If you’re interested in stem cell therapy to treat your pain condition, it’s always best to hear it straight from the source: stem cell testimonials from patients who have suffered from similar pain who have found relief through this cutting-edge treatment option. Today we recount one of our favorite stem cell testimonials: an interview with Mickey, an Arizona resident who suffered from severe and chronic shoulder pain throughout his life. And stem cell therapy worked. Read on to learn more.
Arizona resident perseveres despite birth injury
Mickey had for his entire life successfully compensated for the congenital birth injury that left him with just one fully functioning arm.
The injury, which reduced the use of Mickey’s right arm by about half, didn’t stop him from playing every sport from football to racquetball while growing up, and it didn’t stop him from adventures like mountain climbing—Mickey simply demanded more of his left arm. After nearly 70 years of relying on that left side, it eventually gave out, sending Mickey on a long journey to find healing that ultimately led him to a cutting-edge stem cell therapy performed by the doctors at Arizona Pain Specialists.
Mickey’s birth injury, brachial plexus palsy, occurs during difficult deliveries. The baby’s neck stretches too far to one side. As a result, nerves near the neck sustain damage that results in arm weakness and loss of motion.
At the age of four, Mickey underwent surgery by a doctor whose patients included former President Dwight Eisenhower, a connection made possible by the Air Force connections of Mickey’s father. “I was in the hospital for a year,” McDonald recalls. All through high school, he remained in physical therapy, seeking to improve the range of motion and strength in his right arm.
“It was hard for me because people didn’t know what it was,” Mickey, now 68, says. “I had to learn how to defend myself at an early age.”
When Mickey was growing up, people did not have as much awareness or compassion as they do today for people with disabilities. Mickey says living with the injury formed his life perspective, making him an aggressive, positive go-getter undeterred by obstacles. “I never felt as though I was handicapped,” he said. “I certainly wish that I was born with two good arms and shoulders but it is what it is. It’s what you got. There’s no sense in stewing about it.”
The injury also didn’t relegate Mickey to a desk job when the time came for him to work. He entered the construction business and worked in the concrete and framing industries before getting his contractor’s license. Mickey’s arm limited his capabilities, but he persevered.
“There was nothing I couldn’t do,” he says. “I did things left handed—with one hand—that most people did with two.”
Mickey’s mind may have been stronger than his body, but eventually his body fought back. Sometime during his 50s, Mickey’s shoulder began hurting so badly that he could not stand the pain.
Something had to give
Mickey’s lifelong ability to compensate for a birth injury that significantly limited his right-arm mobility screeched to a halt sometime during his 50s when his body started fighting back.
“If you’re using one (arm) 80% of the time, then simple logic will tell you eventually something has got to give,” Mickey says.
All his life, he’d been active, playing sports and working a construction job. When the pain first began, it was tough, but tolerable. Then, he decided he couldn’t take it anymore. It’s the changing point to any stem cell testimonials you’ll read. He decided to see doctors and investigate his options.
Mickey visited five sports medicine doctors, searching for a medical procedure that would ease his pain. First, he underwent MRI testing to figure out the cause of pain.
Tests revealed Mickey’s entire shoulder had given out. Tears were present in the labrum, part of the cartilage; the supraspinatus, a rotator cuff muscle; and a bicep flexor. He had no cartilage in the shoulder socket or ball, resulting in arthritis. “It just wore out,” Mickey says of his overused shoulder.
With injuries so extensive, doctors said there wasn’t much they could do except perhaps replace the shoulder. “That didn’t sit well with me,” Mickey said. “The shoulder is the hardest joint to replace.” He worried an operation gone wrong would ruin the use of his one good—albeit injured—arm.
Meanwhile, Mickey would get the occasional cortisone shot, although it wasn’t a long-term solution because of potential risky side effects like bone death. He needed a new option.
Then, Mickey’s wife asked him if he’d ever thought about stem cell treatment. Mickey did some initial research and made an appointment with Dr. Tory McJunkin at Arizona Pain.
McJunkin told Mickey that the Food and Drug Administration had recently approved a new stem cell treatment, but it was so new that insurance companies did not yet cover it. McJunkin made no promises, but told Mickey, “We think that this will help. We think this is the future. The technology is getting better and better all the time.”
Mickey’s convictions made the stem cells’ origin very important. “If these cells came from an aborted baby or any part of that, I would not be interested,” Mickey says. “(McJunkin) assured me that it was the fluid in the embryonic sac.”
Mickey and his wife returned home to think it over. “At that point, my pain level on a scale of one to ten, was probably a six to eight all the time, sometimes jumping up to a nine. I figure ten, that’s when you pass out and I never did that.”
He decided to give the treatment a try, and made the appointment.
Arizona man undergoes cutting-edge stem cell therapy
The day Mickey drove to Arizona Pain Specialists’ Scottsdale surgery center, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
From reading other stem cell testimonials online, he was full of hope that relief would finally come for the searing pain in his left shoulder. A lifetime of accommodating for a birth injury, which reduced movement in his right arm, took its toll on Mickey’s good shoulder after more than 50 years of use. The shoulder’s cartilage eroded, its tendons tore.
Wanting his life back, Mickey scheduled an appointment to receive a cutting-edge stem cell therapy treatment from Dr. Tory McJunkin at Arizona Pain Specialists. Although approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the treatment was so new that Mickey couldn’t be sure how effective it would be.
Would his pain go away completely? Would he be able to live his life again?
Stem cells are cells that don’t yet have identities. Before fat cells become fat cells or muscle cells turn to muscle, they’re stem cells—blank canvases with the ability to transform into whatever kind of cell the body needs.
Although stem cell treatment is often controversially associated with embryos and fetuses, the cells can also come from adults, who carry the cells in lower numbers. Stem cells are also present immediately after birth, creating the opportunity to gather them without harming unborn babies, which for Mickey was vitally important.
McJunkin planned to help Mickey by injecting stem cells into the injured shoulder, where they would transform from blank canvases into cartilage and muscle, healing the damage and reducing pain. McJunkin knew the treatment would help Mickey, but still-limited data prevented him from knowing the extent of possible relief.
Nevertheless, a hopeful Mickey arrived to the surgical facility. Staff welcomed him, and then gathered essential pre-operative information including his current pain levels. Because Mickey’s shoulder injuries were so extensive, he needed a mega-dose of stem cells—six injections.
McJunkin showed Mickey the vial of stem cells, and then prodded Mickey’s shoulder to determine the best location for each injection. As the doctor pushed, Mickey told him where it hurt. McJunkin marked the painful areas as injection sites.
Then came lidocaine, a local anesthetic, to numb Mickey’s shoulder. The process took about five minutes and before he knew it, Mickey was relaxing in the recovery room. After about 20 minutes, staff asked how he was feeling.
“Right now, for some reason, I don’t have any pain,” Mickey says. “Are you sure?” they asked. “Yes,” Mickey said. No pain. For the first time in decades, Mickey’s shoulder was not causing him insufferable pain.
He left the facility and drove home, hopeful that the promising results would endure.
Arizona man finds relief from stem cell therapy
When the veil of pain finally lifted for Mickey after 15 years of suffering, he could live his life again.
“Yesterday I played golf for the first time in nearly five years,” Mickey says during an interview seven months after his successful stem cell therapy treatment at Arizona Pain Specialists.
Almost immediately after receiving the six injections, Mickey’s pain faded. Because the treatment is so new, and data about its effectiveness is limited, he wasn’t sure how it would make him feel. However, when he returned to Dr. Tory McJunkin for a follow-up visit one month after the procedure, Mickey still had no pain to report. The good health has continued.
“The human body and mind are pretty remarkable,” Mickey says. “We compensate for things that we can’t do.”
All of Mickey’s life, he relied on his left arm for everything from playing sports to working construction because of a birth injury affecting his right arm. “You know what your limitations are and you build your life and your activities around that,” he says.
After his left shoulder gave out after 50-plus years of overuse, Mickey desperately hoped for relief that would not only reduce his pain, but also help him regain full use of his one good arm.
Slowly, after getting the injections that healed his pain, he began testing his shoulder with new activities—planting trees, digging holes.
After vigorous activities, like golfing, Mickey experiences a little pain, but he says its nothing compared to the sensations he endured before the treatment.
“Pain is a terrible thing,” Mickey says. “I’m nothing but grateful that it worked,” he says in his stem cell testimonials interview.
Although he barely has pain any more, the strength in his shoulder is greatly reduced from years of non-use. “I’m not going to be doing any weightlifting. I’m not going to be doing any climbing, but what I do have is pain relief,” Mickey says.
Nobody can tell what the future holds, but Mickey is hopeful that his relief will continue. The decision to undergo the treatment—with its uncertain outcome—was a difficult one, but Mickey says for him, it outweighed the risks and lengthy recovery involved with shoulder replacement.
“You hear wonderful things about stem cells. You have for years,” Mickey says. The controversial aspects of some stem cells coming from unborn babies turned him off, however the ones Mickey received came from another source.
“These new baby cells, these brand new, God-just-produced-‘em cells, are at work in my injured areas,” Mickey says. “It’s a miracle.”
The work continues at Arizona Pain Regenerative Institute
To learn more about how Arizona Pain doctors discover cutting-edge new therapies, check out our video on our Regenerative Institute. If you’re ready to get in touch to hear other stem cell testimonials from other patients, or to talk to one of our doctors directly, click here.