One Wrong Step – Joanna Cilwa says that’s all it took. The 43-year-old Reed City resident was walking her son into a Boy Scout meeting when she slipped on a patch of ice and blacked out.
“I fell and came down hard on my back,” said Joanna. “Next thing I knew, I had messed up my arm, and suffered a concussion. I was in severe pain.”
The next few years, Joanna underwent numerous treatments, from a minimally invasive procedure to release pressure on the bulging disc in her back, to having a vertebrae removed from her spine to treat her nerves. Then came the migraines, and a host of medications to curb the pain.
“All those mixtures together were a recipe for disaster,” said Joanna. “I was in and out of the hospital with constant pain, living on two hours of sleep a night. I felt like people looked at me like I was a drug seeker. I gained a lot of weight. My marriage was on the rocks. It was horrible. All I could do was lay there.”
One Right Step – Joanna says the best move she made was to get connected to West Michigan Surgery Center specialist Girish Juneja, MD. Using a diagnostic imaging test called a myelogram, Dr. Juneja was able to pinpoint additional problems in Joanna’s spinal canal.
“No one had ever looked beyond my low back,” said Joanna. “He suggested I get a Spinal Cord Stimulator for my neck, to help control my migraines, and another for my back. I went a year with no issues. It was amazing.”
“The goal is to get the patient to rely less on medication and more on the neuromodulatory device,” says Girish Juneja, MD. “These devices are clinically proven to help people who suffer from pain in the lower back, extremities, even pain in the legs. By placing electrodes where the nerves are going up to the brain, we can block the painful signals and improve the patient’s quality of life.“
Joanna was also prompted to make other changes to help improve her health. She quit smoking and dropped 120 pounds. But just when Joanna thought her luck had changed, tragedy struck again. Early this year, Joanna was involved in a serious car accident that reinjured the upper part of her body.
“One of Dr. Juneja’s nurses was driving behind me when it happened,” says Joanna. “He actually called in to tell them about the accident and to make sure I was doing ok. They got me in right away.”
Joanna ended up having one of her stimulators replaced at West Michigan Surgery Center. She says the new, wireless technology is easy to use, and lasts an entire week without having to be charged.
“The best part is no more muscle relaxers and my pain medication is at an all time low,” says Joanna. “I love this new stimulator technology. I have never had a unit that has lasted this long. It’s just so convenient.”
And while Joanna knows the technology isn’t a cure for her spinal issues, the relief the device provides has helped her experience a new lease on life. She and her husband now foster children, and adopted two more, to add to their family of four.
“I finally got my life back again,” says Joanna. “I love that I can attend soccer games with the kids and watch them at their dance lessons. I even help out in the community and have started making new friends.”
Through it all, Joanna says the one constant that has made the difference is the care she received from Dr. Juneja and the entire team at West Michigan Pain and Michigan Primary Care Partners.
“He has always been there for me,” says Joanna. “My whole family now uses all their services. Family medicine, pharmacy, imaging, pain management and surgery. They care about our family and know their patients. If something is wrong, they fix it. I won’t go anywhere else”