Back-pain relief finally arrives after 14 long years

Imagine waking up each morning and the first thing that greets you is pain. Imagine that pain as a constant companion while you try to get through your day. And, when you lie down to sleep, the pain is still there.

Dennis Hatcher (pictured) of Effingham doesn't have to imagine. Since 2002, the 67-year-old endured constant pain from injuries in a forklift accident.

"I've been to doctors in St. Louis, Springfield and Decatur. They tried different treatments, but nothing worked," Hatcher said.

The pain changed his life. "I lost my truck-driving job. I felt cheated out of many years of retirement," Hatcher said. "It also took a toll on my wife."

Finally, Hatcher saw Hynchul Jung, MD, at Carle Interventional Pain Center. Dr. Jung considered Hatcher a good spinal cord stimulator candidate.

The Carle Interventional Pain Center works with patients to try many different treatments to relieve their pain including medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy and counseling. If the pain center team determines surgery is an option, doctors test the patient.

Before the surgery, Dr. Jung and several other providers test the patient’s spine to see if the spinal cord stimulator will work. Psychologists also talk with the patient and discuss any concerns. If the tests show promise, the patient will have surgery to implant the device.

Kevin Teal, MD, (pictured) performed Hatcher’s surgery.

"The brain and nerves are constantly communicating, sending pain signals to the brain. A spinal cord stimulator delivers tiny electronic pulses to the nerves in the back. Those pulses mask the nerves' pain signals so the person doesn't feel pain anymore," Dr. Teal explained.

“Jerry Lewis, the famous actor, had a spinal cord stimulator several years ago that helped his back problems.”

Hatcher received one implant, but a complication forced Dr. Teal to remove it.

Fortunately, the doctor was able to implant a second stimulator this spring.

“The surgery was a success and we are very pleased with Dennis’ progress,” Dr. Teal added.

Dennis has follow-up appointments where doctors check his spine and make adjustments, if needed, to the stimulator.

"I'm a new man,” Hatcher said. "I can mow my small lawn without having to take breaks. I can work in my wood shop and make nice things for family and friends.

“I sleep better at night, I cut my prescription pain medication in half, and I hope to only take aspirin in the future."

Those with chronic back or leg pain are encouraged to talk with their doctor about spine stimulation.

Now Hatcher can continue retirement on his terms.

"I have a bucket list that is overflowing,” he said.