Reason to smile: Abdulla El Hashdy Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A new kind of surgical implant has helped a 29-year-old Emirati live a pain-free life after more than a decade of suffering.

Abdulla El Hashdy, a financial analyst in Abu Dhabi, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2010, along with metabolic myopathy — a rare genetic disease that affects metabolic processes. He also has myalgia paresthetica, a condition in which a large nerve in the thigh is compressed. The combination of conditions left him with chronic pain in his upper and lower limbs, as well as muscle ache and burning sensations.

El Hashdy had consulted a number of doctors in the UAE and abroad, yet a range of prescribed medications had failed to combat the pain. Instead, they had left him dealing with medicinal side effects.

Search for solution

“My life was being eaten up by medications, diabetes and pain. I started to feel that my illness was in total control of my life. I couldn’t plan any activities because of the pain. My medications [additionally] clouded my mind and made me feel disconnected from the world,” El Hashdy said.

The young Emirati eventually visited the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s pain clinic in the hope of finding a solution.

There, his care team determined that he would benefit from Differential Target Multiplexed Spinal Cord Stimulation, an advanced form of spinal cord stimulation that can block persistent pain signals. The device, implanted under the patient’s skin near the spine, uses electrodes to activate both neurons in the spinal cord and glial cells to retrain the body to block persistent pain signals.

Debilitating pain

“Pain can overshadow every other aspect of a person’s life. When [El Hashdy] first came to us, it was clear he was really suffering. He was facing a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that combined to cause unbearable pain,” said Dr Reda Tolba, department chair of pain management at the hospital.

Dr Reda Tolba

"His medications weren’t working effectively, and the side effects were taking a real toll. We tried a variety of approaches before settling on an innovative new form of spinal cord stimulation."

Since undergoing the procedure and having the device adjusted to his individual needs, El Hashdy has experienced an 80 per cent reduction in his pain.

“The care team understood my pain and suffering immediately. After trying a few approaches, they advised me that my best option would be this implant. Since having it installed, my life has changed completely, the pain is disappearing from my life. I’m an adventurous person and now I can go back to doing the things I love including skydiving,” El Hashdy said.

Reduce medication

The Abu Dhabi resident has also been able to dramatically reduce the amount of medication he takes, enabling him to refocus on his life and work with a clear mind.

“Pain is a very hard thing to live with because very few people can understand what it’s like. They see you taking medication and think you are weak or enjoy the effects. I still take medication but only when the pain beats both me and the device, which is a rare case,” El Hashdy said.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Interventional Pain Department, part of the hospital’s Anesthesiology Institute, offers a wide variety of minimally invasive procedures to help patients suffering from chronic pain and reduce their need for pain killers.

“Reducing people’s reliance on painkillers is an important part of the relief we aim to provide our patients. Side effects like mental fogginess or sedation can have a dramatic impact on a person’s quality of life. In addition, as can be seen in the United States, long term use of certain pain medications can lead to addiction, which is a serious threat to public health,” Dr Tolba said.