Auto Repair Shot

Stem cell injections stimulate body’s own healing process.

Over the course of the past 20 years, more people have moved out of California than in. As Lee Figliuolo will tell you, the high cost of living in the Golden State is one of the biggest reasons for the exodus.

Lee’s photo courtesy of Lee Figliuolo.

Lee Figliuolo

“It’s ridiculously expensive to live in California, and it’s only getting worse,” says Lee, who left California for Florida in 2003. “I had a good position and a great income there, but it’s a lot easier living here.”
Lee’s move to Florida came in the wake of his retirement from a career in telecommunications and data processing. That career began in New York and took him across the country, but a move to Florida had been in the works for years.

“I’m an East Coast person to begin with – born and raised in New York,” Lee says. “For about 10 years before I retired, my wife and I talked about where we should retire. We’d visited Palm Coast several times and liked it, so that became the spot.

“Now I keep busy staying in shape by biking, exercising regularly and playing golf. I’m just mediocre at golf but enjoy playing it, so I get out as often as I can two or three times a week, if possible.”
Running was once a part of Lee’s regular exercise routine as well, but a few years ago, knee pain forced him to slow down and simply walk at a good pace. In time, even walking became difficult for Lee, who recently celebrated his 77th birthday.

“The problem was arthritis,” Lee explains. “I had it in both knees, but the left knee was worse than the right. I went to a doctor, who told me the space was closing up in the joint and that I would soon be needing a knee replacement in the left knee.

“I understood exactly what he was saying, because I was definitely having problems with that knee, both of them actually. It never got so bad that I had to give up anything that I was doing, but I definitely had to make some adjustments.

“Probably the worst thing that happened is that my left knee would occasionally buckle, especially if I was walking down a flight of stairs or down a hill. That was a bit of a problem, especially on a cruise we went on a couple years ago.

“I’m one of those people who would rather take the stairs instead of the elevator, but on that cruise, my knee buckled on me a couple of times going down the stairs. So, there I was like an old man holding on to the bannister.”

It was after that cruise that Lee decided the time had come to get the replacement surgery. He was all but resigned to it until he spotted an advertisement that altered his thinking.

“The ad was for a seminar about stem cell therapy. I thought, I should at least look into this before I just go and have a knee replacement like so many people do,” Lee says. “So I went to the seminar, and I found it very interesting.”

The seminar was sponsored by Coastal Integrative Healthcare, which is dedicated to serving its community by providing pain relief for patients through the use of advanced medical equipment, technology and stem cell therapy.

Encouraged by what he learned at the seminar, Lee made an appointment to visit the clinic a few days later. During that visit, Lee learned he was “a good candidate” for stem cell therapy and decided to give it a try.

Body’s Building Blocks

Stem cells are the foundation cells that grow body tissue. When stem cells are injected into damaged tissue, they support the natural healing process by regenerating that tissue and stimulating the body’s repair mechanisms.

Many in the medical community, including those at the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine, consider stem cell therapy, or regenerative medicine, the future of medicine.

“It’s definitely on the leading edge of medical technology,” states Timothy Steflik, DC, of Coastal Integrative Healthcare. “It’s a great alternative to surgery. It regenerates the body instead of trying to fix it or cover up a problem with surgery.

“The real beauty of it is that it is a one-and-done, in-office procedure that takes about 15 minutes to complete and needs no anesthesia. It’s a simple injection of the cells that are cryopreserved in our office. For some patients, we do a color ultrasound to guide the injection, because we need to be very specific where the cells are placed. Once the cells are injected, patients need time to heal, but they can return to normal activities right away.”

Stem cell therapy can be used to treat arthritis, muscle or tendon tears, and even peripheral neuropathy almost anywhere in the body, including knees and shoulders, ankles and wrists, hips, back and neck,
Dr. Steflik educates.

However, not all patients are good candidates. For example, patients with a tear of more than 50 percent of the rotator cuff or complete meniscus tears in the knee would be encouraged to first try other options.

Back on Course

After researching the modality, Lee tried stem cell therapy in the hope it would alleviate the need for surgery on his left knee. He received his first injection in 2018 and a booster in 2019, and is more than pleased with the results.

“I would say that my right knee is 100 percent,” Lee reports. “I still get a little pain here and there, but nothing that really bothers me. As for my left knee, which was the worst of the two, it doesn’t buckle anymore, so I’m fine. I can play golf and do anything I want.

“In fact, I was so pleased with how the injections in my knees came out that I’ve been back to Coastal Integrative Healthcare several times this past year for treatment on my shoulders. I had a knot in my clavicle. It was hurting like crazy, and they did some massage and ultrasound on it, and now it’s feeling like normal again. So I really couldn’t be more pleased with the care I’ve received there.

“Coastal Integrative Healthcare is a very well-run organization, very professional and the people are great. Everyone is very friendly, and I like them very much. I absolutely recommend them, and I recommend stem cell therapy. It’s worked very well for me.”

The Road Back

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Joe has become a fan of stem cell therapy.

Ever since he was old enough to get behind the wheel, Joe Ocello has been a car guy. A master mechanic, he repairs vehicles, tinkers with them and has even collected a few, including a 1951 Ford pickup he cherishes above all others.

“It’s only got 36,000 original miles on it, which is kind of neat,” Joe says of the classic pickup. “I also have a couple of motorcycles and some other stuff, so pretty much anything mechanical, I enjoy tinkering with.

“I’ve always been that way. I’ve worked on cars all my life, and I love my field of work. I’ve always been on the repair side of the business, but I’ve also owned gas stations, repair shops and towing businesses.

“My towing company towed cars for the police department for 35 years. My father did the same thing, and now my sons have taken over and they’re doing it. We’ve done that through three generations now, and you don’t see that too much these days.”

At 65, Joe considers himself only “semi-retired.” His passion for cars and working on them is so great that he’d like to maintain that status for years to come. A recent procedure to correct a lingering back problem will help make that possible.

“I started experiencing back problems when I was about 30,” Joe explains. “I was never a stand-behind-the-counter kind of guy, and because of that and my line of work, my back problems got progressively worse over the years.

“It was all that wrenching and lifting and working in weird positions – hovering over cars or working under them – that took a toll. My lower back, down by the tailbone, is where most of the damage was done, and it really made life difficult. I would say that on most days, by 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I was totally wiped out from dealing with the pain. It was exhausting, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sit down. And even then, I’d spend the night just moaning.

“Even walking was a problem, because if I had a day where I had to do a lot of walking, the next day would be terrible. I’d be in so much pain that I could barely move, and I always had this grinding-like feeling inside my back.”

Joe’s pain became virtually unbearable a few years ago. At that time, he briefly contemplated laser spine surgery, but doctors could not guarantee the surgery would provide a long-term solution, so he passed.

A New Jersey resident who spends his winters in Florida, Joe began researching other options. One possibility he discovered was stem cell therapy, and he soon attended a seminar to learn whether it might provide some relief.

“I learned at the seminar that stem cell therapy was mostly being used to repair knees and shoulders,” Joe remembers. “They really weren’t touching the back yet because they had no statistics to prove it would do anything for the back.

“My wife has a cousin who is an orthopedic surgeon in Tennessee, and he’s been practicing with stem cells for the past 10 years, so I started keeping in touch with him to see how the concept was progressing.
“I also kept an eye on it myself, and in 2019, I found this place called Coastal Integrative Healthcare and called them to see if they were doing stem cell therapy for the back yet. They told me they were, so I made an appointment.”

Walking 10 Miles A Day

Joe’s first visit to Coastal Integrative Healthcare came in August 2019. During that visit, he was given a thorough examination and had x-rays of his back taken that showed damage in the lower back and a lack of proper spacing between discs in other areas of the spine.

The damage wasn’t so terrible, though, that it could not be alleviated through stem cell therapy. When Joe was told it could reduce his pain by as much as 50 percent, he decided to go for it. He received four injections of stem cells into his back and shortly after began a physical therapy regimen back home in New Jersey. The first test of the treatment came in November, when Joe and his wife visited Italy.

“I was already starting to feel better by then, but I knew I was going to be walking a lot on that trip,” Joe says. “As it turns out, we probably walked about 10 miles a day, and they were tough miles. In Italy, you’re walking on a lot of cobblestone streets and sidewalks, you’re walking up and down hills, but I had no problems at all. In fact, it turns out that was probably the best physical therapy I could have had.

“That’s what the doctors at Coastal Integrative Healthcare told me when I returned a few months later for my follow-up visit. They said all that walking was actually good for me, and I can’t disagree because I have absolutely no pain in my back now.

“It’s incredible, because for so long I was extremely limited. I couldn’t walk very long or very far without having a lot of pain the next day. Now I can walk as far as I want and for as long as I want and not feel a thing.”

Joe says the grinding-like feeling he used to get has disappeared, allowing him to resume the active lifestyle he prefers.

“I’m being smart about what I do,” Joe confirms. “I’m not running around doing things like I’m a bionic man or anything. But I can do all my normal daily activities and all the activities I like to do without pain. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Joe is not just a fan of stem cell therapy, he’s also become a fan of Dr. Steflik and the entire staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare. He lauds them for their thoroughness and professionalism.

“They’re great people,” Joe expounds. “They discuss everything with you and answer all your questions. They tell you all the pros and cons of the therapy, so you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

“I like that they’re very realistic about the therapy. They don’t give you false hopes or anything like that. They tell you if this should work really well for you, but they allow you to make the decision based on the information you receive.

“Because of all that, I’ve already recommended other people to them. My son-in-law is a young guy in his 40s with a lot of damage from different things, and just like I’ve told others, I told him, Go see them. What have you got to lose?

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