Patient Profile

Gracie

Profession: Retired
Hobbies: Hiking/ Camping
Doctor: Kushagra Verma

Briefly describe your symptoms and the medical condition that brought you to see the doctor.

I saw Dr. Verma in August after months of pain in my right hip and leg. In spite of PT, massage, acupuncture, and limited activities, my pain progressed to the point that I was bedridden and could only walk with the support of a walker. I was taking narcotics in an attempt to manage the pain and be able to move at all.
After a fractured back in 1987, I had learned to manage chronic back pain without drugs/intervention, but the sciatic pain was new and became unbearable.
I live in eastern Wa. and my (ex) PCP finally agreed in early Aug to order an MRI, and the severe tricompartmental stenosis of L4-L5 was diagnosed. I came to Seattle for treatment but getting a consult took weeks. Finally after spending a night in the ER for pain management, I was referred to Dr Verma and UW Spine Clinic (8 days later).

What one or two things stand out to you about your experience with your doctor and their team?

I was impressed by Dr. Verma's frankness in warning me that surgery might not eliminate the pain since back pain is often not resolved by surgery. However, he did think that the leg pain would be helped, so I eagerly agreed to decompression surgery immediately.
Due to my many weeks of narcotic use and subsequent bowel problems, Dr. Verma was concerned about getting me off the drugs and my management of the inevitable withdrawal. I really appreciated his emphasis on that aspect of my condition, since I was capable of only worrying about how much my hip/leg hurt.
His team was very efficient.

What can you do now that you could not do before surgery? Have you been able to return to your hobbies or sports at the same level as pre-injury or at an even higher level?

I CAN WALK.
The surgery completely relieved the sciatic pain and I was up and walking with a cane in 2 days. Now, after 2 months, I have done a 3 mile hike and walk daily and today went bike riding!
My back is still in need of strengthening: I get tired more quickly than before, but I was very inactive due to the pain and have to get back in shape {at 65 it takes a bit longer}. I anticipate full recovery but as yet have slight pain in my hip from damage to the nerve which has yet to fully heal.

What advice would you like to share with a patient with a condition such as yours who is considering surgery?

I would encourage anyone with sciatic pain to demand an MRI before the condition gets unbearable and determine what options you have. Surgery was an obvious choice for me, even though with my stenosis/arthritis I may face more intervention in the future. Recovery from the back surgery has been relatively easy because I have followed the recommendations from Dr. Verma very strictly. I have not lifted anything heavy; I did not twist or bend and worked my way up slowly by walking a little more every day.
PATIENCE has been necessary, but as a result, I am doing great!

Please share any additional comments!

Dr. Verma was excellent at hearing my concerns, seeing my distress, being honest about potential benefits, and looking at me as a whole person and not just a spine! His encouragement was important in my recovery.