Restoring An Old Classic
Tom Hotchkiss

“This body of mine was a wreck, and if it weren’t for Dr. Khalaf, I’d probably be in a wheelchair right now.”

Pain management techniques get you back on the move

Of the dozens of classic cars that Tom Hotchkiss restored across his 35 years as a body shop owner, the one he’s most proud of is a “Mosport Green” 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe with olive green interior.

“They only made three with that color combination, and the one I restored was sold through (automobile auction house) Barrett Jackson for $126,000,” Tom explains. “That tells me I did a pretty good job on the restoration.”

Tom has also brought vintage glory back to several other Corvettes and some Ford Thunderbirds that fetched six-figure bids at auctions. But Tom didn’t limit himself to restoring classic cars.

“For fun, I used to run an alcohol dragster; that’s one of those long, skinny race cars,” he says. “The fastest I got to was 168 mph in five seconds. I also did a lot of motorcycle riding up hills and things like that. And let me tell you, that kind of stuff will wreck your body.”

It sure wrecked Tom’s. Now 70, Tom retired just as he planned at age 55. As a result of all his work and play, he spent the first 10 years of retirement fighting chronic pain in his back, neck, groin, shoulders and elbows.

“When you work in a body shop the way I did, you’re going to wear out all of your joints, and that’s what happened to me,” Tom laments. “Driving those dragsters and riding those motorcycles played a part in it, of course. I did some surgeries.

“I had a hernia operation several years back and wound up developing a bunch of scar tissue that was rubbing against a nerve. Add it all up and I was in pretty bad shape, so bad that I had to give up the motorcycle and stop going to the drag races.”

Tom succeeded in fighting through pain for several years, but he eventually sought medical help for his back. Three doctors told him he would need surgery, but that idea didn’t sit well with Tom.

Adamant about avoiding surgery, Tom sought a recommendation from yet another doctor. This one suggested he visit Majid R. Khalaf, MD, an interventional pain management specialist and founder of Spine & Joint Treatment Center.

“Disruption on the Highway”

Dr. Khalaf specializes in minimal and interventional treatments and procedures for pain. During his first visit with Tom, he conducted a thorough examination, studied Tom’s MRIs and x-rays, and learned about his neck, shoulder, back and other chronic pain.

Because Tom’s back was the most pressing issue, Dr. Khalaf chose to treat that first. He did so by performing a transforaminal epidural injection, which is designed to alleviate pain by treating the root of irritated nerves in the spine.

During this procedure, the epidural space is accessed from the side of the body rather than the back. This allows the physician to target particular nerve roots with a medicinal cocktail that leads to better, longer-lasting results.

The long-term success rates with transforaminal epidural injections run between 71 and 84 percent, and Tom is among those who achieved an extended benefit from the procedure.

“When I first went to see Dr. Khalaf and I told him that three doctors told me I needed surgery on my back, he said he could possibly have me out of my pain in three months,” Tom remembers. “And he did it. I’m telling you, this guy is fantastic.”

The work he did on Tom’s neck also earned the doctor plaudits. For that area, Dr. Khalaf used a series of nerve blocks. He then followed up by performing radiofrequency ablation on those nerves. 

During radio frequency ablation, radio waves are used to produce heat that is delivered through a probe to targeted nerves. The heat creates a spot on the nerve that impedes the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

The nerve blocks, three on each side of the neck, were performed more or less as a test to determine the treatment’s efficacy. Once the nerve blocks proved effective, Dr. Khalaf  proceeded with the ablation procedure, which has a longer-lasting effect.

“When you perform a radiofrequency ablation, the heat creates something like a disruption on the highway that the pain travels along,” Dr. Khalaf explains. “The disruption keeps the pain from running from one end of that highway to the other and provides pain relief for a period that can be anywhere from six months to a year or more.”

That “disruption” will eventually mend, so the pain can come back, but the procedure can be repeated, Dr. Khalaf points out. Tom, in fact, had the procedure done again about six months after he first received it, but not because his pain had returned. He was actually feeling so good that he asked for a second ablation to ensure he continued to reap the benefits of the treatment.

Your Mother Should Know

The treatments on Tom’s back and neck have greatly improved his quality of life and allowed him to return to riding his motorcycle. However, there were still other painful areas that needed to be addressed.

One was Tom’s groin, where pain slowly cropped up years after he underwent prostate surgery. The result of a buildup of scar tissue, the groin pain was alleviated through a nerve isolation procedure. 

“I called up Dr. Khalaf’s office one day and told them I was in this terrible pain,” Tom remembers. “The nurse said, OK, come to the office right now. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, who gets in to see the doctor that fast?

“When I go to the office, Dr. Khalaf took me in right away and said, Tom, this is going to hurt. I said, It can’t hurt any more than what I’m feeling right now because I’m struggling just to get up to go to the bathroom.

“So, he gives me this injection through my hip and up into my groin, and, yeah, it hurt a little bit. But by the next day, I was able to get up and move around again just like always. And I’ve been going good ever since then thanks to him.”

Tom’s elbow pain was the result of tendinitis, which Dr. Khalaf treated with another injection that relieved the inflammation causing the pain. Like all the other treatments, this one also worked wonders for Tom.

“This body of mine was a wreck, and if it weren’t for Dr. Khalaf, I’d probably be in a wheelchair right now,” Tom enthuses. “He’s been a godsend to me. I think so much of him that I would recommend him to my own mother.

“You can’t say anything better about someone than that, and one of the great things about him is that he treats you like he would want to be treated. He’s just a regular guy, and when he explains things, he does it in a way that anyone can understand.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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