Marilyn Blondeau had led an active life until 1997 when an accident on an icy highway just outside Regina put it all on hold. It was the first snowfall of the season and poor weather conditions caused Marilyn to hit a patch of black ice and roll her van, leaving her suspended, upside down, inside the vehicle.
Thankfully, she had no broken bones, but the accident left her with pain throughout her upper body. It was pain she didn’t have time for. Besides working, Marilyn was a busy mother with three school-aged children. Not long after her accident, she also began caring for her husband who was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I just put up with the pain and got on with life,she says.
Over the next 15 years, she got some relief from physiotherapy, massage therapy and acupuncture. Unfortunately, she remained plagued by chronic back and hip pain. Simple tasks that many of us take for granted - such as bending, reaching, climbing stairs and sitting for too long - caused discomfort.
When she could no longer tolerate the pain, she saw a specialist, who recommended facet rhizotomy, a minimally invasive technique used to treat pain sufferers at Regina General Hospital’s interventional radiology suite (IR Suite).
Interventional radiology is used as an alternative to surgery for many conditions. It can mean shorter hospital stays or eliminate the need for hospitalization altogether. About 4,000 patients are treated at the IR Suite at Regina General Hospital every year. In 2017 alone, more than 5,000 procedures were performed. This year, the IR Suite, along with other diagnostic imaging technology, is the focus of Hospitals of Regina Foundation’s fundraising campaign in support of therapeutic and diagnostic imaging.
Facet joints, located in your spine, make your back flexible so that you can bend and twist at ease. Nerves exit your spinal cord through these joints on their way to other parts of your body.
Facet rhizotomy provides pain relief by shutting off the pain signals that travel along these nerves to the brain. The procedure involves injecting a small amount of local anesthetic to anesthetize the facet joints and block the pain. A radiologist uses fluoroscopic X-ray to guide an insulated electrode with an exposed tip into the spinal area next to the nerve supplying pain to the facet joint. A current is passed through the electrode, which interrupts the transmission of pain signals.
Thanks to this non-invasive procedure, Marilyn is now enjoying retirement free from pain. She even started curling again—something she loved to do for years but thought she would never do again.
For the first time in years, I am feeling great. I am grateful to the doctors and nurses and to all the people who support the hospital. They make it possible to have the technology that helps people like me right here in the community, she says.
Diagnostic imaging plays a vital role in the detection and treatment of many diseases and illnesses. The Foundation’s investment in therapeutic and diagnostic imaging will mean our medical teams will receive updated technology and equipment to help even more patients receive a quicker diagnosis and enhanced treatment, right here at home.
“Now, when I go to the hospital, I look at the donor wall and think about all the things that these people help make possible,” she continues. “It’s extremely important for our doctors and nurses to get the support from our community in order to provide the best possible care for the people of southern Saskatchewan.”
“The wide range of diseases and organs that can be treated using interventional radiology is constantly evolving, so we expect that the number of patients who need local access to these much-needed procedures will continue to increase,” says Dino Sophocleous, president and CEO, Hospitals of Regina Foundation. "Support from our community helps ensure patients are receiving the best care and returning home to better lives."