New Generation

Regenerative stem cell therapy relieves disabling knee pain without surgery.

The arrival on the internet of websites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com and MyHeritage.com has helped turn genealogy into the second most popular hobby in America. Eighty-two-year-old Lydia Pain is among those caught up in the craze.

Photos by Jordan Pysz.

Lydia Pain

“It’s fascinating,’’ Lydia declares. “I recently found out that my family actually has its roots in Greece, Italy and Spain and that someone way back was a privateer, which is like a pirate who’s licensed to hold up merchant ships on the high seas during a war.”

The wife of a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, Lydia’s passion for researching the family trees of friends and other family members has replaced the passion she once had for gardening, which remains the number one hobby in the country.

“Gardening used to be my favorite hobby, but I had to give that up a couple of years ago,’’ Lydia says. “I say I gave it up because of my age, but I had some knee problems that made it hard for me to get up and down and made gardening difficult.”

Gardening wasn’t the only activity that became difficult for Lydia. Her knee pain also made it hard for her to climb stairs and eventually made walking more of a chore than it should be. At one point, she was literally bedridden by her pain.

“My husband purchased a walker for me, but even with the walker, the pain was so intense, I couldn’t do anything,’’ Lydia relates. “I was probably in bed for two weeks before I finally built up the courage to do something about it.”

What held Lydia back from seeking medical attention was her suspicion she would be told the problem could only be corrected through knee replacement surgery. She wasn’t surprised then when the first doctor she visited suggested just that.

Largely because of her age and the time required for recovery, Lydia was unwilling to go through surgery. As a result, she began looking for an alternative. She found it while reading a copy of Florida Health Care News.

“I was looking through the paper and saw an article about him and his practice,” Lydia says of Erick A. Grana, MD, of Regenerative Orthopedic Institute. “After reading the article, I was intrigued by his work and the success he’s had.

“After that, I started researching him a little more, and the more I researched him, the more I learned things that made me comfortable with him. I learned, for example, that Dr. Grana was a professor at Baylor University in Texas.

“My brother taught there for a while, too, and that was a selling point for me. Since I had someone in my own family who had taught at the same university he had, I felt good about him and decided to see if he could help me.”

New Age Specialty

Dr. Grana specializes in regenerative medicine and treats patients with a nonsurgical technique called stem cell therapy. This therapy uses the patient’s own specialized stem cells to promote the growth of new tissue in joints ravaged by arthritis or injury.

“Regenerative medicine treats disease and injuries by harnessing the body’s own healing powers,’’ Dr. Grana explains. “The natural healing process is accelerated by a combination of growth factors and bioactive cells in the form of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

“This process results in a safe, effective treatment, and unlike traditional surgery, which can result in blood loss, scarring and long, painful recovery periods, stem cell therapy requires only injections into the damaged joint.

“It also offers a much quicker recovery than surgery. Typically, patients begin to feel a noticeable decrease in pain after six weeks.”

Stem cell therapy is autologous, meaning it utilizes stem cells, PRP and growth factors taken from the patient’s own body. Using the patient’s own cells eliminates the chances of reactive side effects or rejection.

“I just marveled at the whole thing because it’s such a simple procedure compared to the replacement surgery, and it gets even better results.” – Lydia

Stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow or fat, while the PRP is taken from the patient’s own blood. The harvested stem cells are separated through a centrifuge and injected into the painful area to stimulate the regeneration of damaged tissue and the healing of tendons, ligaments, joints or spinal discs.

“When I was first introduced to stem cell therapy, I recognized its tremendous potential for patients who would otherwise have limited treatment options for pain relief,” Dr. Grana discloses. “Patients with osteoarthritis, in particular, have very few choices other than surgery when the condition advances and damages the joint.

“Since surgery has potential complications, when we treat arthritic joints without surgery, patients do much better. Not only can we relieve the patient’s pain, but we can also reverse some of the damage done by the osteoarthritis. This is accomplished by regenerating the cartilage and connective tissues in and around the joint area.”

Dr. Grana has developed a system for the delivery of stem cells and PRP into the pain generators in and around joints such as the knees, shoulders and hips. It’s called RegenaJoint.

He also developed a similar system to treat the spine called RegenaSpine. RegenaJoint and RegenaSpine are both minimally invasive procedures that are performed right in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. Patients typically resume normal activities immediately following the procedure.

Marvelous Outcome

Lydia first went to see Dr. Grana two years ago. Though the doctor she first visited told her she had no cartilage left in her knees, she was confident there was enough left to make her a candidate for stem cell therapy. Dr. Grana confirmed her belief.

Photos by Jordan Pysz.

Lydia Pain

“I had done my homework and thought I understood that there is almost always a little bit of cartilage left that can grow,’’ she says. “That’s what I was aiming for, and when Dr. Grana said there was, I said, Great, let’s go ahead with the injections.

After going through the extraction process, which she describes as simple and painless, Lydia eventually received stem cell injections in both knees. She returned about a month later for a second injection in each knee. Her pain began to disappear soon thereafter.

“After I received the injections, it was like a miracle had happened,’’ Lydia exudes. “I was in pain for so long, but I have now been pain free going on two years. I do walk with a cane when walking long distances, but that’s because I’m afraid of falling, not because of pain.

“The pain is truly gone, and that’s the most important thing because pain is very aging. It makes you not want to do things, but Dr. Grana took care of that. I have to tell you, he is so nice, and he answered all the questions I had.

“He explained everything about the procedure so well, and he really knows what he’s doing. As for me, I just marveled at the whole thing because it’s such a simple procedure compared to the replacement surgery, and it gets even better results.

“I was so impressed that I even encouraged my son, who is fifty-five and has some knees that are in very bad shape, to have it. He did, and he’s thrilled with the outcome, just like I am.”

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