Pain relief under one roof started at Family Health West in 2005
Virginia Highfill, who traveled from Crawford to Fruita in search of relief for the chronic, agonizing pain in her lower back and hip, looked into the eyes of Dr. Kenneth C. Lewis on Thursday and found hope.
Lewis, a board-certified anesthesiologist who launched the Family Health West Outpatient Procedure Center, 551 Kokopelli Blvd. in Fruita, placed his hand on Highfill’s shoulder and explained the treatment she was about to undergo.
Treating the whole person is the procedure center’s mission.
Lewis’ vision for a clinic that brought many disciplines together under one roof started in 2005.
In the beginning, Lewis practiced out of two rooms with the help of a single registered nurse. Today, the center employs dozens of people who are dedicated to finding the right treatment for pain, Lewis said.
“The collaboration is what makes our clinic so effective,” he said. “When we see a new patient, we take the time to do a thorough evaluation, which includes the patient’s medical provider, a mental health expert and the expertise of the team.”
“In the medical world we tend to create a segregated approach and will refer patients if we feel our particular expertise is not suitable or effective,” said Dr. Ellen Price, physiatrist and acupuncturist, one of the collaborating doctors in the group.
“We decided that patients would benefit from having access to four different specialists under one roof, all working together to find solutions,” Price said.
“I joined the team because I realized that the former way of helping my patients could be enhanced by working with other specialists to ensure the best outcome,” said Dr. Larry Tice, a neurosurgeon in the Grand Valley for more than 30 years.
“It’s remarkable to be able to provide that kind of care and be able to react so quickly,” Tice said.
Dr. Joel Cohen, psychologist, believes the procedure center’s approach not only cares for the patient, but the patient’s support system.
“We realize that when it comes to pain, we aren’t dealing with just a physical ailment,” Cohen said. “It impacts every part of the patient, including their family and their ability to work.”
A SPECTRUM OF OPTIONS
The specialists include four doctors emphasizing active self-management strategies, including exercise, relaxation training, nutrition and counseling.
The center also offers the latest interventional pain management techniques for patients who have not responded to traditional treatments.
These techniques include epidural and joint injections, nerve blocks, trigger-point injections, spinal cord stimulators, intrathecal pump implants, acupuncture, biofeedback, and magnetic therapy, just to name a few, Lewis said.
One of the special procedures Lewis offers, spinal cord stimulation, is a type of therapy in which a patient undergoes a surgical procedure for placement of an implantable pulse generator.
Thin wires, or leads, are placed in the space above the spinal cord to target the areas of pain. The ends of the leads contain contacts which send electrical impulses to nerve fibers selectively along the spinal cord, masking the pain message traveling to the brain.
Until now, spinal cord stimulator systems offered a maximum of 16 contacts and two lead ports. With twice the number of contacts and twice the number of ports, the Precision Spectra System used by Lewis offers more coverage of the spinal cord and increased flexibility to adapt to broader and changing pain patterns.
More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and may struggle to find effective relief through other therapies such as surgery and pain medication, Lewis said.
“Since pain can be very complex to treat, many patients cycle through various therapies before finding spinal cord stimulation. I would encourage anyone living with chronic pain to talk to their physician to see if it is right for them,” Lewis said.
BRIDGING WIDE DISTANCES
Recognizing its distance from Grand Junction and other larger population centers may be problematic for some patients, Family Health West provides transportation for procedure center patients who have difficulty getting to their appointments.
“We have patients who do not have an automobile or they rely on family members to get them to their appointments,” Lewis said. “This service ensures that my patients get to their appointments and get relief from their pain.”
Mark Francis, Family Health West CEO and president, thinks it is a crucial benefit.
“In order to better serve our community, we are extending the service within a 100-mile radius. That means that our patients in Rangely, Montrose and Rifle can benefit and get the care they need,” Francis said.