'It’s given me my life back'
Joyce Graham was in a bad car accident 40 years ago that resulted in a lifelong battle with pain. Several back surgeries and spinal meningitis also left her with nerve damage.
Doctors prescribed morphine for pain relief, but Graham said so many years of relying on it was “destroying her.” Upon her doctor’s recommendation, the 68-year-old Wheaton resident made an appointment to see Dr. Ahmed Elborno, medical director of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s Pain Management Center. Elborno outfitted Graham with a radiofrequency spinal cord stimulator device, a treatment to manage chronic pain. The device sends mild electric shocks, which cause a mild tingling sensation, to interrupt the spinal cord’s pain signal to the brain.
Not only did the device relieve her pain, but it also unexpectedly stopped the Parkinson’s Disease-like tremors she had experienced in her right arm since contracting spinal meningitis 11 years ago. And it put an end to her bradykinesia, a movement slowness typically associated with Parkinson’s that made it difficult for Graham to touch her nose with her right hand.
“I’m a very hands-on person,” Graham said. “I laid the floors in my house, made my own curtains, sewed clothes for my grandchildren. But with the tremors, there were so many things I could no longer do. I couldn’t even put my lipstick on straight. I couldn’t do my hair.”
The trial simulation worked so well that Elborno implanted two permanent stimulators in Graham a few weeks later. Her pain and tremors are in the past and her doctor has decreased her daily morphine doses.
“I have 11 grandchildren who have been praying all this time that I would get rid of the tremor and come out of pain,” Graham said. “Their prayers have been answered with Dr. Elborno’s treatment. It’s given me my life back.”