I am thrilled. Early last winter, a patient walked into my office -- barely. She had suffered from intractable back and leg pain for a year, and was, literally, days away from surgery. Her spinal stenosis was killing her. She shuffled with her back permanently bent 35 degrees from vertical. Straightening up was impossible as it would send jolts of pain down her legs. With her head forced downward, she couldn't see very far in front of her. All she could see was the ground and pain.
We had some great initial success. After her first visit, she cancelled her surgery. After a couple of months, she got rid of the walker. A little bit longer, and she didn't need a cane. Then she started standing upright, taking walks, and talking about getting off all of the pain medications she had been on.
Throughout her recovery and rehabilitation, she would comment on my trike, which I frequently ride to work in lieu of driving or walking. As it turned out, she had once been an avid cyclist, but her back problems had taken that away from her years ago. As she improved, I suggested the trike as a great way of regaining strength in her muscles without risking falling. She loved the idea, but never quite felt ready for it.
"Maybe one of these days," she would say. I could see in her eyes that she wasn't sure that day would ever come.
With a home rehabilitation plan in place and less need for my oversight and treatment, I discharged her from active care early this summer. Today, she came back to see me for a long-term follow-up.
She was doing well, she said. No pain medications for months, she wasn't in pain, and she couldn't believe the amount of energy that had returned since the heavy-duty painkillers had been eliminated from her system. I could see her eyes were bright, she had a liveliness to her step that hadn't been there before, and the color had returned to her face.
As I concluded the visit, she said there was one other thing I needed to know.
"I bought a trike," she said, grinning ear to ear. "It's pink."
I left the exam room with a huge smile of my own. It's patients like her who make this profession rewarding beyond words.