• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Putting pain in the past

November 18, 2018

For years, Jerry Grant endured debilitating leg and foot pain as the result of a severe spinal injury. When he turned to Mayo Clinic in 2017 for help, he was offered a new pain management device. It made all the difference. Today, Jerry is enjoying a life that's no longer dominated by pain.

When pilot Jerry Grant was involved in a serious helicopter crash in 2002, his lower vertebrae shattered, leaving him unable to use his legs. Although he eventually was able to walk again, he was left with terrible pain in both legs, especially on the bottom of his feet. Even walking on carpet was painful.

"It felt like I was walking on very hot asphalt," Jerry says. "I had an electrical, biting pain that went up the right shin to the knee."

Jerry lived with that daily discomfort for 15 years. But then he decided to explore treatment options for his excruciating pain at Mayo Clinic. There, Jerry's care team recommended a device that had the potential to minimize his pain. And it worked.

Within a few weeks of having a new type of spinal cord stimulator implanted, Jerry was able to get back to living life the way he wants, with minimal pain.

"I'm a helicopter pilot, an avid fisherman, and I do archery. I also own a management company and rent out hangars," Jerry says. "But it's the simple things like being able to paint my house this year that are big accomplishments for me. The device has helped me live a lot fuller life."

Devastating damage

Immediately following the helicopter crash, Jerry's outlook seemed bleak. He had two titanium rods installed in his spine to stabilize the injury. But when he tried to walk, he had no feeling in his legs. He was diagnosed with paraparesis — a condition that involves significant weakness of the legs, but not total paralysis. For a long time, Jerry couldn't even move his toes.

His medical team in Bozeman, Montana, told Jerry he would never walk again, and he should forget about ever being able to fly.

Jerry refused to accept that. He worked hard to regain the function in his legs. At one point, his strenuous effort broke one of the titanium rods supporting his back. Jerry engaged in daily physical therapy. He pushed himself to stand and then to walk — first with a walker and then with a cane. Read the rest of Jerry's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.