Parkinson's Disease Stories

Derrick's Story

Nov 9, 2022

“I don’t plan my day around pain anymore.”- Derrick Heldt-Alvarez

“It was like overnight that I became disabled and dealing with debilitating pain,” says Derrick Heldt-Alvarez.

In August 2018, he woke up with pain in his leg. A day later, it was so bad that he could barely walk and immediately made an appointment with his doctor.  

“A disc in my spine had broken and lodged in my spinal cord. I had to have emergency surgery.  It was successful, but the doctor said it was going to be a long recovery.”
Physical therapy helped get Derrick moving with a cane, but he was still in pain. Walking through a store and standing in the checkout lane were impossible, and being in a car for any length of time, his legs would go numb.

During his recovery, Derrick moved to Michigan for a job at the Detroit Medical Center.  His colleagues recommended the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) for his pain.

“I wasn’t interested in more surgery.  Fortunately, there was Dr. Mahmoud Sabbagh and the Pain Management Clinic.  We started with physical therapy, pain injections and nerve ablations.  It minimized the pain for a while, but it always returned.”

Dr. Sabbagh then recommended a spinal cord stimulator.  A wired device that’s surgically affixed to the spine and controlled by an external wireless remote, like a TV clicker.  Depending on your pain level, you change the settings to deliver the right dose of electrical stimulation.

“It’s changed my life!  I don’t plan my day around pain anymore – I can easily get out of bed and shower.  With the click of a button, I can get back to all the things I enjoy in life with reduced pain.”

Derrick says he also appreciates how much the RIM pain management team truly understands the pain he was in and how hard they’ve worked to get him better.