The Southern Health Trust is at the forefront of a revolutionary spinal cord treatment which is transforming the lives of people who have suffered years of debilitating pain.
Consultant psychologist Dr Nicola Sherlock, who is based in the trust, is the only psychologist in Northern Ireland who routinely assesses patients for suitability for the specialist therapy.
She said, “Spinal cord stimulation involves placing an electrical device close to the spine which can change some of the pain messages that are sent to the brain. It is a very specialised procedure and only suitable for a small number of patients with very complex pain but we are finding it is giving them significant relief.”
Hilary Ballance is 44 and one of those benefitting from the treatment. She said, “Following a road traffic accident six years ago I was left with unbearable pain in my right arm and could no longer run my holistic therapy business.
“My skin is so sensitive that just a slight touch, noise or even a change in temperature can cause intense pain... the stimulator takes the edge off my pain helping me to cope a bit better with life. I now can get a bit more sleep and can adjust the programmes depending on what I need to do that day. Hopefully through this treatment eventually I will be able to get back to work.”
Kieran Kelly, a 43-year-old international IT consultant, saw his life change drastically with a fall down the stairs, which resulted in his arm going through a window pane causing major damage to the tendons.
He said, “I have been able to greatly reduce the amount of medication I take and the pain in my hand has stopped. It has allowed me to live again and thankfully get back to work.”
Dr Paul McConaghy, consultant in pain management and anaesthesia, said, “Severe and chronic pain can have a major impact on a person’s life, both physically and emotionally.” Conditions treated include arthritis, pain resulting from an injury, sciatica and back pain.