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Thursday
Oct062011

Curing Pain...With a Piece of Felt?

Pixland/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Like millions of Americans, Linda Brown, suffering from a debilitating pain in her face, struggled against the quicksand of pain medication. The more pills she took, the more she needed.

"I was becoming an addict," she said. "I was no longer functioning at, what I considered, a life."

She was taking 20 to 30 pills every day, and even set her alarm clock for 2 a.m. so she could take more medication to avoid the pain, which she described as a "bolt of lightning," a "bad electrical shock." A slight breeze or the simplest touch -- even smiling -- was excruciating. It all started in February 2002.

"I had just come home from vacation, and I had felt what I thought was this horrible toothache," she said. "It was a pain I had never experienced before."

Doctors offered prescription pills for her trigeminal neuralgia, an often undiagnosed condition in which even the gentlest pressure can feel like a hot poker to the nerve.

Brown became so overcome with pain that her life was starting to disappear before her eyes. After a while, even the pills stopped working, and she could no longer function.

"I was out of options," she said. "I was taking the maximum medication I could take. We had tried every other medication."

Finally she saw a neurosurgeon, Dr. Dong Kim at Memorial Hermann Hospital and UT Health, who said that he could cure her pain -- with only a tiny piece of felt. Kim operated, using the felt to cushion the trigeminal nerve, which was being squeezed between two blood vessels.

"He's my miracle man," said Brown.

After years of mind-numbing medicines and bouts of debilitating anguish, Brown's pain was eliminated by the two hour surgery.

"From the very minute I woke up, I have not had another pain," she said. "I have not taken one pill."

Thanks to Kim's surgery, she has returned to being the Linda Brown her friends and family knew and loved.

"People who had not been around me for a while, they thought I was sad. They didn't know. They didn't understand. ... It hurt to smile."

She has all of her energy back -- enough to go fishing in the pond on her property or to ride her four-wheeler. But the best gift of all is that she now has the energy and strength to spend time with her grandkids.

"I have been able to take the kids on my own and have the quality time," she said, when ABC News spoke to her a month after the surgery on a trip with the kids to the zoo. "Luke running into my arms, that couldn't have happened. Picking up Sydney and holding her by the giraffes ... I couldn't have done that. Just them and gram."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio