A good, no, an excellent diagnostician can mean the difference between life and death for some. That wasn’t quite the case for Scott Arthurs, although he might disagree. But, one doctor at Baystate Medical Center did make all the difference in the world for him when no other doctor could.
Scott, of Enfield, Conn., has been living in almost constant pain since the age of 10. He’s pain free now at age 26, thanks to Dr. Mohamad Khaled, a neurosurgeon at Baystate Medical Center.
For Scott, it all began some 16 years ago while on a family vacation at Lake George in New York.
A pain like no other
“I woke up with an extreme pain in my ear. The best way to describe it is that it felt just like someone was driving a screwdriver into my ear and down my neck every five to ten seconds. My father put me in the car and we drove back home to Connecticut, where we went to the emergency room and they had absolutely no idea what was going on, maybe an ear infection, and sent me home,” said Scott.
Two weeks later, with the pain so intense that he couldn’t function, Scott found himself back at the emergency room.
“They admitted me and I spent two weeks in the hospital pumped full with morphine and undergoing all kinds of tests, including an MRI and CAT Scan, both of which turned up nothing. Then, one morning I woke up in the hospital without pain and they sent me home,” said Scott, who remained on nerve medications. Then, at the age of 14, the pain returned and Scott was placed on such a high dose of methadone that he needed to spend his sophomore year of high school being home-schooled.
Overtaken by medication
“I just remember one day being at home and getting ready to go to bed. By this time the powerful methadone drug had overtaken my body, and I just felt that I physically could not manage to walk up the stairs to bed. At that point, my life was completely overtaken by medication, and that is when as a family we knew we had to try something else,” said Scott.
But, that just wasn’t to be, despite visits to two Boston and another Connecticut hospital, including a headache clinic and dental clinic, a misdiagnosis of occipital neuralgia then trigeminal neuralgia, and nerve blocks on both sides of his head, which the doctor told him “would be short-term and not a cure.”
“The nerve blocks eventually did stop working and the doctor told me that she couldn’t do anything else for me. At this point it was toward the end of my senior year of high school and I was 18 and getting ready to go to college. I made the decision to live with the pain and treat it with Lyrica and other nerve medications, which helped a little for a while, but the pain was always still there,” said Scott, who earned a degree in justice and law administration.
Shooting pain every minute
So, until the age of 25, Scott lived with what he called a “shooting pain” nearly every minute, until he finally couldn’t take it anymore and told his primary care physician, “We have to do something.” His doctor referred him to a neurologist at Baystate Medical Center, who told Scott – who at this point couldn’t even drive and was out of work – she thought there was somebody who could help him, and introduced him to a new neurosurgeon at the hospital. That man was Dr. Mohamad Khaled.
“His office actually called me to come in, telling me that Dr. Khaled thought he knew what was wrong with me. I said laughingly to myself after 16 years of this, ‘Of course, he does.’ But, I did go in to talk with him and out of left field he told me that he thought I had Eagle Syndrome. He asked me to give him three weeks to do tests and that if he was right, he could cure me. I knew he was serious when on a Saturday morning I got a personal phone call from Dr. Khaled telling me, ‘We found it and you do, indeed, have Eagle Syndrome,’” said Scott.
Eagle syndrome – which attacks only four percent of the population – is due to a calcified stylohyoid ligament or an elongated styloid process, which is a piece of boney protrusion at the base of the skull with a ligament attached to it. The mainstay treatment for Eagle syndrome is surgery to shorten the styloid process, called a styloidectomy. The overall success rate for treatment is about 80 percent, which Scott happily falls under.
The pain was gone
“I went in for surgery on the morning of October 1 and fully expected when I woke up to still be in pain on my left side. When I did wake up, Dr. Khaled was sitting next to me and asked if I felt any pain. I didn’t. So, I thought to myself, this might have actually worked. I stayed in the hospital overnight, and Dr. Khaled recommended waiting at least a month to make sure I remained pain free before operating on my right side,” said Scott.
His final surgery on the right side was performed on December 14 and was “the best Christmas present I could have ever received,” said Scott about now being completely pain-free.
“I’m ecstatic. It is the most unbelievable thing. I can’t put it into words…..never thought I would live without pain, I was just so used to it bringing me to tears every single day of my life. Dr. Khaled was my last hope. He came through for me and I owe him my entire life,” said Scott.
“The last time I saw Dr. Khaled he told me there was no reason for any additional follow-up visits, but that I was always welcome to stop by and see him. We shook hands and he told me ‘Hopefully, we will never see one another again,’” they both laughed.
For an appointment
For more information, or to make an appointment to speak with a Baystate neurosurgeon, call 413-794-5600.