Hope in back pain: how Mary got her life back. Part 1 of 3.

• Car wreck that leads to back pain
• Back pain after surgeries
• Back pain after tripping on a dog
• Toward depression

This story is long, and therefore in three parts, each about one week apart. The person called Mary is close to me and I know her story first hand. She has given permission to write this account. To summarize her personality by two words, I would say Mary has an indomitable spirit. The word means to never give up. Winston Churchill, who led England against Hitler’s Germany, once gave a graduation address by saying only the words, “Never, never, never give up.”

HOPE CRUSHED IN TULSA. Twenty-nine years ago Mary was in a car wreck and broke her back. Although in dreadful pain, she tells of an angel who appeared at the passenger window and reassured her. In the Emergency room, she screamed with pain. The surgeons fused five vertebrae in her back and implanted metal rods to stabilize her. They told her she had narrowly avoided becoming a quadriplegic.

Happier times: Mary hiking in the woods along the Oregon coast (click to enlarge the image then back-arrow to return to writeup).

In the following weeks, a country doctor friend discovered Mary’s intestine had been ruptured, but this had been missed by the specialists in the big-city hospital. They repaired her intestine was just in time.

The rods were removed a year later because her body rejected them. Mary was able to resume an active life, including hiking with grandkids and overseas travel. But accompanied by pain meds…. always the pain meds. However, she also embraced a deeper spiritual commitment, peppered continually by thank-you’s to God for her recovery.

HOPE CRUSHED AT GRAND LAKE. Fast forward to eight years ago. Mary was riding on a wave runner at Grand Lake when a thunderstorm struck. Out of nowhere the wind roared across the lake, the rain pelted down, and the waves grew angry. Riding the wave runner home through the storm led to another fracture of Mary’s back. And another fusion with metal rods.

However, her indomitable spirit never gave up, as she clung to her personal relationship with God. Always looking on the bright side, and always willing to listen to other people tell of their problems.

Happier times: Petting a koala in Australia.

HOPE CRUSHED AT INDEPENDENCE. Mary had moved from Tulsa to the small town of Independence, Kansas not far from the Oklahoma border. She lived adjacent to the golf course, and decorated her home beautifully. Mary owned three dogs: a morky, and two shelties. When one of the shelties died, she took in her grandson’s dog, a large border collie.

When everything in life seems stable, a disruption sometimes occurs. On October 20 of 2016, Mary stepped backwards in her bathroom and tripped over the large dog who was lying on the floor behind her. She fell backwards. It was in slow motion, she said, as she felt her back crunched when she hit the floor.

The family rushed her to Emergency where they X-rayed her back, but missed a new compression fracture and sent her home. Her back pain was intolerable and a few days later she went into hospital. They released her with instructions about pain meds for a back sprain, and potential pneumonia. No recommendations or further diagnostics for her back pain.

TOWARD DEPRESSION. At home, Mary was stuck in bed, immobilized by back pain. She could stand no longer than 10 minutes. If she was in the kitchen, at about 10 minutes, she almost had to run to get back to bed due to the sudden onslaught of back pain. She couldn’t drive and she could barely walk. Her bedroom was like a prison, where the only good thing was that the pain was much less when sitting in her recliner or lying in bed. Mary, normally an active woman, became depressed partly by the pain meds and partly by a lack of hope since there was no plan to diagnose or treat her back.

Happier times: Riding a cable car in San Francisco.

About a week after release from the hospital, she was driven back to Emergency due to intestinal pain, and concern for possible damage to an internal organ. The doctor gave her Demerol plus Benadryl for a migraine headache, but Mary had a reaction to it……an attack of restless legs. I struggled to hold her down as she fought me to get off the hospital bed to stand up. She sat up and vigorously tried to slide off the bed. The doctor who was called in raised his eyebrows in surprise, but said the attack shouldn’t last long, and walked out of the room. After a distressful 10 minutes, Mary’s body relaxed and the struggle was over.

The doctor did order a CT scan of her intestines, which turned out to be okay. But now he emphasized that Mary had a new compressive fracture in T12, the lowest thoracic vertebra, which lies on top of the five lumbar vertebrae. He recommended we look into a cement injection into T12, a procedure that is often done for a compressive fracture. This set us on a new path, and Mary’s hope was renewed.

Happier times: Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.

THE REST OF MARY’S STORY is also one of hopes built and crushed in her search to alleviate her immobilizing back pain. The whole story is too long to be told in one article. My goal is to chronicle an account of one woman’s faith and enduring persistence through a debilitating health crisis. She is a remarkable woman, as you will continue to discover.

GRATEFUL THANKS. For all Mary’s family and friends who have been there for her over the years, this is a sincere thank you.

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Your comment in the Comment box below is always welcome.

The Gray Nomad
Helping someone to hope.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. [Book of Romans, chapter 5].

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7 years ago

Wow, I didn’t know about the fall over the dog. It was bad enough the problem that happened at the front door, which you don’t even mention here. Mary Ann has had more than her share of physical problems, that’s for sure. I am always amazed that she is as positive as she is. 🙂

Mary Ann
Mary Ann
7 years ago

Thanks for writing this true story about how I have had to live 29 years
Dealing with chronic back pain. Hopefully this story can help someone else.

7 years ago

This comment is from Laurie Lewis: Such a heartfelt and inspiring account Ian. Mary is definitely a one of a kind. We sure do love her and are so thankful that God keeps protecting her and healing her. Thank you for sharing.

Don Minton
Don Minton
7 years ago

Thanks Ian for this history of Mary Ann’s persistence to find medical help and her determination to live life fully. I am impressed and pleased that her faith and trust in God has been unwavering, and has been her refuge through all the pain and suffering. I am thankful for people like Mary Ann, who keep the faith no matter what may befall them.

Barbara Leachman
Barbara Leachman
7 years ago

Glad you are writing about Mary. I didn’t know about the car accident but maybe that’s why she started coming to Dr. T in the first place. I worked for him from 1996-2003. That’s when I met her. Thanks for allowing us to pray for her during all the back surgeries. Looking forward to reading “the rest of the story.”

7 years ago

Thanks Ian for sharing the pain Mary is going through. It shows what a strong person she is and her faith in God. It may reach someone who is also going through pain and they will see the path Mary has taken with God by her side.

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