Relieving Pain, Restoring Lives

Treatments bring “freedom” to Army veteran.

Steve Pena’s 18 years of military service took a huge toll on his body. He can’t recite the details of every injury he suffered.
The last one caused severe and permanent damage to his spinal cord, ended his Army career and threatened his independence.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Steve spends quality time with his dog, Dolce.

Steve will say only that he hurt himself while in Germany doing physical activity that involved “reaching, pushing and pulling.” Spinal fusion surgery performed years later only worsened his condition, he asserts, leaving him 100 percent disabled and with excruciating pain in his back, neck and shoulders.
“I’ve got numbness down my whole left side,” shares Steve, who walks with a limp. “I’ve got limitations on how far I can walk and on what I can pick up. I can’t lift a gallon of milk or tea out of the refrigerator; my wife has to get it because it’s just too painful for me.”
Driving presented another challenge because he had difficulty turning the steering wheel and moving his head to look to either side or behind him.
Prescription pain medicine makes Steve very ill, even in low dosages. He needed relief and “to be more functional.” He finally found a path to both goals through a VA referral to Regional Rehab in Spring Hill, owned by Charles and Christine Donley.

Personalized Approach

“Patients come to us with a diagnosis from a doctor and, many times, results from x-rays or an MRI,” Charles explains. “I’ve been a therapist for thirty-four years. I perform the initial evaluations and compare clinical findings to the imaging results and set up specific programs for patients.”
Deep tissue therapy with a Class IV therapeutic laser has been an essential treatment tool for Steve and many others. Laser therapy uses specific wavelengths of light (red and near-infrared) to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal, promoting faster healing, reducing discomfort, increasing blood circulation and decreasing swelling.
Steve benefits from a regular regimen of laser treatments, heat application and Hivamat 200 deep oscillation electrical stimulation. This form of e-stim is applied with the hands to the area of pain, swelling or to the wound to decongest the cells of the affected area.

A New Freedom

After an extended course of treatment at Regional Rehab, Steve reports, he has more mobility and less pain.
“I can do things without wincing every time I move,” he remarks. “When you get that relief, it feels like somebody opened up a new freedom for you. You can drive to the hardware store and do other tasks.”
Steve feels comfortable in the family atmosphere the Donleys have created and lauds Charles for his caring demeanor.
“He listens to what you’re telling him as to where the pain is coming from, and what has happened to you in the past, so he can figure out how to treat you,” Steve praises. “I’ve seen so many doctors who just want to hand you another painkiller, pat you on the back and say, We know it’s not helping much, but there you go.
Now that he’s found a therapy program that helps immensely, Steve has pushed the VA to approve continued treatment at Regional Rehab.
“My condition is not going away,” he concludes, “but any relief I can get is gold.”

Laser Heals Faster

Regional Rehab has helped other military veterans become productive after suffering life-changing injuries. Michaelle Goodrich, who served seven years in the Navy, has benefited from laser and other therapies after a 2010 car accident and, more recently, a venomous spider bite.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Charles supervises Michaelle’s spinal decompression treatment.

Michaelle suffered herniated and bulging discs in her back and neck when a motorist sped at more than 60 mph through a red light and plowed into the driver’s side of her car. She lost her career as an emergency medical technician because she had difficulty walking and can’t repetitively lift, push or pull anything weighing more than 55 pounds.
“I was only able to walk short distances and then I had to stop and take a break,” she shares. “My legs or my back would give out on me sometimes, and I would fall.”
Thanks to Class IV laser treatments, Hivamat deep oscillation e-stim, moist heat and stretching, Michaelle hasn’t fallen in a “good while” and is “not as wobbly.”
She felt well enough last July to trim bushes in her yard. At one point, she felt a sharp sting on her right shoulder. She reached back and swatted it – and came away holding a spider. Michaelle says she recognized it as a brown recluse because she’d seen them when she lived in Texas.
Because the bite didn’t hurt for a day or two afterward, she put off seeking medical attention. But by the third day, Michaelle was in tremendous pain, which the mother of three describes as worse than childbirth, and felt a horrible pressure in her shoulder as if something was inside her trying to push its way out.
A trip to the emergency room brought little relief. And then infection set in.
“My back was infected from the top of my right shoulder down to my waist, and then from my spine over to my side,” Michaelle recounts.
The spider’s venom, even more potent than a rattlesnake’s, had caused necrosis, or tissue death, in the area around the bite.
Her doctor at the VA clinic in Brooksville opened the wound to drain it. “It felt like lava coming down my back,” shares Michaelle. She was sent directly to the VA hospital in Tampa, where she spent five days receiving antibiotics and other medical care.

Regaining Strength

Once she went home, nurses came by two to three times daily to repack and redress the wound, which had grown to four inches long, three inches wide and two to four inches deep.
“The nurses felt it would take anywhere from four to six months to heal,” Charles comments. But after Regional Rehab began treating her wound with the Class IV Deep Tissue Laser, her recovery time dropped to just over six weeks.
“Now, it looks like a tiny incision line on her shoulder blade,” he reports. “You wouldn’t know she had this massive injury. That’s how great the laser is. It’s antifungal and antibacterial and promotes healing of the still-living tissue from the inside out.”
Michaelle says she began to feel better within three weeks after beginning laser treatment and has been regaining the strength in her shoulder lost during her ordeal.
She’s returned to work, caring for adults with Down syndrome and autism, and is considering pursuing a nursing degree to supplement her Master’s in Public Administration, with an emphasis on health care management.
She’s continuing therapy for her lower back at Regional Rehab.
“The treatment I’m receiving has been wonderful,” Michaelle concludes. “I have noticed a big difference between when I started and now.”

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    • Regional Rehab

      Regional Rehab's ultimate goal is to enrich people’s lives by helping to enhance their physical and mental well being, creating an atmosphere of quality care and optimum healing with a loving touch.... Read More

    • Charles C. Donley, PT

      Charles C. Donley, PT, is director of Regional Rehab. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy, graduating cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh, PA. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and Fl... Read More