I am in that roughly 20% of the world’s population that suffers with chronic pain, which explains why I made it my life’s work helping those wanting to reclaim their lives from chronic pain (or any other challenging life situations for that matter). Having chronic pain is not a requirement or prerequisite for my coaching services. I enjoy coaching anyone wanting to make positive changes in their life, always honoring the client’s autonomy in making changes or course adjustments in their life.
If we were to meet in person, I’d offer you a cup of coffee if in the morning or iced tea if in the afternoon in Phoenix’s scorching desert sun. We’d exchange likes and dislikes getting familiar with each other. If we meet online, it would be the same, but without the beverages. You would quickly find that I like people, especially those on a quest of continual growth. You would come to know that learning and helping others are passions of mine, as is laughing about the ironic things in life, and how we often find ourselves in the middle of them.
It is important for coaches to create a special environment where potential clients feel comfortable and safe enough to share what’s on their mind. It’s all about relationship and trust within that relationship that makes coaching of any value. Without trust, little if anything will have significant or lasting value.
My journey toward working with clients having chronic pain started in 2007 with me hanging upside down in my truck after it rolled one and a half times. After receiving subdural and epidural hematomas, a skull fracture and ruptured L5-S1 vertebrae, the ER doctor had me transported me to the ICU in Barrow Brain and Spine, the world renown neurological institute in St. Joseph Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. This would be one of several stays at that wonderful facility.
Eventually, I needed a spinal fusion, which was a success. However, when an orthopedic surgeon damaged that fusion in a hip replacement surgery, my lower back pain from the rollover returned, and with a vengeance. Ultimately, this led to the first of multiple spinal cord stimulator implants to manage the pain. During one of those surgeries, I contracted a rare disease, CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) recognized as one of (if not) the most painful chronic pain conditions known, according to the McGill Pain Index.
Throughout my journey of struggles with pain I met some very interesting people. Some were fine doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and some of the best nurses you would ever want to know. Their influence in my life helped steer the course of my future, helping me reclaim my life from chronic pain.
Heroine and Healer
But the most interesting and influential person on my journey was Dr. Lisa Jo Stearns, MD (1958 – 2020). My first meeting with her was immediately after they discharged me from a 6-week stay at Barrow Brain and Spine in St. Joseph Hospital. She worked me into her schedule between appointments.
She was always very direct. In our first meeting she informed me, “I’ve already made arrangements for you to work with a physical therapist. He has experience treating CRPS. I’m telling you up front, he will put a world of hurt on you, but I don’t care. What I do care about is you following my instructions so you don’t lose that foot. More importantly, I want you to get your life back.” What made Dr. Stearns special, is she treated the whole patient, not just symptoms. Beneath her tough exterior was a gentle giant committed to healing you-body, mind and spirit.
Patient education is an integral part of her practice. If you were a patient, you had to go to “group.” I’m not a join-the-club kind of person and was very negative at first. However, her group sessions were all about education, equipping and empowering patients to regain hope, function, and returning to a productive life. Dr. Stearns and her group facilitators did (and still do) an amazing job bringing patients to a place of empowerment and options.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and the tone of our conversations was different and challenging. In one appointment I had with her, Dr. Stearns told me, “David, you have moved from striving to thriving in a brief time. You’ve learned a great deal about chronic pain and how to overcome and live despite it. What you do with that knowledge will say what kind of man you’ve become in this process. You need to think about that as you drive home.”
I didn’t know how to respond. But, that was one of those “teachable moments” and I knew it would forever change my life. I just didn’t know exactly how.
For more than 3 decades I enjoyed working in the microelectronic and biomedical device industry, but I felt called to leave engineering consulting and work with those struggling with chronic pain. I felt (and feel) compelled to help others as Dr. Stearns helped me, so the rest is history. After receiving two certifications enabling me to coach individuals and lead groups, she invited to work in her practice working with her groups. She is the inspiration behind all the work I do, and is greatly missed.
One dictionary defines heroine as, “a woman admired for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” Dr. Stearns had all three.
I have since left her practice and started Striving to Thriving, coaching not only clients struggling with chronic pain, but also those simply desiring greater enjoyment and fulfillment in life. It is so rewarding for me to coach individuals who feel their future should have more hope, joy, happiness and social engagement with others in their life.
It is time to reclaim the wonder and excitement life can offer. If life is not what you need or want, don’t give up hope. Contact me and get on the calendar. Let’s start a conversation about you, your hopes and develop a vision for your life, and figure out how to you get there.