OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A young man had some of the worst pain known to man. It was facial pain resulting from damage to a nerve after he was hit in the head with a basketball seven years ago. But since October, when we met Nathan Pieper, his life has greatly improved.
A 24-year-old man brushing his teeth may not seem like a miracle, but Pieper and his mom say it is.
“He is becoming who Nathan used to be,” said Danita Pieper.
For years, Pieper couldn’t brush his teeth and couldn’t smile much because of pain. It was a 10 on the scale even with medication. The pain was caused by damage to the trigeminal nerve which carries sensation from the face to the brain. Back in October, just sipping water was hard.
Pieper wanted to have surgery to relieve the pain, but his insurer refused to pay, saying it was experimental. So friends through Hillcrest Covenant Church set up a GoFundMe page. Friends and strangers donated $121,000.
“There aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I am,” said Pieper.
In January, doctors at Mayo Clinic placed a grid of electrodes over one part of Nathan’s brain. It’s called motor cortex stimulation, and is designed to interfere with pain signals. The electrodes are connected to a pacemaker-like device in the chest. Nathan controls the stimulation with an external device.
At a visit a few weeks after surgery, his pain was reduced.
“A seven right now,” he told his neurosurgeon.
Then the Mayo team tweaked the device and told Pieper to increase the power by a tenth of a volt every other day. His pain continues to drop.
“Today, it’s a five right now which is fantastic. So much better,” he said.
And he should get more relief as he continues to boost the power.
” His joy is contagious. His hope is contagious,” said his mom.
And the surgery happened because of the contagious generosity of others.
Pieper looks forward to going to college and getting a job. He also wants to spread the message to others with this type of pain that relief is possible.