Many chronic pain patients find joy in helping other patients in their journey for pain relief. They appreciate the opportunity to reassure others regarding procedures, treatments, and other methods of finding relief from chronic pain. Read the inspiring stories below.
Kurt Gusinde – World-Class Athlete
Mountain climber Kurt Gusinde is a world-class athlete on the level with any professional athlete. A climber of Mount McKinley in Alaska and six of the famous “Seven Summits,” Gusinde had plans of leaving to climb Mount Everest when excruciating pain stopped him short.
One morning just three months before he was scheduled to leave, Gusinde experienced terrible shoulder pain. “The pain was a ten out of ten. It was excruciating,” Gusinde says. After trying medications among other treatments, the pain was still at top levels. MRIs were performed and were conclusive of shoulder pain being the result of a problem with his neck. Two options were then presented: surgery or epidural steroid injections.
“I opted for the epidural,” Gusinde says. “The injections seemed much less invasive than surgery, and I was hopeful they would work.”
After receiving two steroid injections at Arizona Pain, Gusinde experienced 100% relief. “It was pretty amazing… to be honest, it’s amazing that an injection can have that kind of impact.” Gusinde was still wary, however, that his pain could flare up during his Everest climb. However, he reported great results.
“The shoulder and neck pain] was a non-event the whole climb; it just didn’t bother me at all. And it’s been over a year now, and the injections are still effective.”
Today, Gusinde still hikes, bikes, and does weight-lifting. After experiencing recent pain in his hamstring and calf, he came back to Arizona Pain.
“I found out after MRIs that there is a pinching of a nerve in the lower back. I did the injections again, and am back to 100%,” Gusinde reports. “Arizona Pain has been great, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them. I was pretty amazed that the injections worked, to be honest. It’s amazing that an injection can have that kind of an impact. But it’s worked for me twice now, and gotten me back to what I want to do.”
To read more about Kurt Gusinde’s expeditions and many successful climbs, see his website. For more information about the epidural steroid injections that helped mountain climber Kurt Gusinde, be sure to see our Pain Center.
Mixed Martial Arts Lightweight Champion
World-class champion Jamie Varner has recently teamed up with Arizona Pain, crediting them as “the only medical facility tough enough to treat MMA fighters.” Arizona Pain takes that title seriously and has worked with Varner to help him prepare to defend his World Champion title in a fight against worthy opponent Ben Henderson on January 10th, 2010.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a type of fighting incorporating multiple fighting styles. As the former mixed martial arts lightweight champion, Jamie Varner is 155 pounds of pure fighting skill. Varner is called an “all-around” fighter on many devoted blogs, and that’s exactly what he is: a fighter skilled and proficient in bringing down his opponent with a variety of techniques. MMA athletes fight in hand-to-hand combat, wearing only gloves and kickboxing trunks as their uniforms. Rules are fairly simple, disallowing truly disarming moves such as eye gouging and biting but allowing the fighters to put each other in choke holds, a move which usually wins the fight. As tough as this sport is, one has to imagine there will be serious injury inflicted to the fighter. Varner has experienced his fair share: a broken hand, broken foot, injured NCL, injured knee, and chronic lower back pain among his war wounds.
After breaking his hand in a fight (and continuing to fight through multiple rounds) in January 2009, Varner was medically required to take eight months off. He then began a rigorous 16-week training schedule in preparation to defend his world championship title. With the limited training time, the most impact needed to be made in the shortest amount of time, and Varner couldn’t afford to take more time off to wait for pain to subside. Varner credits Arizona Pain with a renewed vigor in his workout and training routine, especially important as his fight to defend his title was quickly approaching. Varner had noticed before being treated at Arizona Pain, he would be on the treadmill five minutes before his back pain started interfering with his workout. Now he can work out pain-free, and that’s important. Before being treated at Arizona Pain, Varner used simple methods such as frequent ice baths and sessions in a hyperbaric chamber to aid in his recovery, stating that those methods were all he believed he had time for. Since being treated at Arizona Pain, Varner has discovered he has time for modalities that show major results.
“Arizona Pain is very conveniently located,” Varner says. “I can zip right up the 101 and never have to wait in the office. I get the VIP treatment every time. I can go in, get the work done, and I always feel so much better.”
“I was never a believer in acupuncture, but Arizona Pain is awesome. After acupuncture I feel so much better and feel looser in my workouts. I have no back pain and am able to move around as much as I need to.”
Varner was also quick to point out that treatment with Arizona Pain isn’t just for cage fighters.
“I would put us (cagefighters) and football players right up there with each other. Whenever you’re dealing with a contact sport, you’re always susceptible to injuries… I am fortunate to have found Arizona Pain to fix me up before I go into this bout,” Varner said of his previous fight.
He went on to state:
“I would definitely recommend Arizona Pain to other athletes and competitors. There are a lot of guys I have fought with who have way worse injuries than mine and I am fortunate to have found Arizona Pain.”
Varner has roots in Arizona, as he is an alumnus of Deer Valley High School in Glendale. He was a two-time regional champion and state runner-up with the Skyhawk wrestling team and speaks fondly of his MMA beginnings.
“I started training in MMA when I was 17,” he said. “I would wrestle during the school year, and then do MMA during the summer, working in four or five fights. I had my first fight when I was 18, and I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”
Varner attended Pima Community College and Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and after winning the National Boxing Championship and All American Wrestler honors, Varner returned home to Arizona and continued in cage-fighting.
“They are a great place and have saved my life twice. I had spinal meningitis as a kid, and other hospitals turned my family away, saying they couldn’t help us. Phoenix Children’s Hospital said they could help, and then did, saving my life.”
As a spinal meningitis sufferer as a child, Varner speaks of Phoenix Children’s Hospital in glowing terms.
Varner works to give back to Phoenix Children’s Hospital whenever he can, including organizing charity events. Last year alone, he was able to raise $19,000 for the hospital. Varner is also highly accessible to the public in ways other professional athletes are not. He teaches classes at Arizona Combat Sports. Varner is also a regular Twitter updater and has a personal website as well.
The Art of Pain Management
When she was 27, Patty Kruger’s orthopedic surgeon told her she would be in a wheelchair by the age of 35. When she was in junior high, her art teacher told her she would do better to focus on her studies and that she just wasn’t an artist. Today, Kruger is an award-winning artist and a walking optimist. No matter her pain, her attitude is not one of a quitter, and she urges other pain patients to adopt the same attitude.
“I really think it’s important for chronic pain patients not to give up, no matter how bad it gets,” she advises. “There is help out there.” Kruger suffers from fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, and arachnoiditis. Most specifically, it was the severe neck pain from her degenerative disc disease that led her to Arizona Pain.
On her first visit, radiofrequency ablation was recommended for the neck pain, and upon further discussing her pain conditions, the medical team recommended a spinal cord stimulator (SCS). But she was a bit wary of the procedure.
“I had an SCS in the early 90s that was unsuccessful and had to be removed,” she explains of her apprehension. “The medical team explained that technology on the SCS had come a long way and how the new technology may be able to help me. My husband and I were really impressed with Arizona Pain.”
Kruger let the medical team know that she would think about SCS, but before she had even left the practice, she knew that she wanted to try it. The radiofrequency ablation went well for her neck pain, and she had the trial stimulator placed.
“The relief from the trial was so good that when it was over I didn’t want to have it removed! I knew then I wanted to have the permanent device placed. The first time I felt the stimulation, I burst into tears, because the stimulation was in the right place. That’s what is key – having a physician who is educated enough to place the stimulator leads in the correct place,” Kruger says of the pain relief provided by the SCS. “And everyone at Arizona Pain has been wonderful to me. It makes a difference when you know someone cares and respects your individual pain problem.”
The SCS has helped Kruger develop her art in a tremendous way. She explains that the right side of the brain is the side that is the most creative, and that she can actually feel a “shift” to the right side of her brain when she really gets into her art.
“The pain, before the SCS, would often keep me from getting to the right side of my brain,” she said. “I just wasn’t able to focus enough and get the pain under control enough to do my artwork. I’ve found with the SCS as the months go by that I’m definitely being more creative.”
Recently, Kruger heard of an art teacher who is internationally renowned and would be teaching a week-long workshop in Sedona, Arizona. When she told her husband she badly wanted to attend, he was doubtful. “He said, ‘Do you really think you could handle taking a painting workshop like that?’ I told him I really think I could, and that I really, really wanted to.” Kruger was not only able to successfully make the trip in the car from New Mexico, something she hadn’t been able to do before, but she was also able to attend the workshop and gain valuable experience from it.
Kruger credits her compassionate attitude to her lifelong battle with chronic pain.
“I’ve been able to relate to other people because I feel I know what they are experiencing. Thirty years ago, I decided I wanted to become a hospice volunteer. I thought maybe I could help someone else. When you can turn things around and help someone else, you are able to take the focus off yourself and off your pain.”
Kruger encourages other pain patients to try to keep their relationships strong.
“I think most people with chronic pain would acknowledge the fact that they have a very difficult time with relationships – and I’ve found it to be true. People get tired of hearing about your problem. But I have been blessed with family and friends who truly support me, and it’s their love and support that gets me through the difficult times. I could have given up a long time ago. I could have been in a wheelchair at 35. My pain has been a lifetime experience, and I’d encourage other people to know that they can handle it and that they should never give up. If you quit, you’re done – and I’m not quitting.”
What would you do if you were pain-free?
For Jeff Grabosky, the answer is a feat of historic proportions: he is running across the United States. Over 200 people have accomplished this goal; however, Jeff is running alone, with no running partners and no car following him carrying his supplies. Only 17 people before him have completed this run unsupported across the United States.
To prepare to run across the United States, Grabosky had been gradually increasing the length of his runs, peaking at 210 miles in a week, which is 30 miles a day. With a training schedule like that, it comes as no surprise that Grabosky found himself in pain. “I began to experience severe leg pain,” Grabosky explains. “It got to where I had to stop training, which was concerning because I was planning to leave in two weeks. I needed to do something, and so I went to Arizona Pain, where I received active release therapy massage. I instantly felt so much better, and was able to get right back into training. I went from being very nervous to very confident again.”
Grabosky has been running for years, but it wasn’t until he suffered great loss that he really began to make it a part of his life. “I had a pretty tough stretch where, in the span of about a week, I lost my mom to cancer and my wife left me,” Grabosky says. “Running is what gave me a sense of purpose again, and so I just started doing more and more of it. I began running marathons and through that was able to raise some money for cancer research, run a few 100 mile races and coach others.”
While he enjoyed and was rewarded by coaching others and sharing his love of the sport, Grabosky felt there was more that he needed to do. “I thought, ‘what could be bigger than what I’ve already done?’ and running across the country seemed like a good idea,” Grabosky says. “Then I had the idea for the mission of the run. I’m not raising money specifically, and the main reason for that is that I wanted everyone to be able to be involved as much as possible. So even though a cause like cancer research is very close to my heart, other people might have a child that was born premature, or have a relative who is suffering from drug abuse, or whatever their burden may be. By doing it this way, whatever is specifically important to a particular person, I will be running for them.”
On average, he will be running 30 to 35 miles per day, with some days as high as 50 or 60 miles, depending on the distance between towns on his route. When the journey is over, Jeff will have run approximately 3,700 miles. Grabosky left Oceanside, California on January 20th, and plans to arrive in New York City around May 20th.
Grabosky speaks eloquently of the similarities between running and life. “I have found running to be a saving grace for me,” he says. “There is so much between life and running that creates a parallel. Through overcoming difficulties in running, you can see that you are strong enough to get through the bad things in life and vice versa. It’s actually a really great circle.”
“The more I talk to people, the more I see that everyone struggles with something,” Grabosky continues. “It may be big or it may be small, but everyone has something. I want to help people see that if you look at what you have instead of what you don’t have, it makes a big difference in your daily attitude. It’s amazing how a smile or a small act of kindness toward someone else can really make your own day, and can actually give you the strength to continue on.