“Such a Blessing”
City Mission Offers Drug-free Pain Relief to Residents
The waiting room was full, almost overflowing with City Mission residents waiting to get relief from their pain. Every Wednesday, the City Mission Medical Center becomes the Drug-free Pain Management Clinic, where residents receive drug-free pain treatments from licensed medical professionals.
“Our goal is to help people manage their pain,” said Cyndi Urbanowicz, a retired flight nurse and one of the medical volunteers at the clinic. “Unfortunately, most of the residents we see have chronic pain. We’re helping to decrease their pain and other symptoms.” Sadly, the need for a drug-free pain management clinic like the one at City Mission is overwhelming. More than 30% of all Americans have some form of acute or chronic pain, and pain-relieving opioids are now the most commonly-prescribed class of medications in the United States.
Dave, a current City Mission resident, comes to the clinic every week for relief from his chronic neck pain. “It’s just such a blessing,” Dave said. “When I think of what City Mission is providing for me here, it brings tears to my eyes.”
When Dave was in high school, he was a star athlete, earning a baseball scholarship to college. In his Senior year, he blew out his knee, which required extensive surgery. “My knee has never been the same,” he said. “It still gives me trouble to this day.” Unfortunately, a few years later, his health deteriorated even further. He started experiencing pain, stiffness, and loss of motion in his neck. “It was very painful just doing basic things,” he said. “That’s really what got my addiction rolling.” To combat the pain of the degenerative spine disorder that was slowly fusing together the vertebrae in Dave’s neck, his doctor prescribed pain-relieving opioids. As his condition declined, he needed more and more drugs to keep up with the pain. Eventually, the prescribed medication stopped working altogether, and he turned to street drugs.
His addiction caused him to lose his job, his home, and what was left of his family. Sadly, Dave’s story is all too common. In 2016, American healthcare providers wrote 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications, which is a rate of over 66 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Americans. In that same year, more than 40% of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescription opioids. This is a serious and a growing problem in our country and our community. The drug-free pain management clinic is one of City Mission’s newest ways to fightback.
Thankfully, for Dave, he came to City Mission a little over a year ago. He has been clean for sixteen months and, as a Resident Assistant, has become a trusted and responsible part of the City Mission team. When the Drug-free Pain Management Clinic opened several months ago, Dave finally began to get the pain relief he desperately needed. “I struggle,” he said. “It can be miserable some days. And I have trouble sleeping nearly every night. I’ll be exhausted, but I just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep.”
“But,” he continued. “the best nights of sleep I get are after my sessions at the clinic. It relaxes me so much, I’ll go to sleep almost immediately and sleep for hours. It makes a world of difference.” Dave receives several different types of treatment at the Clinic including physical therapy, positional release therapy, Alpha-stim, and prayer.
First, he goes to physical therapy, administered by Dr. Nathan Romesburg,who owns Romesburg Physical Therapy and Sports Fitness in Washington. For Dave, Dr. Romesburg, who volunteers his services at the Mission, focuses on stretching and exercising his neck, working to relieve pain and restore range of motion.
Next, Dave moves to Positional Release Therapy with Dr. Paula Turocy, who is the Director of Pre-Medical and Health Professions Programs at Duquesne University. She volunteers her time every Wednesday to provide a drug-free alternative therapy. The treatment works, she explains, by “moving the body into positions of comfort” which naturally“‘turns down’ the intensity of activity in the pain receptors in the body.”
After that, Dave undergoes Alpha-Stim Therapy administered by Cyndi Urbanowicz, who was one of the creators of the City Mission Drug-free Pain Management Clinic’s treatment program. Alpha-Stim therapy applies a very low-level current of electricity to the site of the pain, which can regulate the signals within nerve cells to create lasting and significant pain relief. “Dave is our spokesman for the Alpha-Stim,” said Urbanowicz. “He tells everybody about it. The biggest difference I see the treatment making for him is his range of motion, but in addition to relieving pain, the alpha-stim reduces anxiety and helps with better sleep. Lack of sleep can make everything worse.”
Urbanowicz is working to submit a formal request to get a personal Alpha-Stim device donated for Dave, so he can use it whenever he needs relief, which will be a great thing for him, because the more he uses the device, the more effective it will be to treat his pain. She explained, “If Dave had access to his own personal device, he would be able to reduce his pain throughout the entire week and he’d be able to have consistent good sleep.” A personal Alpha-Stim device could be a revelation for Dave in his struggle against the chronic pain he has suffered with for years.
Finally, Dave receives spiritual facilitation from Cathy Orient, who prays over each resident between their treatments. Orient records Dave’s requests in a notebook and promises to pray for him throughout the week. She takes a moment during Dave’s treatment to pray for him to get the rest he needs.
All of these treatments are effective for a wide range of ages and conditions. They have no significant side effects and offer zero threat of addiction. They are also cumulative. “At first, the relief only lasted a day or so,” Dave explained. “Now that I’ve been going a few months, it’s lasting into the weekend. Hopefully, at some point, it will last from week to week.”
Dave is rebuilding his life physically and spiritually at City Mission. “I was in tip top shape my whole life,” he said. “Things just slowly got worse and worse for me, but I believe it all happened for a reason. I’m grateful to be here at the Mission. I hope that some day I’ll be able to work a full-time job and contribute to society again.”
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