Teacher Puts Science to Work for Her Back Pain

Debra Hardy, a teacher with three decades of experience, loves to share a passion for science with her students. The 60-year-old resident of Krum leads her students through hands-on experiments, helping concepts come to life in her classroom. But when back pain made it extremely difficult for Debra to teach the way she most enjoyed, she leaned on science through the medical expertise she found at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton.

“I teach the fun stuff — physics, geoscience and astronomy,” Hardy explains, as she talks about her work in the classroom. “But getting out of my chair to go to [my students] for questions was becoming more of an issue.”

Hardy had lived with a nagging injury for many years: As a teen, she took an accidental fall down the stairs in her home, damaging part of her back. She had treated it with chiropractic care years ago but ended up with what she describes as lifelong nagging pain.

“It’s just that annoying background that after a while, it’s there, but you’re so used to it, you’re like, ‘This is how it’s going to be,’” she said.

Despite that pain, Hardy soldiered on — until she was simply unable to anymore. While out walking one day with her dog, it pulled her in an unexpected direction and she fell, injuring her knee and exacerbating her spinal condition.

Michael Catino, M.D., Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

She saw Michael Catino, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Denton and North Texas Neck & Back, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, for help.

“Debra was really struggling with increasing back pain, going down into the hips and buttocks and backs of the thighs. It got to the point where — she was really having a hard time with the activities of daily living,” Catino said.

“She had a substantial amount of nerve compression and mal-alignment of the spine,” he added. “The nerve was getting badly compressed.”

Conservative care options, such as physical therapy and injections, were discussed as possible treatments, but Hardy decided on a surgical solution for her pain.

“I said, ‘Alright, let’s fix it,’” she declared.

At Texas Health Denton, Catino performed surgery, realigning her spine with several different implants. The surgery was a success in taking pressure off of the nerve, and she immediately noticed that her leg pain was gone, as was the pain in her back.

“It was the first time in maybe a year that I could walk and not make creaking noises,” she said. “It was just so improved over what I was accustomed to.”

Debra feels the excellent nursing care she found at Texas Health Denton also helped through her recovery. She recalls her nurses’ concern, wanting to understand her pain so they could help her through recovery.

“Texas Health Denton was amazing,” she said. “I liked the private room. The nurses were on the ball: You would buzz, and they would get there before you could pick your finger up off the button!”

Post-recovery, Debra is back to what she loves most. She talks excitedly about how she can now get up out of her chair, work with her students and run her classroom labs. For her, being able to bring science to life for her students is rewarding.

“It got me back into doing what I do,” she says of her surgery. “I teach lab sciences, so being mobile is a requirement. It got me back to the point where I could do stuff for the kids I needed to do.”

To schedule an appointment with a spine specialist, call 1-866-847-9377 or visit our online Find a Physician tool.

Providers employed by Texas Health Physicians Group are not employees or agents of Texas Health Resources hospitals. ©2019

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