Chelsea Betz was simply doing what kids have enjoyed for centuries: climbing a tree. The athletic 10-year-old was good at it, ascending nearly 25 feet. Until she slipped. And fell. She landed on her back, breaking seven vertebrae.
Chelsea came to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. She spent time in a brace, followed by three surgeries over three and a half years. Chelsea’s injured bones grew well, but she developed post-traumatic arthritis, which limited her mobility and caused significant pain. Chelsea also endured emotional wear and tear. Friendships were hard to maintain because she missed a lot of school and often wasn’t included in activities. “A lot of people were scared of hurting me,” she says.
After a surgery last year, Chelsea’s health care team—including spine surgeon Tenner Guillaume, M.D.—suggested that, in addition to using medicines and physical therapy to help ease her discomfort, she try an another tactic: acupuncture. Gillette pediatrician Scott Schwantes, M.D., is trained in the practice, which involves placing hair-thin needles temporarily into the skin at precise locations, to reduce pain and anxiety. “Acupuncture helps restore health and wellness by returning the body to its natural balance,” Schwantes explains.
Chelsea wasn’t enthusiastic. “I’m terrified of needles,” she admits. Nevertheless, she opted to try it. Later, during her first acupuncture treatment, she was surprised when she realized Schwantes had placed the needles. “I was like, ‘Wait? You already did it?’”
After several weeks of follow-up care that included more acupuncture, Chelsea woke up one morning with a strange sensation. Instead of struggling with debilitating pain, Chelsea felt … good. Since then, her comfort has continued, allowing her to enjoy summer, enter high school, and explore new activities. “I’ve been doing things I’ve been wanting to do for years,” she says.
You Can Learn More
To help others learn how acupuncture can benefit patients, Gillette is holding an evening educational workshop Tuesday, January 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The session is part of a monthly Enhancing Wellness series offering information about integrative care services Gillette provides—including aromatherapy, biofeedback, music therapy and osteopathic manipulation therapy. Enhancing Wellness sessions are open to Gillette patients and/or their parents or caregivers.
Glad They Tried It
Adding acupuncture to her treatments, Chelsea explains, “was like the missing piece of the puzzle. It completed everything to take away the pain.” Chelsea’s mother, Kelli Betz, acknowledges that her family probably wouldn’t have pursued the integrative care service if it hadn’t been available at Gillette.“I don’t know if I would’ve just looked up acupuncture online and tried to find a provider,” she says. “But Dr. Guillaume and Dr. Schwantes were people that we’ve trusted and worked with over the past four years. It’s noninvasive. It’s offered here. Why not try it?”
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