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Resident finds relief after 12 years of chronic pain

Posted Nov 30 2008 12:21pm

A puck-sized disk wired to his spine has freed Chris Todman from years of chronic, agonizing pain.

Now, the Burlington man wants the government to fund more operations for pain sufferers who need a device like his.

“It was life changing. Words will not describe it,” he said. “It will never be a novelty. I’ve gotten my life back after 12 years of not living.”

The 23-year-old suffered from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), which left him with a constant stabbing and burning pain in his right leg and left foot.

“I was very limited before. I spent most of my time in bed and didn’t socialize,” said Todman. “I couldn’t handle the pain.”

The precise causes of RSD are unknown, although it often follows an injury and there is no cure, it’s noted on the Canadian Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Network website (

However, a friend in Ottawa with RSD connected Todman with a doctor at Toronto Western Hospital. After various tests, the doctor suggested surgery.

“When he described the procedure, we were all very ecstatic. It was very exciting,” recalled Todman. “Then he dropped the bombshell that they don’t do many operations in Ontario, because there is no funding set aside for it. That put a big damper on things.”

But with his doctor’s help and after a review of his case history, Todman became one of the lucky few to get OHIP coverage for the surgery, which costs $15,000- $20,000.

Todman said four wires were implanted last November into spinal nerves verified as causing his pain.

In a second operation shortly afterwards, the disk was implanted in his lower left abdomen and connected to the wires.

Todman said the device sends a signal to his spine that replaces pain in his legs with tingling. He can increase impulses if he starts to feel pain.

“There’s pretty much no limit to what I could do, although I don’t lift anything too heavy,” he said.

Since the surgery, Todman has enjoyed playing paintball, spending more time with friends and helping his brother, Steve, build his house. Last summer, for the first time, he made the annual trip to the Canadian National Exhibition with his father, Jim, without needing a wheelchair.

Todman closed his dog biscuit making business earlier this year following a contract dispute, but is happy to be working full time at a food processing plant.

“It’s a line job and I’m on my feet a lot,” said Todman. “Before my surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to do it for nine hours a day.”

He will celebrate his first year of being pain free today (Friday) from 6-9 p. m. at Appleby United Church with family and friends.

He hopes teachers and classmates from his former high school, General Brock, can also drop by.

The family wants to raise awareness about Todman’s story and is encouraging others with pain problems to attend.

“A lot of it can be overcome. There’s hope out there,” said Jim. “There were times when Chris felt like giving up. There’s help, but unfortunately it’s not that accessible.”

Todman is involved with the Neuromodulation Coalition, which seeks improved access and government funding for devices like the one that helped him.

He was planning to participate with the coalition in a meeting this week on the issue with the Ontario Ministry of Health.

The family noted only 20 surgeries like Todman’s were performed across Canada last year.

“People are going to the United States so they can get it done. They can’t wait for it,” said Todman’s mother, Debbie. “This is a surgery they’ve been doing for 25 years, but they’re not doing as many now.”

She said many doctors didn’t understand her son’s problem and Jim added they tried a variety of things before the surgery.

“We went through every kind of treatment from acupuncture to witchcraft,” he said. “The worst thing ever is to watch your child in pain.”

Dennis Smith can be reached at


A Message from the desk of thematrix777

This is one story  out of thousands. This man lived 12yrs of his life in bed, unable to live life in any sense of the word. All because of  RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). This story has a happy ending; most do not. RSD is a chronic, progressive, neurological condition that spreads with time. It has destroyed many lives.

Those of us that suffer from this awful condition need help in finding a cure not a band-aide.  More research and development is needed and that takes people who care! Please join me in caring. Check out my blogs and others to find out what you can do to help. Thanks you.

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