A birth defect left his right foot four sizes smaller than his left, but Millett defied medical professionals who predicted that he would never be active enough to become a competitive volleyball player in high school. Nine years ago, however, Millett found himself up against another obstacle: chronic, debilitating pain that resulted from an automobile accident.

“I was rear ended in a car crash in 2006,” Millett says.“The wheels really fell off everything then. I just kept progressively getting worse, and it got to the point where I couldn’t even recover from a six-hour ride in a car. I ended up having fusion surgery on my back.”

After the surgery, Millett unsuccessfully tried a variety of medications to circumvent his pain. None worked, and the former athlete became bedridden.

“The medical community has tried to force three agendas over the years—pain pills, surgery and physical therapy,” Millett recalls. “It seems like the treatment recommended to patients is tied to the type of insurance you have. If you have great insurance, you can get everything, but the default for HMO systems is pain pills. They wrecked my life. I was basically catatonic.”

millett4Although almost completely immobile, Millett built a business from his bed, creating websites and videos for individuals and companies. But he struggled with pain that he calls “brutal” for years. Then, at a family gathering, a cousin who worked for Boston Scientific had a new suggestion—spinal cord stimulation (SCS)—an option that could allow Millett to reduce his pain medication and maybe even run again.

He asked his doctor about spinal cord stimulation. After what Millett describes as “jumping through hoops” that included trying a few more injections, he was implanted with a trial stimulator.

“I loved it immediately. During the trial, I was able to test two brands and select the one that felt the best. They both blocked the pain with a sensation, but the sensations felt different.” The decision to choose the Boston SCS was an easy one, says Millett.

“If your doctor hasn’t suggested SCS, do yourself a favor and ask about it,” he continues.“ Not all specialists have been trained to implant them, so they may not be aware of them. Finding a doctor who can make this an option could turn your life around.”

Millett received his permanent spinal cord stimulator in February 2014 and soon was able to resume a more active lifestyle.

“I do still have some pain,” Millett explains, “but it’s nothing like it was. For the first time, my kids are seeing their dad doing normal things. And as of June 1, I am starting work as a youth minister.”

Millett says his spinal cord stimulator was life changing, and wants to share what he’s learned from his chronic pain journey. He recommends that people find support, a friend to talk with about their experiences. “I encourage people to find a pain buddy,” Millett says. “Support groups aren’t always available and may not be the best fit for everyone. If it is 3am, you may not want to wake up your spouse to talk.

“Sometimes, the fear of pain is worse than the actual pain,” he continues. “When you have a pain buddy who understands what you are going through, it can really help. Think about it—even the biggest, toughest dude will walk differently across the grass if he knows he might be stung by a bee. A pain buddy will understand you walking into a room and worrying what will happen if you can’t get up from the sofa you’re sitting on.”

millet2He adds that no one should expect to be able to handle chronic pain alone.

“Often, people feel guilty about their situations and maybe even their caregivers,” Millett says. “Human nature can be to pull away when in pain, but you can’t do it alone. Pain is a brutal thing, and life is always better when you are dealing with problems together. Reach out.” {PP}