A woman from Essex has been all but cured from a spinal condition she had for nearly 40 years after receiving pioneering treatment from a top London clinic which involves ‘charging herself like a mobile phone’.
Kim Carpenter has Degenerative Disc Disease – a condition which affects around 30 million people every year and involves the discs collapsing and causing the facet joints in the vertebrae to rub against one other causing pain and stiffness.
The 60-year-old has suffered with the back problem since the age of 22 and around eight years ago the situation became so bad that the only way she could go upstairs, was on all fours.
In 2010, Mrs. Carpenter and her husband, Brian had a Stiltz Home Lift installed in their four-bedroom detached home in Ongar which enabled her to move independently between floors at the touch of a button rather than having to struggle on and off an old-fashioned stairlift.
Just over a year ago, however, Mrs. Carpenter’s back condition became so painful that she contacted the London Spinal Clinic in a desperate plea for help. It proved perfect timing as the Harley Street-based centre was weeks away from trialling their new Spinal Cord Stimulator implant. Mrs. Carpenter readily agreed, becoming one of the trial’s first volunteers – and it has worked wonders.
Mrs. Carpenter, who was forced to give up working as a chiropodist at the age of just 35, said: “I was desperate. Degenerative Disc Disease was taking over my life. I’ve had loads of operations and my spinal surgeon had retired so I needed to find a solution. I spoke to the London Spinal Clinic to see if there was anything they could do and they asked me if I would like to be one of their ‘guinea pigs’ for the Spinal Cord Stimulator. They were very confident it would work and I was willing to try anything. I couldn’t stand it any longer.”
The SCS device had to be surgically placed under Mrs. Carpenter’s skin and works by sending mild electric currents from a pulse generator to the nerve fibres of her spinal cord via a small wire. “It works very much like a tens machine,” said Mrs. Carpenter. “It confuses the signals going to the brain and stimulates the nerves in the area of my back where I feel the pain most. It has made me so much more mobile and has taken away at least 80 per cent of the discomfort I was feeling before. The only thing is I have to ‘charge’ the stimulator for about half an hour every morning and evening – a bit like a mobile phone. Once the battery level is charged, I can move around again.”
Mrs.Carpenter still does not feel comfortable enough to walk up the stairs and continues to use her freestanding Stiltz Home Lift which travels through the floor from living room to master bedroom on self-supporting rails, plugging straight into a normal domestic power socket.
The Essex couple have recently invested in a second Stiltz; a newer and even more stylish ‘Star Trek-like’ model installed in the home. The homelift resides in a recent extension they have had built connecting an extensive library room to an upstairs mezzanine area.
Mrs. Carpenter said: “I was never keen on a stairlift as they take up too much room on the staircase and I never fancied moving to bungalow because I always wanted a house with a swimming pool. We’ve got the rid of the pool now but the homelift has helped make our home fully accessible for me and, along with the spinal stimulator, has improved my life immeasurably.”