Hope & Pain

My stepdad, Frank, has been suffering for several years with chronic, debilitating back and leg pain. It has invaded and affected every facet of his life, and if he couldn’t work from home he would be on disability. He regularly takes I-don’t-know-how-many drugs to try and manage the pain so he can function. He hasn’t been able to golf or work on projects around the house for years. It’s difficult to give you a sense of how much and how long he’s been hurting without making him seem like a pathetic invalid. And while he may be pathetic (Hi, Frank!), he’s managed not to become an invalid. And he’s only 50 years old—way too young for this crap!

My parents live about 20 minutes from the world-famous Mayo Clinic, and he’s seen various doctors there without success. Until sometime last year, no one could even diagnose him! As he says, “I’m just what you don’t want to be—an interesting case at the Mayo Clinic. ” Eventually he quit going there, and found a pain clinic in Minneapolis that was able to help him a little bit. Then they decided that spine surgery would help, and it was scheduled for December 19 of last year.

A few weeks before the surgery, he had a stress test as part of his pre-admission testing. It showed a couple of blockages, and he had some stents put in. And that was enough to postpone the surgery. Even though it meant continuing to live in pain, I think he was happy that the surgery was put off because the recovery period is no fun: living in a partial body cast for three months, physical therapy, pain, etc.

The interesting thing is, I felt that the postponement (is that a word?) of the surgery was something that was meant to be. That maybe in the six months that he had to wait, he’d be able to explore other options and maybe find a better solution.

Well, last week, J.P. was reading Philadelphia Magazine, and he found this article (click the image to read the print):

Backs of the Future

After scanning the article and attaching it to an email, he wrote:

Mom & Frank,

I saw this article in this month’s Philadelphia Magazine. It immediately made me think of Frank’s situation with his back, especially reading the part about “severe pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness.” I’m wondering if you could possibly look into these types of treatments locally, if they offer them? They seem way less invasive, with a quick recovery time, and seems like they can be attempted w/o disqualifying you for the traditional types of spine surgery should it be unsuccessful. Or maybe you have explored these options already? Either way, I thought I’d pass it on. More information cannot hurt I’m thinking.

You know if they do not offer those things locally in MN, I bet we could setup a consultation at least here at Penn and I know of a decent place where you can stay for the visit. They have wireless high-speed internet, the food is good, the proprieters are inviting, and the beds are comfy. Some say it’s like staying with family! I’d like to see Frank healthy as fast as possible. Spring is steadily approaching and I want him to make good on his promise to kick my ass in golf!!! =)


After reading the article, Frank called one of the doctors who’s listed at the bottom. It seemed like it might be an option, so they asked him to send his records. Mom put them in the mail on Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon Frank got a call from Pennsylvania–they think he’s a perfect candidate!

I heard through my sister this weekend that because of the stents he’ll still have to wait until June, but still! Let the ass-kicking begin!


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