“The pain was a sharp, stabbing pain. Turning over in bed would be excruciating. It was worse when sitting still and walking. I would need help just getting out of bed or a chair.”
Franklin Square resident Arlene Santo recalled those nightmarish flare-ups, sleepless nights and life-inhibiting episodes of back pain which are long gone now — and she said she owes it all to her doctor. According to the Institute of Medicine, one in three Americans suffer from some sort of chronic pain. Santo, 50, a widowed mother of three daughters, told the Herald that she had tried seemingly everything to ease the pain but had little success. She had even doubted her doctor’s life-altering suggestion initially. Now, she can’t thank him enough.
Santo’s pain was a gradual development that she said she suspected was worsened by the nature of her work at various construction companies. In 2005, the pain began to culminate and her then-doctor suggested epidurals, or injections into the spine. She said those helped ease the pain a bit, but they were soon defenseless against the increasingly agonizing pain. Beginning in 2008, she tried trigger injections and spinal fusion, along with physical and massage therapies — “nothing really gave much relief,” she said.
Then, six months ago, Santo’s doctor, Reginald Rousseau, an anesthesiologist and the director of pain management services at Franklin Hospital, in Valley Stream, suggested that Santo try spinal cord stimulation. SCS is employed by a device known as an implantable pulse generator, which is placed into a patient’s back. The generator contains thin wires, which are placed in the space above the spinal cord to best target the areas of pain. The ends of those wires contain contacts that deliver pain-masking signals to the spine. The result is a soothing and tingling sensation that replaces the pain. SCS, Rousseau told the Herald, was the best alternative for Santo because she had failed more conservative measures, such as epidurals. But when he suggested it to Santo, she was skeptical.
“My first impression was that it was another dead end,” she said “I was hopeful with the fusion, which didn’t work and accepted I would just deal with pain and pain pills forever.”