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Shirley says “yes” to picking up her granddaughter and enjoying life pain free


My back hurt so bad, I could no longer pick up my grandbaby. She looked up at me with those puppy dog eyes that could make even a stranger melt, but my back pain was too much. All she wanted was for me to pick her up like I used to, and I could see the confusion and disappointment in her face. She could crawl onto my lap and sit with me, but I physically couldn’t pick her up.

I spent my life caring for people who could no longer care for themselves. Sometimes it was family – my father, my godmother – and sometimes it was other people’s loved ones. Caregiving was my profession.

Finally all the heavy lifting of caring for others day in and day out caught up with me, and resulted in a pain that made even standing unbearable. After years of lifting others and keeping them comfortable, I could no longer even lift a grocery bag, let alone my own grandbaby.

It wasn’t the pain, but seeing the look of disappointment in her little 4-year-old face that broke my heart. That was the final straw for me.

I was determined to try anything so I could hold my grandbaby again and go back to a normal life.

For four years, I lived with this pain. I tried everything from injections to having a nerve burnt in my back (called radiofrequency ablation) to relieve the pain. Nothing worked. At 49 years of age, was it time for me to come to terms with the fact that the only way I may live a normal life again is by undergoing invasive back surgery and months of recovery?

That’s when Dr. Fox recommended I do a spinal cord stimulation trial with Dr. Ingraham.

“Severe pain can impact anyone, but patients don’t have to accept this as simply ‘part of getting older.’ Ms. Harris was a great candidate to pursue other forms of treatment for her pain besides surgery. Many are surprised to know their options for pain treatment are as broad as they are – and that they can be life-changing,” said Dr. Ingraham.

I talked it over with my daughter to see what she thought. I knew it was my last hope for avoiding back surgery. Surgery seemed inevitable, but I was going to try this one last thing.

I remember what my daughter said to me – “I’m behind you mom, I’ll support you with whatever you think is best. Whatever it takes for you to be able to do the things you love and live as close to a normal life again as possible. ”

So I called Dr. Ingraham at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center (SMOC) that day and told him I’d give it a try.

The trial required me to sit still in my chair hooked up to the machine.

No problem. At that point I was used to sitting. My grandbaby would come over and hold out her hand to help me get up. By now she understood enough to know Grandma couldn’t get up on her own. Soon I thought, I would be helping her up again.

Dr. Ingraham took his time and explained everything to me. If I ever had a problem, all I had to do was call him and if he couldn’t help me over the phone, he got me in the office and fit me into his schedule right away. He’s just really good at what he does, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

The trial went as planned.

Was it too good to be true? I hadn’t felt this great in four years. I felt, dare I say it, normal again. I could stand without pain, walk effortlessly and lift my groceries. But nothing compares to the joy in my granddaughter’s face when I scooped her up all on my own. There’s no way I was going to go back to the way it was when I was in pain – so after the trial went so well, I knew I would follow through with Dr. Ingraham to make it permanent.

In March 2017 I had the spinal cord stimulator surgically placed under my skin. It was a simple outpatient surgery, and I was home the same day.

Thanks to the caring and talented SMOC team, I was able to avoid an invasive back surgery and months of recovery.

We all take for granted life’s little pleasures, standing and commiserating with loved ones, carrying our groceries to our car, cooking a Sunday meal for our family or picking up our grandchildren. I would never take these simple pleasures for granted ever again.

Every day I thank God for Dr. Ingraham and Dr. Fox, for giving me life again.

This is why I’m sharing my story. If you’re experiencing this type of pain, please don’t accept it as your new normal and miss out on life’s simple pleasures. I have a “first” coming up for me this month: I am riding a mechanical bull in celebration of my birthday being pain-free! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but was never able to because of my bad back.
I would urge anyone to not waste one more moment – let alone four years – not living life 100 percent.

What’s keeping you from living life to the fullest? Don’t let pain win. Call SMOC today and start living again!

  • The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • American Association of Hand Surgery
  • American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
  • American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • Virginia Orthopaedic Society, Sentara
  • Sentara
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