I Can't to I Can: Carolynn Goerke
After finding a team that would listen about her chronic pain at Shepherd Center, Carolynn Goerke was able to better manage her symptoms.
“Here’s what we’re going to do.”
Those words were spoken by James Liadis, M.D., staff physiatrist in the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center, in December 2018. And they were words Carolynn Goerke had been waiting to hear for years.
Diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome at 17, Carolynn has been dealing with debilitating chronic pain for half of her life, the worst of which has been in the last six years. The condition became so severe that she could not move her left arm, hold her head up independently, or walk unassisted. As a result, she wore a neck collar and used a wheelchair. It was also extremely painful to be touched, which made dressing herself and hugging her husband, James, impossible.
She said on the pain scale of one to 10, she “lived” at the edge of 10. For years, Carolynn and James, who just celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary, searched for answers and relief, consulting with countless doctors. The only thing that got them through this difficult journey was their strong Catholic faith.
“Nobody could tell me what was wrong, so they were limited in what they could offer in terms of a solution,” Carolynn says. She underwent several radio-frequency ablations – a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to treat chronic pain – and she tried numerous medications. Often the pain was relieved temporarily, but it inevitably returned worse than before. Some doctors said there was nothing they could do.
Then, she found a neurologist who advised her to go to Shepherd Center, which she did in December 2018.
Dr. Liadis was familiar with what Carolynn was experiencing and offered immediate treatment options.
“Just having someone listen and understand what I was going through was amazing,” she says. “He had more in his arsenal than other doctors we saw, and he offered us hope.”
She was put on ketamine infusions and eventually started physical and speech therapy. Now, nearly four years later, the pain is being managed, she’s out of the neck brace, has regained use of her left arm, and can hug James and hold his hand. She admits progress has been slow, but just seeing any improvement has been motivating.
“It’s like I have been stuck on the top of a mountain for years,” she says. “Now I’m coming down slowly. Each step is significant. I still have a lot more to go, but thanks to Shepherd Center, we are finally on the right path.”
Written by Sara Baxter
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.