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Leap of Faith – A Spinal Cord Stimulation Story

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October 4, 2021 Jeff Blanchard

Leap of Faith – A Spinal Cord Stimulation Story

John Turns His Life Around with Spinal Cord Stimulation

We’re going to make a bold statement here: Life can be crazy and unexpected. Shocking, right? But all joking aside, everyone knows how quickly things can go haywire on the great stage of life. Yet, that doesn’t make it any less jarring when life up and throws a wrench into our gears.

Few people understand this better than John Quinn. At several times throughout his life, John experienced monumental change in a very sudden way – the kind of change that would make most people call it quits. But John had faith; faith that if he stood tall and took the high road, things would work out in the end. And oh, how his faith was rewarded!

Selfie of spinal cord stimulation patient John Quinn

The Big Move

John currently lives in Minnesota but is originally from Boston. A Carpenter by trade, John spent the early days of his professional career doing woodwork all across Boston as a member of the local Carpenters union. Through a mutual friend, John became acquainted with a man who is originally from Minnesota but had gone out to Boston for work. One day, this friend asked if John could drive him back home to Minnesota just after the holidays, because he was moving back home. He even offered to buy John a round trip plane ticket back to Boston as a thank you. John remembers his friend saying something that was half joke, half prophecy: “Ya know John, you just might like Minnesota enough that you’ll end up staying.” John enjoyed a nice belly-laugh at that one.

In a plot twist that surprised John as much as anyone, his friend turned out to be right. In March of 2003, John moved to Minnesota with two suitcases and $100 in his pocket, only knowing one person. It was a major life change loaded with risk, but John had faith.

Not long after John got his feet under him in his new home state, life really kicked into high gear. He bought a new house and moved into it with his soon-to-be fiancé, who would eventually give birth to his son. Around this same time, John started a new job in the food service industry, servicing vending machines. It was a bit stressful, experiencing so much change so fast, but he was tough, and once again, John had faith.

Then, early one morning, while getting ready for another day on the job, John’s life was abruptly and completely turned upside down.

The Incident

August 17, 2009 started out just like any other day for John. He was up at 3:00 am to go to work and get ready for his daily route. After discussing football with one of the senior drivers for a few minutes upon arrival, John hopped into his truck to take inventory. Since it was still dark that early in the morning, John had to rely on a couple of small dome lights on the ceiling of his truck in order to see. But when he flipped the switch to turn on the lights, he noticed one of the lights was blocked by a huge seven-panel door. He grabbed the strap of the door and pulled it about six inches out of the way of the light so he could see.

As soon as he pulled the strap, the first couple of wheels came around the tracks, and then very suddenly, the rest of the door came crashing down. John quickly realized that both the tension support cables became detached, which meant it was a deadweight door. The entire weight of the door came violently crashing down and hit him on the back of the head and shoulder. The impact almost threw him off the truck, as if he were leaning over a cliff.

But because John was still clinching the strap, he was able to rotate his body back towards the truck and pull himself back up to regain his footing. Once he was able to do that, he realized he was now parallel with the door, and gravity made the rest of the door come crashing down towards his feet. Seeing that the door was about to crush and break both of his feet, and still having that strong grip on the strap, John tried to stop the door. Although John was strong enough to stop the door “inches” from crushing his feet, the weight of the door doubled him over so fast, John heard a loud pop “inside his body”.

“It was the most surreal thing I had ever experienced,” John said. “I didn’t know exactly what to think at first, but at the very least I knew something was wrong.”

In a surge of adrenaline, frustration and anger, John took the strap and lifted that deadweight seven-panel door back up and into its position. Incredibly, John didn’t feel any pain at first and went about his day as usual. However, about 45 minutes later, John was back inside the truck trying to prepare for his day’s work when he reached his right hand just above his neck and head to grab something on the shelf.

That’s when lightning-like, paralyzing pain shot across his right shoulder, down his back, and all the way to the bottom of his left foot. He froze, he remembers praying, taking a deep breath, and lowering his right arm as he exhaled. After lowering his arm by himself without causing any extra pain or damage, and relieved he wasn’t actually paralyzed, had decided to call it a day.

The Challenges

After getting an x-ray at urgent care, it was determined nothing was broken. Good news, but something was still clearly wrong. After consulting further with a doctor, John was ultimately allowed back to work with restrictions. He wasn’t allowed to twist, bend, or lift anything more than 10 pounds.

“That’s where the mental toll of my condition started to emerge,” John said. “I felt blessed to not be paralyzed, but suddenly the things that used to be so easy to do were nearly impossible to do without causing extra pain. “I went from a very strong 36-year-old man to a 10-year-old boy in the snap of a finger.”

After trying to work through it on the job, John just couldn’t effectively do his duties anymore and ultimately parted ways with the company. He contacted a lawyer to assist him with getting worker’s compensation for the injury he sustained on the job, as it would ultimately lead to back surgery (specifically, a disc fusion with disc replacement in the lower back) to help improve his condition.

Luckily, John won the right to have his surgery. However, he had a long road to recovery ahead of him. On top of that, John and his Fiancé split up, so he had to move himself out of the house all by himself, in his current condition. He was looking at months of rehab, had to find a new place to live, as well as a new job, all while supporting his infant son.

“I often think back on how easily I could have given up,” John recalls. “It seemed everything that could go wrong was going wrong, and all at once. But I wanted to be able to tell my son someday that his dad didn’t give up, that I didn’t just lay down and die with it. So, I fought. I fought through the pain every day for my son’s sake. I was determined to set an example for him on what it means to fight back and not give up; to show him what the true meaning of strength and faith were all about.”

Spinal cord stimulation patient John Quinn kayaking with son

The Glimmer of Hope

During a routine medication check with the group that performed John’s surgery, the physician referred John to Twin Cities Pain Clinic for additional treatment. During a visit to Twin Cities Pain Clinic, John was watching the TV in the waiting room and took notice of a video about a therapy called spinal cord stimulation for relieving back pain. This was so intriguing to John, he decided to take that intimidating “Leap of Faith” and find out more.

After discussing it with his Twin Cities Pain Clinic provider, it was determined that John would be a good candidate for this treatment. He was ecstatic! He was looking forward to the prospect of a life with less pain, and not having to rely on as many pills.

The Results of Spinal Cord Stimulation

John was approved to proceed with the procedure and underwent the initial trial period. Almost immediately, John felt a significant reduction in pain and even felt good enough to reduce his daily medication intake. John absolutely wanted what the permanent implant could give him, but he was a bit leery about undergoing another surgery. Yet, once again, John had faith and walked on.

“After the procedure was complete and a few adjustments were made, I felt like a new man,” John exclaimed. “I even got to go home that same day! The device works wonderfully and lets me get through my entire day on my own. Before the implant, I couldn’t even do basic household chores without causing extra pain, it was very challenging.  Now, I feel like I have a normal life again.”

To this day, John continues to sing the praises of the Spinal Cord Stimulator and the people who made it happen. Yes, he is still doing the single parent thing, but he can confidently do it all without any help. He goes grocery shopping, does his laundry (yes, he folds his clothes too), cooks, and cleans. He has a great co-parenting relationship with his son’s mother and can even go golfing again! Needless to say, after some very dark times, John’s life had been turned around and is back on course!

Spinal cord stimulation patient John Quinn making a golf shot

“I truly can’t say enough about the Spinal Cord Stimulation treatment and the wonderful people at Twin Cities Pain Clinic,” says John. “I highly encourage anyone suffering from chronic back or neck pain to look into this. It will help you get back to living your life. It’s understandable that many people are very uneasy at the idea of surgery, but I promise, there is hope! You just need to be willing to take THAT leap of faith.”


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