Mark O’Shea had a clear view of the Twins Towers from his downtown office where he worked as a ballistics specialist. He’ll never forget the moment the plane hit the first tower on September 11, 2001. He quickly volunteered to assist with the recovery effort.
“I spent eight months in ground zero, running on anger and adrenaline,” recalled Mark. With no gloves, hazmat suit, goggles, or helmet, he and other volunteers, along with first responders, slogged through nearly 12 inches of dust that covered everything in sight. The terrain—littered with twisted steel, concrete slabs, chunks of asbestos—was especially hard to navigate and the dust made getting a good grip on the debris nearly impossible.
He remembers slipping and falling, a lot.
When the clean-up was complete, a debilitating pain in his lower back began to emerge. It worsened as the years went by, and, in 2006, he could no longer work. He was housebound until 2021, when he met Catholic Health Pain Management Specialist Eric Fanaee, MD. “Prior to meeting Dr. Fanaee, I had no life,” said Mark.
Dr. Fanaee diagnosed Mark with Vertebrogenic Pain which occurs when degenerating spinal discs slowly erode and inflame adjacent bony vertebrae leading to debilitating, chronic, and difficult to treat midline back pain.
“There has been a shift in the world of pain management recognizing vertebrogenic pain as a significant cause of low back pain with a specific treatment target for permanent non-surgical relief,” explained Dr. Fanaee. “I looked at Mark’s MRI and saw inflammatory changes in his spine. This made him an excellent candidate for the Intracept procedure.”
The Intracept procedure is minimally invasive and performed in an outpatient setting. It’s indicated for patients, like Mark, who have experienced chronic lower back pain for more than six months and have not responded to conservative, non-surgical treatments. The procedure targets specific nerves in the bones of the spine (vertebrae) that are responsible for sending pain signals to the brain. Under fluoroscopic guidance, a small needle is placed into the damaged vertebrae, the nerve is targeted, and a special probe is then used to heat and disable the nerve. The pain is stopped at the point of origin.
Marks says very soon after the procedure he was able to bend over and touch his toes and even walk – a function he could not do for a long time. “The first night after surgery I walked. I knew then there was a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now back to practicing martial arts, Mark credits Dr. Fanaee with changing his life. “Dr. Fanaee decreased my pain immensely. He explained the procedure in detail and comforted me through it all. He was an angel.”
Dr. Fanaee was one of the first doctors on Long Island to perform the Intracept procedure, which has been around for a few years. He has performed nearly 30 procedures since 2021 and explained the results are consistent with the literature. The majority of patients achieve significant relief from lower back pain that has plagued them for years.
“I’m 50 years old and now have a normal life,” said Mark. “I have something to live for.”
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