua was wonderful,” says Kim. “Even as a doctor, I don't 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 (disc removal), she felt a million times better. Two days after surgery, she no longer needed to take pain medication. Just nine days later, she was back to work seeing patients.
“As a doctor, I know how hard it's to find a surgeon who is technically skilled and also has an amazing bedside manner. With Dr. Greenleaf, I had both.”
Updated December 29, 2017