Chronic Pain Patient Finds Solace, Relief

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Maura Stine and her daughter.

A constant drumbeat of pain reverberates throughout Maura Stine’s life. Born with a debilitating disease of her connective tissue, the 40-year-old Columbia Station mother experienced frequent joint dislocations that could send her spiraling into despair.

Only Kutaiba Tabbaa, MD, of University Hospitals’ Comprehensive Pain Center at UH Parma Medical Center, working with a variety of specialists to treat the whole patient, has provided consistent relief from this steady cadence of discomfort.

“The journey I took to get here is unbelievable,” says Maura, who saw many physicians throughout the region before she found Dr. Tabbaa. “So many doctors had told me my pain was in my head. Finally, Dr. Tabbaa said the best thing you could ever hear from a doctor: ‘I believe you.’ It was a huge breakthrough.”

Growing Pains

Maura suffered from perpetual physical pain throughout her childhood. She would roll her ankles just walking down the hall in school, popping the joints out of their sockets. Not until adulthood did she discover that the hypermobility and laxity of her joints, which would result in frequent dislocations, were not normal growing pains, as she had been led to believe.

“I honestly thought everyone experienced pain like I did,” says Maura, who had grown accustomed to popping her joints back into place, from ankles and hips to clavicles, elbows and ribs. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out I have an underlying condition that causes constant pain.”

Not until age 29, through genetic testing at UH, did Maura learn that she had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare disease that affects connective tissue, including skin, joints, blood vessel walls, even scarring of internal organs. She underwent multiple surgeries, from ankle reconstruction and an appendectomy to a complete hysterectomy, just two years after giving birth to her only child.

She first found Dr. Tabbaa during his years as an established pain management physician at MetroHealth and followed him to UH. Now, through the Comprehensive Pain Center at UH Parma, she has access to array of specialists who have really helped her.

Maura now benefits from monthly novel intravenous infusions of medication and weekly aquatherapy session at the hospital’s satellite at the North Royalton Family YMCA. Robert Trager, DC, a chiropractor with Connor Integrative Health Network, provides regular adjustments. Psychologist Steven Krause, PhD, works with her on the behavioral aspects of managing chronic pain.

After years of deafening pain and a litany of doctors and treatments, Maura had arrived at answers.

A Myriad of Specialists

“Finally I feel like my body isn’t loose in space,” Maura says. “The water therapy has strengthened my core, the pain infusion relieves my joint pain for several weeks, the chiropractor helps keep my hips and pelvis in alignment, and behavioral health helps me understand how to handle the pain."

The interdisciplinary program blends the latest technologies and therapies and thoughtful medical management and behavioral health to help chronic pain patients.

“Pain management is not only a pill, an injection, surgery, therapy or an implant,” Dr. Tabbaa says. “Pain management is an art tailored to each individual by their trusted pain specialist to preserve, regain and improve quality of life, accompanied by total patient involvement and empowerment.

“Maura’s case is a true example of how the multispecialty and multidisciplinary approach to a complex chronic pain issue has helped a patient be functional in her daily life. She has a positive attitude and good outcome because of her involvement.”

Don’t Give Up

Maura’s daughter, Ava, is now in third grade. She suffers from the same syndrome, but Maura – through her own diligent efforts to find treatment – feels empowered with the tools and knowledge to help her, too.

“I credit Dr. Tabbaa with giving me my life back,” Maura says. “I encourage people who suffer from pain to be open minded about all their options. Don’t give up. Just because someone can’t see your pain doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”

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