'It has changed my life': Vernon woman's surgery frees her from decades of pain

Smiling and happy, Rebecca and Mike Clements.

It was over 40 years ago that Rebecca Clements started living with pain.

The Vernon resident fell and injured her back when she was just 14 years old. Two surgeries followed, but a couple of car accidents when she was in her twenties re-damaged her ruptured discs.

"I was in a lot of pain after that, I suffered greatly," Clements said. "After six or seven years you get used to the pain... after a while, you learn to adjust to your limits."

Marriage and children followed, as did the chronic pain and a constant diet of painkillers of various strengths.

"There was barely a day that went by that I didn't have pain."

As her children grew up and left the family home, Clements' pain grew steadily worse, quitting her job as a cashier in 2006.

"It got to the point I just couldn't do it anymore," she said.

A decade later she woke up one morning and got out of bed and started screaming. Her husband Mike came home and helped her into a chair.

"I lived in that chair for three-and-a-half months," she said.

Mike pretty much became her full-time carer, leaving lunch out for her daily, and the couple started to adapt their home to cater to her even after she progressed from her chair to walking with a walker.

She'd also been put on 60 mg of morphine which was making her very sick.

"I've been to a lot of pain clinics... I've had a lot of therapies," says Clements.

Nothing worked.

"I really didn't have a very good quality of life and it was deteriorating very quickly."

Not being able to pick up her two-year-old grandchild bothered her tremendously.

Her family doctor told her there was nothing more he could do. Clements asked for a second opinion and through her family doctor ended up at the Interventional Pain Clinic in Vancouver.

It was there Clements tried a spinal cord stimulator.

The $25,000 machine connects two wires to a patient's spine which interrupts the pain signals that travel between the spinal cord and the brain. For Clements, it changed her life.

A successful two-week trial led to Clements having surgery and a spinal cord stimulator inserted in May 2019.

"I knew when I stood up that it was going to work," she says. "I cried, the nurse cried, it was very, very emotional."

Clements had walked into the hospital holding onto her husband and walking with a cane.

"I walked out carrying my cane in my arm."

The couple went straight for a walk. Clements walked two blocks without her cane - it had been four years since she'd been able to walk that far.

"It has changed my life, it's changed my husband and (my) life, we danced at New Years, and we haven't danced in a really, really long time," she said.

Clements knows the spinal cord stimulator isn't a miracle cure for everyone suffering pain - she still feels pain but says she's 60 to 75 per cent better - but questions why the device isn't more widely known about and used to treat nerve pain.

Clements says she was one of only 13 people to receive the device as a treatment in 2019 and wants to spread the word about the device she calls "my little helper."

The machine uses technology similar to a pacemaker and since having the machine fitted, she's stopped taking morphine and can pick up her grandchild.

While Clements describes herself as an upbeat person with close friends and family for support, living with constant pain causes emotional damage and effects all those things.

Now she's back to volunteering and keeping busy.

"It really has allowed me to live again," she says. "I really mean that wholeheartedly."

Sitting at their living room table with the part of the small machine Rebecca Clements calls 'my little helper.
Sitting at their living room table with the part of the small machine Rebecca Clements calls 'my little helper."

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