Zac’s Chronic Pain Story

Zac’s Chronic Pain Story

As captain of a firefighting team that specialized in water rescue, Zac spent much of his time on the ocean, manning boats and Jet Skis to help people in trouble. In his off-hours, he worked hard to stay in shape. One of the ways he did so was by preparing for an Ironman competition, a tough test of stamina that required entrants to swim, bike, and run over a 100-mile course near his Florida home. 

While Zac was training for the Ironman race on his bicycle, he was hit by a car with such force that he broke his leg, wrist, and all of his ribs and collapsed one of his lungs. Afterwards, he found himself in a hospital with an unwelcome feeling—chronic pain that would plague him in the years ahead.

“I’d take deep breaths and felt like I was being stabbed,” he recalls. Zac’s pain flared up whenever he moved. He had to move back into his parents’ home because he needed full-time care, spending most of his time in bed or on the couch. He was on so much pain medication that he would fall asleep during conversations and had trouble remembering things. Pain routinely prevented him from sleeping more than a few hours at a time.

After months of trying other treatments that did not work, Zac’s pain management specialist recommended neurostimulation. His doctor explained that neurostimulation is not for everyone and he could try the therapy during an evaluation period to determine if it would help manage his pain. He also reviewed the benefits and risks. (Risks associated with the procedure and/or use of a neurostimulation system include infection, swelling, bruising, undesirable changes in stimulation, and the loss of strength or use in an affected limb or muscle group (e.g., paralysis). For a complete list of possible complications associated with neurostimulation, refer to this important safety information.) After talking through his concerns, Zac decided to try the therapy. At the end of the evaluation period, he immediately asked to have a system implanted.

Since being implanted with a St. Jude Medical™ neurostimulator, Zac’s life has changed remarkably. His pain level is much lower than before, letting him cut many of his medications. As a result, his drug-induced drowsiness is gone. He is active again and has even been able to run in a 10K race for the first time since his accident.

“I’m not held captive by my pain anymore,” Zac says. “It doesn’t dictate my life. The stimulator has made all the difference in the world.” 

In fact, Zac was able to use his experience as a firefighter/EMT and joined the St. Jude Medical clinical team. This role allows him to work with patients who have or are about to receive neurostimulation systems.

Consult your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of neurostimulation and determine if this therapy is right for you. The story above explains the experiences of an individual who has received a neurostimulation system to manage chronic pain of the trunk and/or limbs. These results with neurostimulation are specific to this individual. While most patients experience at least some reduction in pain, the amount of pain relief that individuals experience varies. The surgical placement and use of a neurostimulation system pose risks, the occurrence of which also varies by individual.