People Painting

Wendy’s Story

Chronic Pain

These stories reflect the experience of individuals who are receiving a Medtronic Chronic Pain Therapy for the treatment of severe chronic pain. Medtronic invited these people to share their story candidly. As you read them, please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to these particular individuals. Not everyone who receives spinal cord stimulation will receive the same results as the individuals in these stories. Talk with your doctor to determine if spinal cord stimulation is right for you.

Living With Pain

In 1996, Wendy was 26 years old. She was passionate about rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and skiing. “I was constantly moving,” Wendy recalls.

Then came the accident. While downhill skiing, Wendy took a bad fall, fracturing her left ankle. The fracture developed into neuroma and led to complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Each day, Wendy endured throbbing pain in her ankle. She could no longer walk easily. Anxiety and depression set in. Headaches and sleeplessness followed. Her job and college classes suffered.

“The pain turned me from a very outward person to a very inward person,” she says. “I felt hopeless, helpless, and scared that this was how the rest of my life would be.”

Wendy’s healthcare team tried a number of different therapies to relieve the pain, including medications, surgery, acupressure, spinal blocks, cortisone, and a TENS unit.

“Nothing worked,” Wendy says. “I was concerned about becoming dependent on the pain pills. More than anything, I wanted to function like a normal, healthy person.”

What Spinal Cord Stimulation Can Do

Wendy was referred to a pain-management specialist who told her about spinal cord stimulation. The first step to determine if the therapy would work for Wendy was an outpatient screening test. Wendy was equipped with a temporary, external neurostimulator for 7 days.

“The screening test was like an unbelievable ray of sunshine,” Wendy says. “I got home in the afternoon, and that night I took just one pain pill. The next morning I got out of bed and started walking and it didn’t hurt! It was the first time in years!”

Days later, in August 2003, Wendy had surgery to implant the neurostimulator.

Risks of Spinal Cord Stimulation 

Although Wendy didn't experience any complications with her surgery, some patients do experience problems. The most frequently reported problems following the neurostimulator implant surgery include infection, lead movement, pain at the implant site, loss of therapy effect, and therapy that did not meet the patient’s expectations. 

For a complete list of side effects that have been associated with the therapy, refer to the Important Safety Information. Please talk with your doctor to fully understand the risks and benefits. 

Enjoying Life Again

Since the procedure, Wendy has begun regaining elements of her active lifestyle. She sleeps at night. She visits with friends. She has finished school and has a job. She goes hiking and biking.

“There are some things – like skiing – that I may not be able to do again because the injury to the ankle may never be fully healed,” Wendy explains. “But neurostimulation gives me 80% relief of my pain.”

Due to Wendy's high-power demand (she keeps the device on all day long, every day), she has had to replace the device twice, which required surgery. The first time was in 2004, and in 2005 she received a rechargeable device.

“It’s amazing how much my sense of humour has returned,” Wendy continues. “It’s great to know that there are ways to lessen my pain.”

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.