Social media push makes surgery possible for young man in pain

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A young Overland Park man knows about the power of social media and the generosity of friends and strangers.  They've given Nathan Pieper a chance to ease pain that's persisted in his face for seven years.

"It's the worst physical pain known to man," said Pieper.

He has constant pain like a hot iron on the right side of his face.  Lately, it's spread to the left side, too.  Shaving, brushing teeth or just sipping water make it worse.

Playing the guitar is one of Pieper's therapies in living with trigeminal neuralgia, damage to a nerve which carries sensation from the face to the brain.  The damage happened after he was hit in the head with a basketball.  A spike in pain earlier this week sent him to the emergency room.

"I couldn't talk without stammering.  All my muscles were contracted," Pieper said.

Doctors at Mayo Clinic want him to have a procedure called motor cortex stimulation.  An electrode is placed on the brain and connected to a generator in the chest to block pain signals.  But Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas refused to pay, saying it's experimental.  The Kansas Insurance Department agreed.  When the denial of benefits was upheld in September, friends of the family through Hillcrest Covenant Church took action.  They set up a GoFundMe page for Pieper www.gofundme.com/enryhw and spread his story through social media.  The result was $92,000 raised in just 12 days.

"It just sorta restored my faith in humanity to see people reach out," said Kathy Schrock, an organizer of the effort.

Pieper says he wishes he could thank everybody.

"Just meet everybody in person and give 'em a hug and say 'thank you' for doing this," he said.

With a hefty down payment, Pieper is expected to have the operation in January.