'Pain pacemaker' gives Paul his life back

Paul Lloyd, spinal cord stimulator patient. He is pictured at the coast, with the sea behind him, wearing a navy polo shirt and light trousers. He has sunglasses on his head.

Published on 6 September 2021

A grandfather who contemplated suicide because of crippling pain is now back at work full time thanks to treatment by East Kent Hospitals staff.

Paul Lloyd, 61, from Whitstable, was left in agony when his spine started collapsing, and surgery to try and stabilise it failed to help.

Despite taking handfuls of strong painkillers every day, he was unable to walk or sit comfortably and relied on his wife to help with basic tasks such as getting dressed.

Paul, who works as a retail security officer, said: “The pain was completely destroying my life.

“I was on the verge of taking all the tablets and just finishing it all because of the amount of pain I was in all the time.

“I couldn’t tolerate my grandchildren being around and if anyone said the wrong thing I bit their head off because I just couldn’t cope with it all.”

Paul, who is sharing his story to mark International Pain Month in September, was referred to the pain team at East Kent Hospitals, where specialist staff said he would be a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulator.

The stimulator is a small device like a pacemaker, implanted underneath the skin and attached to two wires that lead to the spinal cord. It is programmed by medical staff and sends electrical impulses to the spinal cord that can relieve pain. Patients have a remote control and can change the settings and turn it up or down or target particular areas of the body.

Paul said: “I jumped at the chance. When they put it in, it was like someone had given me a new lease of life.

“I could walk again, I could get dressed, everything suddenly got easier.

“As soon as they switched it on I could feel it tingling and it was like someone had attached two new legs to my body.”

Paul was able to return to work six months after the device was implanted and said he would be forever grateful to the NHS team for giving him his life back.

He said: “Before the procedure I was in constant agony, then it was like someone flicked a switch.

“It was such a relief to know someone was going to try and help me, and the team were absolutely fantastic. They are there whenever you need them and will always help if you have any problems.

“It hasn’t cured the problem and I know the pain is still there but it disguises it so I can lead a normal life.

“I would recommend the spinal cord stimulator to anyone – it’s a great piece of kit and it has been an amazing relief to me. I can turn it up if I am in pain and adjust it if I need to and it’s really given me my life back.”

East Kent Hospitals is the only NHS Trust in the Kent, Surrey or Sussex to offer the treatment, with the nearest alternative centres in London, Southampton or Essex.

The Trust has specialist pain clinics at the Kent and Canterbury, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and William Harvey Hospitals, offering a range of treatments, and cases are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team including expert nurses, a psychologist, occupational therapist and consultants.

Specialist nurse Tina Elliott said the team was able to offer hope to patients who had previously been told nothing could be done.

She said: “It is so rewarding when we can help people like Paul manage their pain and get back to living their lives.

“Chronic pain is debilitating but thanks to advances in technology and understanding we are finding more ways to help even more people.”

For more information on the pain team, visit https://www.ekhuft.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/services/chronic-pain/