A mother-of-three whose crippling back ache left her bedridden has finally been given a new lease of life – thanks to a remote control. Lorraine Brooks suffered agonising back pain for almost 30 years and was left barely able to walk. But after being given a remote control, which is used to block pain signals to the brain, Lorraine can live her life free from agony for the first time in years.
Mrs Brooks, from from Southport, Merseyside, has been fitted with a spinal cord stimulator – where electrodes are implanted into her spine, along with a battery pack, which is controlled with the remote and recharged through the skin.
She can now use the remote to control how much pain relief she receives.
She said: ‘Before I had the remote the back pain was almost unbearable. I could hardly walk and I don’t think I had a full night’s sleep in about eight years.
‘It’s was like toothache in your back all day. I had to live on pain killers and I woke up crying every day.
HOW DOES THE REMOTE CONTROL STOP THE PAIN?
Mrs Brooks has been fitted with a spinal cord stimulator, which involves having electrodes implanted in the spine.
These are powered by a battery pack that is also implanted and recharged through the skin.
The electrodes prevent pain signals from reaching the brain by interrupting them.
The level of pain relief the electrodes deliver – depending on how bad the pain is that day – is determined by the remote control.
‘It was soul destroying and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, so when it was suggested that I try the remote I jumped at the chance.
‘If my back is hurting more one day, I can just turn up the device with the control, and if it’s not as bad I turn it down. If I’m doing something that takes a lot of energy, like going to the gym, I’ll turn myself up.
“I’m very protective of the remote – I don’t take it out of the house and I always know where it is, I never let it get lost.
‘It’s actually a cutting-edge neurostimulation system – but it’s as easy to use as turning on the telly.
‘After years of agony I couldn’t be happier – I’ve got my life back.’
Mrs Brooks first suffered back ache when she was just 15 years old due to a slip in the spine.
She underwent surgery which fused the bottom two vertebra in her spine together, but was devastated to find in December 2004 that the fuse had worn away.
‘I started suffering back pain again but I was convinced it wouldn’t be anything major. I never knew it was going to be the start of such much agony.
‘I was in constant pain. I couldn’t sit or stand in any way that would make me feel better, and walking or standing for long periods of time was totally out of the question.
The 43-year-old had hoped that surgery in January 2006, which involved placing a titanium cage filled with bone at the bottom of her spine, would have been the answer to all her problems.
However, once again no relief came.
‘I thought I would wake up for the operation and be pain free but it was like nothing had changed.’
From then on, she attended a pain clinic at Ormskirk Hospital where she was put on various different pain relief medication.
‘I tried everything – I had Botox, patches which acted like local anaesthetic, acupuncture, steroid injections – it was never ending.
‘I was in a constant battle against myself and I became a recluse. I couldn’t go on holiday with my family or go shopping with my daughter. I was always fighting.’
It wasn’t until five years later, when Lorraine was referred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool in 2011, that she finally saw an answer to her prayers.
‘When I was referred to the Walton Centre they diagnosed me with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.
‘As soon as I got a diagnosis, it opened doors to even more types of pain relief – one of which was the spinal cord stimulator.
‘I’d read about it online but I never thought I’d be eligible. But after I was assessed by the team at the centre, and they told me that I was a candidate for it, I was over the moon.’
Mrs Brooks said: ‘I was given the stimulator for a two-week trial in March 2012. They insert electrodes in your back and a battery is strapped around you which you have to charge up. Then I have the remote to control the amount of pain relief I receive.
‘As soon as the device was fitted I felt like a different person. I had to keep a pain dairy and score my pain out of ten – before the trial my pain was a ten at least, but with the stimulator it was down to a 2 or 3.
Transformed: Mrs Brooks says the surgery has totally changed her life
‘As soon as I knew it was working I told the doctors they’d have to fight me to give it back.
‘Luckily the trial was such a success that they told me I could receive a permanent one which was implanted in May.
‘They turned the device on in the theatre, and since then I’ve never switched it off.’
The remote control has three different programmes – each with a low, medium and high setting – which she can vary depending on how bad her pain is that day.
The device also includes a battery pack which is implanted inside Lorraine, which she recharges every day.
‘I recharge my batteries while I watch TV in the evening. It’s all really easy.’
Since Lorraine received the transplant, her life has been totally transformed.
‘I went from staying in bed all day, to going for a full afternoon’s shopping with my daughter. After years and years of suffering I can finally live my life.
‘If someone had told me this years ago I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m so lucky to be where I am today. I can’t quite believe it.’
Dr Manohar Sharma, her doctor at the Walton Centre, said: ‘Lorraine had severe back and leg pain which was not helped with spinal fusion. Her pain has been intractable and longstanding, having had trials of various treatments, including injections.
‘She is the first patient treated with high frequency spinal stimulation at The Walton Centre and I am delighted the way her pain has responded to this treatment.
‘She has improvement in her function and quality of life, this is great news for patients like her who may be suffering with similar conditions.’