Working as a nurse in an intensive care unit is not light duty. The shifts are twelve hours long, and nurses are constantly picking patients up, turning them, bending over to check lines and tubes, and moving beds to diagnostic rooms.
Denise Beruta has worked in an ICU for 17 years. "It's work that demands compassion, skill and lots of physical strength," she says. Denise has worked as a nurse for 25 years, starting as an aide as she went to nursing school.
Eventually the physical strain caught up to her. She'd suffered from occasional bouts of sciatica pain that would start at her left hip and shoot down her leg. One day that pain wouldn't go away. In fact, it intensified.
But Denise is a tough cookie. She lived with it for six months. "I have a high tolerance for pain, so I just lived on two Aleve a day," she says.
She struggled to get out of bed and couldn't straighten up when standing. "After work, I would lie on the couch and think this is what I had become," she says.
Then she decided to do something at the prompting of a few other nurses she works with. She called the Comprehensive Spine Management Program at Easton Hospital.
While her family physician wanted her to have steroid shot, Vito Loguidice, M.D., a fellowship trained spinal surgeon and independent member of the Easton Hospital medical staff, had a different course of action. An MRI revealed that she had spinal stenosis, where the nerves in the lower back are compressed.
She began physical therapy. The Comprehensive Spine Management Program offers 3 Ways 2 Heal, using physical therapy, pain management and, at a last resort, spinal surgery.
Three days a week, Denise visited the Good Shepherd Physical Therapy outpatient location at Easton Hospital. It was there that she met, Amanda Garner, DPT, a McKenzie-trained physical therapist. The McKenzie Method uses exercises that find the root cause of the pain.
"Amanda had me try an exercise where I lie flat on my stomach and arch my back by lifting up on my arms," Denise says. "That exercise began to turn me around."
It was the first time she walked without pain in months.
She worked with Amanda for a few more weeks until the pain was gone completely.
She's staying active. Her three children and 9 grandchildren all live a few miles from her house. They often have big meals together and play in her pool.
"There are times if I push myself at work and home that my sciatica can act up," she says. "But if I start doing my exercises again, the pain goes away quickly."
This cookie didn't crumble.
"There was a day when I imagined that this pain would only be resolved by surgery," she says. "But the folks at the Comprehensive Spine Management Program were very caring, compassionate and found a solution."
She adds, "I just hope other folks don't lie around in pain for six months like I did."
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