Patient Stories

Susan P., Portland, OR

Patient story: Suzanne, Springfield, Oregon

Hiking is where I’m in my element. And I’m doing it, thanks to the team at the Spine Center. The team approach is exactly what makes the difference at OHSU. I injured my back when I was 27, and I had tried everything for the pain - or so I thought. OHSU gave me options and empowered me with the tools to take control of the pain myself, without surgery or medication. And now I’m able to do what I love most, thanks to the OHSU Spine Center team. And that’s what life’s all about.

Denise, 49, of Oregon City

"How do I thank the doctor who gave me my life back?"

Denise had always been active and healthy, often biking 100 miles per week or more, but when she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, her life changed dramatically.

She began having problems with a disc in her lower back. She couldn’t sleep in bed because lying down was too painful. Sitting for any length of time was also next to impossible. Denise would often eat out at restaurants standing up. She had a hard time sitting for classes in school, where she is studying nursing.

Denise had to buy a zero-gravity chair in order to sleep, and even then she only slept for a few hours at a time. Her lack of sleep and the constant pain made it hard to focus on studying and her regular activities.

She tried physical therapy, steroid shots, pain medication and sleeping pills, but none of it helped. Another spine doctor said she might be a candidate for a total disc replacement and referred her to Dr. Hart at OHSU.

“I had been in pain for a year and it kept getting worse. I was desperate when I went to see Dr. Hart,” said Denise.

After thorough research into treatment options, Denise had a total disc replacement in December 2005. As soon as she woke up, she knew the surgery had been successful. For the first time in more than a year, she was lying flat in bed without pain.

“Dr. Hart gave me my life back. I can sleep in my own bed again, and I can sleep comfortably in any position. I can walk and ride my bike and work in my garden again. I would have been happy with a 50 percent improvement, but I feel 100 percent again,” said Denise.

The lack of sleep and constant agony had taken its toll on Denise’s emotional well-being. The normally self-described “happy-go-lucky” woman had lost her vitality and a lot of her positive attitude. Within weeks of being able to sleep normally and live without pain, she started to feel like herself again.

“I still wake up every day and thank God and Dr. Hart for the fact that I’m not in pain anymore.”