Stick It To Arthritis

Alleviate the agony without surgery through stem cell injections.

Between her two stints as a nurse – first as an LPN and later as an RN – Betty Calcagno devoted so much time to raising her children that there was seldom time left for herself.

Betty Calcagno

Betty Calcagno

Of course, she has no regrets.

“When you’re raising four kids, your kids are your hobby,” Betty explains. “I remember heading off to bed early one night and one of them asking me, Why? I said, Because I have to get up early and feed all of you.”

Even Betty’s decision to become a registered nurse was made largely with her children in mind.

“We wanted our kids to have the best education possible, so we sent them to Catholic school,” she says. “Then we decided that we wanted to pay for them to go to college, and when you’re paying for four kids, well, you’ve got to go to work.”

Betty’s return to the workforce came at age 38. She spent the next 20 years primarily in a hospital setting before rounding out her career as a home hospice nurse.

Now 86 and well into retirement, Betty is living in a senior living community in Orange City. She moved there a couple of years ago from suburban Detroit in the hopes that the warmer Florida weather would ease her arthritis pain. It didn’t.

“I’ve been dealing with arthritis for a long time,” Betty confides. “I have it in both my knees, and it was so bad in my right hip that my doctor in Michigan wanted me to have a hip replacement. I didn’t want to do that.

“After I moved to Florida, I started to feel the pain in my back and neck. My neck was really bad. I could hardly turn or lift my head, so I always needed to twist myself to do things. And then there was my hands – oh, the arthritis in my hands was awful.

“Just grabbing and holding things was painful. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t brush my teeth or hold a glass. Opening jars and things like that was hard for me. It was all very annoying and troublesome.”

Eager to alleviate her pain but determined to avoid surgery, Betty began to look for alternative treatments for her arthritis. She found one while reading an edition of Volusia Health Care News.

“I had been reading a lot about stem cell therapy because I had a few girlfriends and a niece who knew some people who had it,” Betty explains. “I thought, If I can do that and feel a little better for however many years I have left, I’m going to do it.

“Then I saw the article in Volusia Health Care News and found out there was an office close to me that was offering regenerative medicine. I finally decided, Betty, if you’re really going to do this, here’s your chance. So, I made an appointment.”

The Body’s Building Blocks

The practice Betty read about is Coastal Integrative Healthcare, a medical center dedicated to serving the community and providing pain relief using advanced chiropractic equipment, technology and regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine uses the foundation cells that grow tissue throughout the body. When these cellular products are injected into damaged tissue, they support the natural healing process by regenerating that tissue and stimulating the body’s repair mechanisms.

Because of this regenerative nature, many in the medical community, including those at the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine, consider regenerative medicine to be the future of medicine. 

Timothy Steflik, DC, clinic director and president of Coastal Integrative Healthcare, is right there with them.

 “Regenerative medicine is definitely on the leading edge of medical technology,” Dr. Steflik educates. “It’s a great alternative to surgery because 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’s 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 administer the injection using color ultrasound to help guide us. We do that 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.”

Regenerative medicine can be used to treat arthritis, muscle or tendon tears, and peripheral neuropathy almost anywhere in the body, including knees and shoulders, ankles and wrists, hips, back and neck, Dr. Steflik details. 

Not all patients are candidates for regenerative medicine. For example, patients with a complete tear of the rotator cuff would be encouraged to try other options first. Betty was deemed a good fit.

Just Did It

“In addition to the arthritis, I also had a two-inch tear in my right shoulder and a one-inch tear in my left shoulder,” Betty points out. “I received regenerative medicine injections in my hips, neck, shoulders and hands.”

Regenerative medicine has made a big difference in Betty’s life.

Regenerative medicine has made a big difference in Betty’s life.

Betty received those injections this past summer. The improvement wasn’t immediate, she states, but within a few weeks she began to feel less pain.

“First of all, I’m standing much straighter because my neck and hips feel better,” Betty exclaims. “My hands feel a lot better, too. Sometimes, if I’ve had a busy day, my back will start to hurt, but overall I feel much better.”

Betty also went through physical therapy to help her develop more strength and balance. The combination of therapies has made a big difference in her life.

“Not every day is the same, of course, but there are many days that I feel really good, and that’s what I was hoping for,” Betty enthuses. “If these injections give me a few more years where I feel better, they’ll be worth it. A lot of people are living into their 80s and 90s, and if this can make them feel good, they should do it. That’s why I recommend these injections to anyone.

“And I definitely recommend Coastal Integrative Healthcare. Their clinic is just wonderful and everyone there is so kind and helpful. Every time I went there, we ended up laughing and having a good time. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. js
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