My Journey With Chronic Pain
By Sara Gilbert Nadler-Goldstein
When one lives their life on a daily basis, no one would ever imagine in the course of a second that it would change forever. I never thought that I would be victim of those very words. On May 24, 2003 I was in a car accident on a parkway and rear ended by two separate cars with two separate impacts. That day changed my life forever. I had been a medical social worker for well over fifteen years spanning the scope of practice from the acute care hospital setting to acute rehabilitation, and then a skilled nursing facility. I practiced in the role of case manager discharge planner. I knew how to navigate the medical system for others.However,you never think that you are going to be the patient. What followed was a year filled with many doctors visits involving many medical specialties including neurology, orthopedics, as well as pain management. I did receive two epidural injections and that did not provide the necessary relief that I needed.
In March of 2004 I saw my neurologist and after an M.R.I. was completed and films were reviewed he stated to me that my back was seriously injured and that I should go to New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center for a neurosurgical evaluation. At that point in time what followed was that I was given the name of world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Paul C. Mccormick Director of The Spine Center at Columbia Presbyterian (Neurological Institute). Little did I know that this was the beginning of my good fortune. On March 30, 2004 my mother accompanied me to the Neurological Institute (Spine Center) where I had undergone this consultation. The Surgeon had told me that I had a herniated disc and that it was affecting various nerves in my spine. He reviewed my medical records, and films.
In addition he even showed us a model of the spine and explained the intended surgical procedure he was to perform. I than arranged to have my spinal surgery at Columbia Presbyterian on April 12,2004. After the surgery I was monitored by my neurosurgeon to evaluate my healing from the surgery,as well as my emotional well being. It was recommended by Dr. Mccormick that I see a pain management physician several months after surgery. He was suggesting this level of care for me as well as educating me on the role of a pain management physician. Dr. Mccormick was most detailed in explaining to me the definition of chronic pain. At that point I was not ready to accept that and I really thought that I could heal myself by means of medication, Physical Therapy, and my neurosurgeon stated that he would give me time to come to terms with the information of my diagnosis of chronic pain. During that time period I tried I tried medications as well as physical therapy. However,there was no improvement in terms of my pain. I was most desperate at this point to accept that I needed help. In May of 2005 I contacted my neurosurgeons office and was provided with the name of a highly regarded pain management physician that he wanted me to see at Columbia Presbyterian.Dr. Michael L. Weinberger Director,pain management center, Chief Division of pain and palliative medicine. Dr. Mccormick was going to communicate the necessary medical reports prior to my appointment. At that time little did I know this was the beginning of my good fortune. In June of 2005,when I presented myself to Dr. Weinberger at the pain center. I told him that I was in desperate need of help and that he was my last hope. I communicated to him that I wanted to live a full and normal life with no pain medications. After a through examination was completed and medical records were reviewed as well as films. Dr. Weinberger immediately presented me with a plan of care. He suggested that I consider a spinal cord stimulator as a modality for dealing with my chronic pain. That day he sent me home with a tape about spinal cord stimulation as well as reading material to educate me on this possible treatment option. However, he didn’t initially put me on a regime of medications to determine if it would help me. On my follow up visit several weeks later, I reported to him that these medications were sedating as well as leaving me with no desire to eat,and so dizzy that I could not drive my car and that was not an option for me. At that point the decision was made to go ahead and start the process for a spinal cord stimulator which is an implanted battery pack with leads and electrodes that target the areas of pain with electrical pulses and a vibrating,tingling sensation that reverses the brains signal from perceiving pain to a pleasurable tingling sensation. The process was completed over the period of several months staring with the psychological evaluation to proceeding with the trial. My trial was in October of 2005 with Dr. Weinberger he did an excellent job in mapping out my areas of pain prior to the trial. After the surgery for the trial. I remember being in the recovery area after surgery,and I was crying Dr. Weinberger expressed much concern and I said to him that I am crying for happiness and that for the first time in a year I had no pain. At that time I was instructed to test the device at home for a week (the leads were not permanently implanted,and I had a hand-held device similar to that of a remote control) I was instructed to keep a journal for a week to monitor my pain patterns. A week later I returned to see Dr. Weinberger and his team of fellows and residents at that time,and I reported to them that I had greater than seventy-five percent pain relief and if you can duplicate this for the permanent implantation than I would like to proceed with this method of treatment. I was most determined as Dr. Weinberger knew to live a full an independent life,and to be able to drive to Long Island where my mother resides. In December 2005 I had my permanent implantation of my spinal cord stimulator with Dr. Weinberger.I am most grateful to acknowledge that my goals were achieved not to be on any pain medications,and to engage in all activities for over seven years. This past December the day before the initial implantation, I went into Columbia Presbyterian to have surgery with Dr. Weinberger to replace my spinal cord stimulator battery as it had reached its end of life. I am fortunate enough to say that I have my new spinal cord stimulator battery, along with doing my daily spinal exercises to maintain the health and strength of my back,and attending the gym several times a week pain free. Dr. Weinberger has given me the most important gift and that is to live a full an independent life. It is also extremely important that the patient have an open and honest relationship with their pain management physician as well as the physician working with other physicians on the patients behalf (see Neurology Now Publication on line February 2013 Speak Up blog Collaboration of care at its finest). I was most privileged to have that level of care and continue to have that level of care nine years later. Dr. Weinberger is caring,compassionate,and understanding of the complexity of my medical conditions. He is an excellent listener and understands what my goals are and continues to understand my future goals. His clinical excellence has made these goals a reality for me. In addition Dr. Weinberger understands me as a whole person. That is significant in your treatment because medical health Chronic Pain affects your mental health as well as your outlook for the future,and how you will live your life. This may was the ten-year anniversary since the accident and in June I turned fifty. I could not have reached these major milestones in my life without the caring,compassion,and support that Dr.Mccormick, Dr.Weinberger, Dr.Blanco have demonstrated over the years,and continue to do so. Every day when I use my spinal cord stimulator I reflect to how grateful I am for the special gift that Dr. Weinberger has given to me. This past June I have been under Dr. Weinbergers care for eight years and when ever I thank him which is either at an office visit or a note, or telephone conversation his response is you did all the work I always say to him that I could not have done the work without a good foundation being built, and most certainly he did. The last ten years have not been easy for me there were surgeries, and they are well behind me, and learning and accepting to live a new normal. As a patient you must stay resilient, positive, and strong, and want to be well.
©2013 Sara Gilbert Nadler-Goldstein. All rights reserved!