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How the MILD Procedure Helped an 86-Year-Old Woman Get Her Life Back 

In early 2023, 85-year-old Jackie Freehart reached to put something away in a kitchen cupboard and fell backwards, injuring her back. It was so painful that she needed her son’s help to get up from the kitchen floor. After two days of waiting for the pain to stop, she went to the hospital to get checked out. Jackie was seen by Atlantic Orthopaedics pain management specialist, Dr. Lehn, who told her that she had Spinal Stenosis, a condition that occurs when the channel inside the spine narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, and causing pain when standing or walking. Spinal Stenosis can be the result of an injury like Jackie’s, or just the normal wear and tear that comes with aging.  

Dr. Lehn listened closely to Jackie’s story and suggested she try conservative treatments for the pain first, rather than rushing into surgery. “I was so impressed with Dr. Lehn,” Jackie said. “He doesn’t rush but takes the time to explain things. He doesn’t give orders. He gave me a choice.”  She decided to try physical therapy, and then Cortisone shots, but found that neither one helped, at least not for long. “Getting in and out of bed was the worst thing,” Jackie said. “I just couldn’t get comfortable. The only position I could sleep in was lying on my side, but turning from one side to the other was painful and difficult.” 

At her next visit, Dr. Lehn told her about a procedure for Spinal Stenosis called MILD, short for minimally invasive lumbar decompression. MILD is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional spinal surgery where the surgeon inserts a spinal decompression device through a tiny incision in the back, using it to remove the tissue that’s pressing on the spinal nerves. The procedure takes less than an hour and is performed with local anesthesia so patients can go home the same day. Dr. Lehn gave Jackie a brochure about MILD to take home and asked her to think about it. In the meantime, she continued to get Cortisone shots in the hopes that it would provide relief. 

When she returned to Dr. Lehn a few months later for her Cortisone shot, he mentioned that he had done the MILD procedure on a 90-year-old patient the day before and she had walked out of the hospital on her own. “I had read the brochure and I Googled it,” Jackie said, “and we talked about it twice before I got serious about it. He didn’t try to coerce me into it.” About 7 months after her fall and still in pain, Jackie made up her mind to undergo the procedure.  

“Dr. Lehn explained everything, so I knew what to expect,” she said. “He was very reassuring and I was not a bit nervous when I went in.” Dr. Lehn performed the MILD procedure at NECOS in Portsmouth in August of 2023. Jackie woke up soon after and walked out with the help of a walker. She was still in some pain when she left the hospital and it continued for the next day. But two days after the surgery, Jackie reported, she was pain-free. “The recovery was almost miraculous!” she said. “Now I have no pain going to bed. I’m not fearful about it. I can sleep and I feel like myself again.” Jackie can get around now with just a cane. She recently attended a baby shower and is back to walking at the mall three days a week. “I can cook again, which is my passion,” she said. “I have company over now.”  

When asked if she would recommend the MILD procedure and Dr. Lehn to her friends, Jackie didn’t hesitate. “I can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr. Lehn. The whole staff was incredible, very helpful and kind,” she said. “This procedure is worth it for anyone having this pain, because quality of life is so important.” Jackie was so pleased with the care she received that she wanted to show her gratitude to everyone at Atlantic Orthopaedics. “I didn’t know what to do other than say thank you,” she said. “I told my son I wanted to do something more, and so we went out and got a great big basket of cookies and brought them for the staff.” Now, eight months after she had the procedure, Jackie remains pain-free. “I’m so glad I had it done,” she said. “I feel like I have my life back.” 

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