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"Mercy Helps Athlete Navigate Long Journey to Overcome Stubborn Symptoms"

Toledo, Ohio - Joe N. has had countless medical appointments and several hospitalizations at Mercy since fall 2008. He and his parents have been very happy with the care he has received. His journey began a year prior, when he was injured while playing football as a freshman at Findlay High School.

I saw eight doctors, none of them with Mercy, trying to get answers, to get help, Joe said. Finally, in fall 2008, I was referred to Dr. Clark (Paul Clark, MD, Vascular Surgeon, Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center). He agreed with the diagnosis I had received from a pediatric neurologist, who said I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). It is rare and very difficult to treat. We tried multiple fixes ,physical therapy with lots of different exercises, nothing really helped.

By December 2008, in addition to the neck pain he had been living with for a year, Joe was beginning to experience numbness, tingling and a cold sensation in his left arm and hand. There were times when he couldn't move his hand and when it turned white or purple and felt cold.

Dr. Clark recommended surgery at St. V's to remove Joes top left rib and some of the scalene muscles to relieve pressure on his nerves.

The surgery went very smoothly, Joe said. The first thing I remember after surgery is looking at my arm and then lifting it I could move it! I was in the hospital for several days, and as I was recovering, I remarked to my Dad, This feels like a really nice hotel.

By summer 2009, Joe was released to do everything except football. He was getting ready for baseball season when he began experiencing TOS symptoms on his right side. The symptoms became more severe, and a second surgery was necessary.

Several weeks after surgery, Joe passed out and hit his head, suffering a concussion.

Dr. Clark told me to go to the ER to get checked out, Joe said. So we headed up to St. V's even though we live in Findlay. At this point, we considered it to be our home hospital.

Joe was diagnosed with a heart problem and was instructed to drink water right away after waking up each morning and eat a high-salt diet.

This was one of the worst times in the hospital just because I felt so dizzy, but again all of the nurses were great, Joe said. Even the Maintenance guy hurried in to fix my TV so I wouldnt miss the playoffs that were about to start. When he saw me a few months later, he even remembered me and said, Hi.

Still eager to continue playing baseball, Joe participated in tryouts in spring 2010, but after a few weeks he noticed something didn't feel right with his shoulder.

My throwing arm was getting tingly, turning white and purple, and I was having neck pain, Joe said. This time I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) basically the nerves tell the blood vessels to shut down. Dr. Clark initially recommended we see someone at OSU, but we weren't going to be able to get in down there for three months. Dr. Clark then connected us with Dr. Pai (Ajith Pai, MD, Anesthesiology, Pain Clinic at St. V's), and he agreed to see me that day. He took a lot of time explaining RSD and my options.

Dr. Pai and Dr. Clark helped Joe get a visit more quickly at OSU, where the doctors prescribed nerve blocks.

As of mid-July I could run, lift weights and do normal stuff, Joe said. I can't play sports, and I know I will need more treatments, but for now, things are good. I really appreciate everything Dr. Clark and Dr. Pai did for me and how kind all of the nurses were every time I was admitted to the hospital or went to the Pain Clinic.

Joe's parents also have been happy with the care Joe has received and felt they were treated well too.

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