Back pain kept him on the couch, until he visited Geisinger
“It’s not easy to go around in pain, and I’m no different than anybody else who’s suffered with it. Except that I got results at Geisinger.”
Don G., 77, of Bloomsburg is something of a Renaissance man. He’s a former heavy equipment operator and neighborhood bar owner. He’s a baker and church leader. Great-grandfather and husband. He’s also a sometime comedian, according to family and friends.
But back pain almost crippled him. Early into his retirement years, he developed stenosis of the spine, which occurs when the spinal canal narrows and pinches the nerves.
“When I was really hurting, I couldn’t do much. My best move was for the sofa,” he jokes. “I couldn’t even go 150 feet down my driveway to pick up the mail. I had pain all the time.
Don G., 77, describes how Geisinger's Interventional Pain Center helped get him off his electric scooter and back to living a full life.
He bought an electric wheelchair scooter just to get around. Regular injections provided only temporary relief.
“I’d have to go back to the doctor every month because I was in agony,” he says.
Chronic pain dampens lifestyle
Chronic pain can have a number of causes, from injury to age. Patients might experience tense muscles, a lack of energy and even depression or anxiety. They often limit normal activities because they fear further injury or greater pain.
“For a while, I wasn’t able to cope with the pain,” Don recalls. “I couldn’t do much around the house, or around the yard.”
Eventually, he came to the specialists at Geisinger Medical Center’s Interventional Pain Center at Woodbine. Physicians who specialize in pain management there work closely with primary care physicians to evaluate the cause of pain and to find the best way to treat it.
Coming back to Geisinger
By the time he found Geisinger’s pain management specialists, Don’s options seemed somewhat limited. Surgery was out because he has heart problems. Injections, even frequent ones, had not worked very well.
“Growing up here, I always came to Geisinger, so it was natural that I’d start coming here again after I moved back to the area,” he said. “I’m glad I came back. That was a blessing.”
Geisinger specialists, trained at the nation’s top medical centers, including the Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, and at Geisinger Medical Center (GMC), offer patients some of the latest advancements in care and treatment. They care for patients at the GMC Interventional Pain Center at Woodbine and Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre (GSWB) Interventional Pain Center.
Don’s physician, John J. Han, MD, was able to offer him a new game plan.
“Dr. Han told me he would try different shots, using different medications in different locations until we got it right,” Don recalls. “Geisinger really did a marvelous thing for me.”
As Don’s pain decreased, Dr. Han adjusted the amounts of medication and location of the injections to provide even greater improvement. He and the entire Department of Pain Medicine team also gave Don an important role in his own care.
“I’m going to let you manage your pain, Don,” Dr. Han told him, “You tell me when you need medication, and come see me then.”
“Believe it or not,” Don says, “that’s how we stretched the injections from one every month, to one every five months. That’s a big change to go without pain for five months, and it’s fabulous.”
Dr. Han also gave Don the green light to come in for an office visit at any time he needed to.
“I really like that guy,” he says with a laugh, referring to Dr. Han. “They’re all really a great bunch of people.”
Enjoying family, community and life
Because Don’s own pain is much relieved, the gregarious retiree is pleased to be able to enjoy his family and normal activities. One of his favorite activities requires regular car rides 10 or more miles, to Bloomsburg, Millville, Lightstreet and Orangeville, trips that he can now enjoy without back pain.
“We visit several nursing homes in these towns every month as part of our church’s outreach, to help give communion and to sit and talk with the residents,” Don says. “People don’t realize how much some people hurt for company.”
He makes a long list of other activities he can also now enjoy: making some of the 27 soups he used to create at his neighborhood eatery, grocery shopping, yard work and visiting with his six children, 18 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
His electric scooter now sits idle in the basement.
Sharing the Geisinger story
With his freedom from pain, Don is anxious to share his story with anyone who might benefit.
“It’s not easy to go around in pain,” he says, “and I’m no different than anybody else who’s suffered with it. Except that I got results at Geisinger. I tell everyone I know about the Dr. Han and the rest of his team at the Pain Center.”
He reports sending four people there already, including a young relative.
“I have a lot of respect for Geisinger. It’s the greatest. The greatest.”