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Paying it Forward to Save Lives

February 26, 2020

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February 26, 2020 Jeff Blanchard

Paying it Forward to Save Lives

An intrathecal pain pump helped save Frank Kallstrom’s life. But what he did next is is nothing short of incredible.

Some people pay it forward by buying coffee or paying tolls for strangers. Frank Kallstrom pays it forward by offering strangers another chance at life.

Our friend Frank can be described in two words – Selfless and Courageous. Frank has spent the better part of his life helping others and putting their needs before his own. Along the way, he stood up to adversity time and again, never letting it get the better of him.

There may be no better example of Frank’s qualities than his fight against a debilitating chronic pain condition. It completely derailed his life, but instead of giving in, Frank gritted his teeth, picked himself up and pulled off a comeback so epic and inspirational, it deserves its own film adaptation. Then, he took it a step further and helped a bunch of other people with their own comeback stories. But for now, let’s focus on Frank.

This is Frank

Frank Kallstrom-Twin Cities Pain Clinic patient-Pain pump recipient

Born and raised in St. Paul, MN, Frank spent much of his youth living life to the fullest. Before his twenties were over, he visited all the lower 48 states, became an accomplished puzzle master (particularly the Rubik’s Cube), and got married.

Before he knew it, Frank was the father of four beautiful daughters. Now, you don’t need to be a parent to understand how difficult raising even one child can be. But bringing up four kids quickly turns the intensity meter up to 11. Frank, however, was unfazed by this. His job was to make sure his girls were loved and provided for. He was going to be the best dad he could possibly be, whatever it took.

At the age of 31, after his high-octane twenties came to a close, Frank graduated from North Hennepin Community College with a degree in law enforcement. Shortly after, in classic Frank style, he started one of the most selfless and courageous jobs there is. He became an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, putting his own life on the line to protect and serve others. Frank maintained his post honorably for the next four years. But then, everything got turned upside down.

Frank’s Struggle with Chronic Pain

When he was 35, Frank was diagnosed with diabetes. While that alone was difficult enough, it also led to Frank developing peripheral neuropathy, a condition whereby damaged or diseased nerves cause pain throughout the body. Over time, Frank’s pain grew to debilitating levels, resulting in serious consequences.

He had to step down from his post as a police officer, as his pain did not allow him to perform his duties. Travel was no longer an option and his plans to visit the two remaining states (Alaska and Hawaii) were indefinitely put on hold. A bit further down the line, he and his wife of over 20 years decided to part ways. Frank suddenly found himself having to care for four daughters while dealing with his ever-worsening pain.

Frank holding his daughter before chronic pain started

As the hits kept coming, Frank sought help, visiting countless doctors to try and treat his pain. They prescribed all kinds of medications, none of which helped. Instead, they had very negative side effects. He became lethargic and despondent, finding it difficult to care for even himself, let alone his four children. He was even hospitalized on multiple occasions.

But no other solutions were being offered and before long, Frank’s situation began to have severe emotional effects alongside his physical pain. He knew he could not continue down this path much longer. He was fighting for his life, and needed to find help, fast.

The Comeback Begins

Desperate to find relief from his excruciating pain, Frank decided to reach out to Twin Cities Pain Clinic. He had seen their Woodbury, MN office in passing and figured it would be worth a shot to try someone new. His first appointment was with Dr. Andrew Will at Twin Cities Pain Clinic in Edina, MN Immediately, Frank saw glimmers of hope. He had been taking pain medication previously, but when Dr. Will took over, Frank finally felt he was getting the right meds, in the right doses, and never felt judged for any of it. This alone made a huge difference to Frank, and he steadily begin to rise out his emotional low and toward what he hoped was a renewed life.

Frank began regular visits with Dr. Anne Kokayeff at Twin Cities Pain Clinic in Woodbury, as it was the more convenient location for him. It was here that his ascent truly took off. For the first time since his pain began, Frank felt like a real patient. He felt listened to, and genuinely cared for, instead of being cut down and accused. Together, he and Dr. K reviewed medication options and continued to fine-tune his dosage. Then, one day, Frank realized that he felt well enough to get back out into the world. And what did he do after 12 long and painful years of disability?

Frank went back to school.

Frank graduating with his psychology degree

Human nature had always intrigued Frank. He found himself continuously interested in what makes people behave the way they do, and why. He decided he wanted to learn all about it, and in 2016, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology!

We will revisit Frank’s new area of expertise a bit later on, because it’s amazing what he does with it. But first we must reveal the final and most substantial leg of his journey to relief.

The Intrathecal Pain Pump

After Frank’s new pain medication regimen proved to be consistently successful for an extended period, Dr. K proposed a more advanced solution. She recommended that Frank consider an intrathecal pain pump. An intrathecal pain pump is a device that gets permanently implanted in the body and automatically provides the patient with a specific dose of concentrated pain medicine. The result is significant pain relief, with fewer potential risks and side effects than orally ingested opioid medication.

Frank had never heard of such a device, but his interest was sufficiently piqued, and he agreed. With Twin Cities Pain Clinic handling all the details and obtaining all the necessary authorizations, Frank proceeded with a trial run of the pain pump. The specific pump model chosen in Frank’s case was the SynchroMed™ II by Medtronic. A trial is virtually the same as the permanent implant, but the pump device is worn on a belt outside the body for a period of time, allowing the patient and doctor to determine if it’s an effective treatment.

Shortly after the trial began, Frank knew this was the right choice. He hadn’t felt so good since before his diabetes diagnosis over a decade earlier. At the end of the trail, Frank didn’t hesitate to pursue the permanent implant. The implant was a complete success, and after a short period of building up to the correct dose, his pain essentially disappeared, his energy and happiness returned, and he was ready to start living again.

Finally, after many agonizing years at the bottom of the barrel, Frank was back!

And what has he been up to since his triumphant return? He picked up right where he left off of course.

Frank is Back!

Frank wasted no time getting back into doing all the thing he loves. He is traveling again, with plans to finally visit Alaska and Hawaii, thus completing his grand tour of all 50 states.

The puzzle master returned to solving Rubik’s Cubes, with a goal of completing the challenge in under one minute. He solved it in 12.61 seconds, which is so fast it’s basically invisible to the naked eye. Check out the video clip at the end of this article to see Frank in action!

Frank has also managed to combine these two passions. He now travels the country and participates in competitive Rubik’s Cube solving tournaments.

But the most inspiring part of Frank’s story is what he did with that new psychology degree he had earned.

Today, Frank is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor at a methadone clinic in Woodbury, MN. Once more, Frank’s courage and selflessness shine through. He spends his days bravely facing his own past suffering and using his story to motivate and help others who are enduring their own afflictions. He tells people, from first-hand experience, that even when you’re at your worst, you can rise up and overcome. And many of them have, thanks to Frank’s inspirational message.

Frank at Clingmans Dome-Smoky Mountains

Frank sets an amazing example for all of us. There were so many times when he could have called it quits, but he refused to. He fought gallantly to overcome every obstacle life threw at him, until he finally got the help he was seeking. And then he immediately turned around and started serving others, helping them achieve the same fresh start he had earned.

That there is paying it forward at its absolute finest.

BONUS! Check out Frank’s supersonic solving skills!


Are you looking to make a comeback of your own? Schedule an appointment with Twin Cities Pain Clinic today.

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