Patient Story - Getting back to living
Life with HF10 spinal cord stimulation
For Sandra Weddle, now 47, the trouble started when she was in her early 30s. Chronic pain plagued her throughout six surgeries to address her degenerative disc disease. By the time she turned 40, the pain was so bad that she had to quit work.
Eventually, she was unable to walk or stand for more than a few minutes. “I had to sit down to make toast,” Weddle recalls. “I constantly took pain pills.”
David Lemaster, 68, was in a similar boat. After taking a fall at age 60, he contracted a blood infection during surgery to fix damaged discs. The infection led to arachnoiditis, a type of chronic pain caused by inflammation of a membrane around the spinal cord.
“I had pain whenever my body decided to have pain, and I had no control over it,” says Lemaster. “I went through all kinds of procedures—acupuncture, drugs, biofeedback, steroid injections, shocks to deaden the nerves—and nothing helped.”
Then one Tuesday in March, those two lives changed forever. That was the day both Weddle and Lemaster were implanted with Nevro HF10 therapy under the care of Dr. Nandan Lad—making them the first two patients to receive Nevro paddle HF10 devices in North Carolina.
David Lemaster, one of the first two patients to receive Nevro HF10 therapy in North Carolina. He endured chronic pain for eight years before the implant. Today, he says he’s pain free.
‘Exceptional’ relief, without side effects
Nevro’s HF10 therapy is a device implanted near the spine that delivers high-frequency electrical signals to quiet nerves that contribute to chronic pain. The surgeon places electrical leads at the specific nerves that are causing the patient’s chronic pain and implants a separate battery pack to provide electrical current. The device can be adjusted or turned off via a remote control.
HF10 therapy has several advantages over other spinal cord stimulation therapies. For example, it can be left on during sleep and while driving, and it doesn’t cause the tingling or buzzing sensation known as paresthesias.
“I thought about trying spinal cord stimulation before, but I decided not to because you couldn’t drive with the older ones,” says Weddle. “I like to go a lot, and with this one you can drive with it on. That helped me decide to do it.”
But more importantly, it works. Because HF10 therapy uses a higher frequency current than other spinal cord stimulation systems, it can be a more effective treatment for some patients, especially those who have tried other treatments without success.
“Now, I’m pain free,” says Lemaster. “Coming out of surgery, I had no pain. I had my first full night of sleep in forever. It’s miraculous—I would recommend it to anybody.”
Even the hospital stay itself exceeded expectations, Lemaster adds. “You’ve heard of 5-star hotels—well, Duke is like a 5-star hospital! The staff were always there, I never felt rushed, and their follow-up is excellent.”
Enjoying the freedom to move
After 12 years of struggling to control chronic pain, Weddle says, “This is a whole lot better than any other treatment—this is the best thing I’ve been on. My mood is better, and I’m able to walk more now.” At four weeks after the surgery, her pain isn’t 100% gone, though she says follow-up adjustments using the remote control have helped optimize the level of relief. She also notes that it takes some work to resume normal activities after so long with limited mobility. “There are some times when I have pain, but it’s because I need to build up my strength,” she says.
Still, being able to move more freely has made a big difference in her life. Weeks after receiving her implant, Weddle was able to enjoy a mini-vacation in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. “We went to Fort Macon and Cape Lookout, and I was actually able to walk and do things that I wouldn’t have ever dared to do before,” she says.
For Lemaster, the only challenging part about life with the Nevro implant has been the temptation to overextend himself without the constant pain holding him back. “I feel so much better that I sometimes do too much, which can lead to sore muscles,” he says. He noted that it’s also somewhat strange to feel symptoms that he used to associate with episodes of pain, such as the abnormal heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation—in the absence of any pain.
Lemaster’s wife, Barbara, has noticed a big change, too. “There’s been a tremendous improvement in his temperament,” she says. “When he was in constant pain, he was cranky and irritable a lot. Now, it’s like he’s back to the man I married.”
Although Nevro’s HF10 therapy has been used in Europe and Australia since the mid-2011, it received FDA approval for use in the United States more recently, in 2015. “When I found out that this has been available in Europe since 2011, I thought, ‘I would have given anything to have this five years ago!’” says Lemaster. “It’s been very, very positive for me,” he says, adding that he hopes more patients will become aware of this new option and avoid enduring years of unsuccessful treatments like he did.