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Shannon Schultz smiling with one hand on top of other, leaning on outdoor step railing

Shannon Schultz Sought Out Dr. Kamal Kalia to Cure Her Trigeminal Neuralgia Pain

After years of stabbing, burning pain in her face, a patient undergoes a surgery that leaves her pain-free and wishing she'd done it sooner.

Category: Neurology

It began back in 2015 while simply brushing her teeth - jaw pain on the right side of her face, which continued as a dull ache for a couple of days before the sharp, shooting pains took over.

“It just happened that I had a dentist appointment the next week when I planned to discuss what was happening. After an examination, my dentist concluded it wasn’t anything with my jaw or my teeth, but thought it could be a nerve issue,” said Shannon Schultz, 45.

Her next appointment was with a neurologist.

TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA DIAGNOSIS CONFIRMED

“Based on my symptoms, the neurologist knew right away it was trigeminal neuralgia, which he confirmed by ordering an MRI. I saw him regularly every six months, and early on he suggested I was a possible candidate for the Jannetta procedure,” said Shannon.

Also referred to as microvascular decompression, the Jannetta procedure was developed by world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Jannetta. The groundbreaking procedure to relieve facial spasms involves moving blood vessels away from the trigeminal nerve, alleviating chronic pain and spasms in facial muscles.

Before even considering the procedure, Shannon opted for medications to treat the pain. She was prescribed carbamazepine (Tegretol) at first, which worked well but made her very tired. So, after a short time the neurologist switched her prescription to oxcarbazepine (Trileptal).

MEDICATIONS OFFER SOME RELIEF FOR TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA

“The medications worked for a time, but the side effects weren’t great. They made me feel tired and hazy, and there were memory issues, too, but initially the medicines wereShannon Schultz smiling while sitting next to lamp tolerable. Although the pain continued off and on, I never really had a long stretch of being pain-free. So, they had to increase the dosage, which also increased the side effects,” said the Upton (MA) woman.

She described the pain as “very intense, a stabbing burning feeling in my face that could last for 45 minutes to an hour sometimes.” All Shannon could do was to sit still and not move a muscle until it went away.

“The outbreaks could be triggered by eating, talking, brushing my teeth, or even a light brush on the cheek. It was unpredictable. It was very difficult and painful to eat or brush my teeth. I did eat some, but it was very minimal, whatever I could get down without too much facial movement,” said Shannon.

SURGERY IS DISCUSSED

After dealing with the pain for three years, Shannon told her neurologist that, while she might not be quite ready for surgery, she was interested in talking to a neurosurgeon.

“My neurologist said he could refer me to someone local who performed the Jannetta procedure, but I wanted to do my own research to find someone I could feel comfortable with who had performed the procedure many times,” said Shannon.

That person was Dr. Kamal Kalia at Baystate Medical Center.

BRAIN SURGERY IS SCARY

“When I saw that Dr. Kalia had trained under Dr. Jannetta (at his Pittsburgh clinic) I thought he would be the right person to perform the surgery on me. So, I set up an appointment to meet with him and traveled to Springfield for an evaluation. He looked at my MRI and confirmed that I was a candidate for the procedure, but said it was my decision to make. I wasn’t ready…..brain surgery is scary,” said Shannon.

Then, in the summer of 2021, after a few months’ stretch of very little pain while on a high dosage of medication, she noted the pain came “searing back out of nowhere while talking to her neighbor.”

“The pain began to get worse, and I was now at my maximum dosage of medication. I went back to see Dr. Kalia and told him I was ready, that I had enough,” said Shannon, who underwent surgery on Oct. 25, 2021.

A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH

“Dr. Kalia told me he didn’t anticipate any problems with the surgery, that my case was pretty much straightforward. It went very well, as he expected it to, and my recovery was easy. I’ve been pain- free ever since,” she added, noting she spent two days in the hospital, first in the Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to a medical surgical unit.

Today Shannon has her life back and was given a “clean bill of health” during her follow-up appointment with Dr. Kalia about two weeks after leaving the hospital.

“I thanked him,” she said, “and told him I wished that I had done it sooner.”

If you’re experiencing pain like Shannon was, reach out to our team about trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis and treatment.

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