Dear Friends and Family,
You know I don't like to quit. Or ask for help. Usually, I'll quit before I do the latter but here I am, gritting my teeth through back pain and doing absolutely everything I can to avoid (another) major back surgery in order to continue doing what matters most to me: nurturing the humans and animals around me, lifting farmers up, building community, and keeping a foot in agriculture every way possible.
I had my first lumbar fusion in 2018. While it eventually gave me so much life back, in all honestly, it knocked me down for 18 months, maybe more. I missed nearly every gathering, dinner invite, grand opening, birthday party; had to retire from full-time farming, and nearly lost myself in the sea of pain meds that accompany such major surgery. I can't imagine going through this again.
Since then, I've pushed through pain, had hardware removed, pushed myself in PT, exercised my a$$ off, explored every alternative therapy out there, and fought my way back to a physical form that allows me to part-time farm (on top of my day job and the goats).
Several months ago, I did a PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) treatment at the Virginia Spine Institute to treat a side effect (SI Joint Dysfunction) of my original fusion and get some relief. To say it was a success is an understatement. My body has responded so well to the PRP treatment that I see a light at the end of this 4+ year journey of pain - and I truly believe it lies in REGENERATIVE MEDICINE.
Today, I am faced with a choice between a regenerative, not-covered-by-insurance, minimally invasive, highly praised stem cell treatment -- or -- another fusion (this time many more levels that impact mobility greatly). The fusion, a $250K+ procedure that insurance does cover (crazy, right?) will most certainly lead me down the path of so many "failed surgery" back pain sufferers who trade one problem for another. Have surgery to fix one, and develop another.
The stem cell treatment, on the other hand, puts my body on the path to heal itself and my doctors believe it is the absolute best move I can make for my future. Instead of my discs degenerating, they will be REGENERATING. There's a chance that I can stave off major surgery for decades to come. The only problem is that the insurance companies haven't caught up on this regenerative, cutting-edge stuff yet. So the procedure is $10,000 out of pocket. Oof.
I'm going to find a way to get these stem cells no matter what, but it would be a hell of a lot easier with a little financial help. Every contribution will help, no matter how small.
If I've given your kids' fundraisers along the way, bought their girl scout cookies, not charged you for eggs, cooked a meal for you, spoke at your event for free, helped you get a job, contributed to a cause you care about.... anything - please consider paying it forward.
This is a "make it or break it" moment in my life and I wouldn't ask if it weren't the most important thing I can do for my future.
- Pamela Hess
- Matthew Forsyth
- Cheryl DeGeorge
Deborah Lakowicz Dramby
Shenandoah Retreat, VA