At 30 years old, many men believe they are invincible. Don Patrick was no exception.
Strong, agile, and fearless, he was making a living climbing communication towers during installation while living in Conroe, Texas, a small city north of Houston. The day ended like many others, stacking a tower on the back bed of a truck before piling in for the ride home. It had just begun to sprinkle rain.
“The driver was going too fast. We went off the road and hit a tree. I was thrown through the windshield, 16 feet,” recounts Patrick.
The prognosis was not good. The L4 and L5 vertebrae were severely injured. “The doctor said I might not walk again and certainly would not work again. I spent a lot of time on the couch feeling sorry for myself and pretty angry,” says Don. “No one wanted to be around me. I was in pain, and I was hateful.”
With some physical therapy and sheer determination, he got back on his feet and back to work. While doctors in Texas attempted pain management, little relief was found. “They just wanted to push pills, and I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.”
So, he just fought through the pain and willed himself to get through the day… for weeks, months and years. Until he couldn’t.
Back in his native Indiana a decade after the accident, there were days he could not even move. His wife, Angelia, had to help him get dressed and put on his shoes. It was hard to see her husband like this.
“We have a Harley, and we like to go do things,” she says. “He couldn’t even do the everyday things like mowing the yard or cleaning. I just thought, ‘We have to do something, there’s no quality of life like this.’ Everything became impossibly difficult.”
At the urging of a friend, he made an appoint-ment with pain management specialis Dr. Danielle Turnak at Decatur County Memorial Hospital. He didn’t have much faith that it would make much difference, but at that point he was willing to try anything.
“Some people struggle with the idea of pain management; they may know someone who has tried it, and maybe it didn’t meet that person’s expectations,” says Dr. Turnak. “I always tell patients that I can’t say it will 100% alleviate the pain, but let me try to figure out the best way to proceed and at least get their pain down between a zero-to-three (with 10 being the worst).”
However, the prescribed treatment from Dr. Turnak turned out to far exceed expectations. “The first injection was really like a miracle,” says Don. “I put on my own shoes and walked out of her office. I felt so good, that I just kept walking. It was incredible.”
Don’s doubt was not unusual, nor was his case. Oftentimes, patients come to Dr. Turnak with old injuries that raise their ugly heads with age or wear and tear on the body. According to Turnak, those are treated just like a recent injury. “We listen to their story, review their history and any previous testing results. We order new studies and procedures to pinpoint the exact location of pain.
For Don, Dr Turnak’s treatment plan included anti-inflammatories and pain medicine prior to a series of preliminary injections to pinpoint the exact treatment area. The final piece to the puzzle will be a long-lasting injection that will relieve pain for up to 18 months.
For wife Angelia, it’s great to have her husband back. “To see him doing the things he loves is amazing. I’m really excited about this next injection – he may never need to take a pain pill again!”
“I just want people to know that if they are having pain all the time and believe there’s nothing that can be done but just suffer through it, there is hope,” says Don. “Dr. Turnak has been wonderful.”