Darla Leonard

Since high school, Darla Leonard could remember suffering from back pain. But after a few days of rest supplemented by medication, she was soon back to normal and able to resume her everyday activities. As she got older, however, it took longer and longer for her to recover from the pain; she realized her affliction was serious. In 1995, Darla was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, a disorder also suffered by her mother and grandmother. As her condition worsened, Darla had to analyze every movement to avoid any lingering back injuries.

Around the time of her diagnosis, Darla consulted with different doctors. They prescribed muscle relaxers and cortisone injections, but that didn’t ease her distress. One doctor recommended a procedure that would clip the nerves around her deteriorating disc. But that would only dull or eliminate the pain, not correct the underlying problem. Darla’s back trouble continued to affect her quality of life and relationships. After giving birth to her daughter in 1998, Darla found that she could not carry her child for fear of contributing to her condition. As her spinal disc continued to degenerate, her back worsened and she began to drag her right foot slightly as she walked. The pain in Darla’s back was so severe, she felt that if she waited any longer she would lose her ability to walk.

Eventually, Darla heard about Texas Back Institute from a friend, and in 2001 began working with Dr. Richard Guyer. He suggested the Charité artificial disc procedure, which was still being evaluated for approval in the United States. Fearing that she may be ineligible for the disc in the United States, Darla considered undergoing the surgery in France or Germany, where the procedure had been performed successfully for more than a decade.

Darla did qualify for the United States clinical trial. In November 2001, she received the artificial disc and was surprised by the immediate effects of a pain-free existence. Three weeks after the surgery, Darla was able to go back to work with the help of a back brace. Five months later, she was free of the brace and able to get back to the quality of life she once knew.

Darla said she would recommend Texas Back Institute’s medical team and staff to all her friends and family. “I’m a kid again, and I live my life to its fullest.” she says. “I’m living a pain-free, happy, energetic life.”