December 30, 2016

Beverly's Story: Finding Relief From Back Pain

Crippling and unexplained back pain led one patient to U-M, where a personalized team approach helped her find relief.

In 2003, Beverly Burchi was doing aerobic exercises in her local swimming pool when something in her back just didn’t feel right.

“My back became extremely, extremely painful,” Beverly says. “I knew something was going on, so I started looking for a spine clinic near me.”

She and her husband, Bob, were staying at their winter home in Florida and found a clinic nearby. After several months of visits, though, physicians weren’t sure where Beverly’s pain was coming from or how to relieve it.

“They tried everything,” Beverly says. “CAT scans, MRIs, narcotics, Botox, just all kinds of things. But nothing seemed to help find out where I was injured.”

The pain became so great over those months that she could not sit down, and instead could only lie down flat or walk.

“Our lifestyle was completely shut off,” Beverly says. “It was unbelievable. We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t go to a restaurant. We couldn’t go shopping. We were confined to our home.”

Help close to home

Determined to ease his wife’s discomfort, Bob began researching physicians and hospitals in their home state and found the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan.

Beverly was referred to Ronald Wasserman, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, service chief for pain medicine and director of the U-M Back and Pain Center, part of the U-M Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Center.

Her diligence proved helpful: She had kept a journal the entire time she was in Florida. It detailed every doctor’s visit, each medication she was prescribed and all tests that were administered.

“I brought my journal to that first appointment, and the doctor that examined me first read through every page and went through every date with me, discussing what test I had and what medication I had taken,” Beverly says. “He spent 45 minutes with us just going through the journal, page by page. He gave me a physical, and then he went out and got Dr. Wasserman.”

Wasserman thoroughly examined Beverly to find out the root of her pain and discomfort and to recommend proper treatment.

“There was absolute care and thoughtfulness in that visit,” she says. “I was in such agony, and they wanted to help me. We were just astonished. We had never been to a doctor’s office that has the team approach U-M has.”