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Woman can't get MRI because of neurostimulator implant

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 23:23:00-04

JACKSON, Mich. — Imagine needing an MRI for an injury, but not being able to get one.

That's the reality for one local woman, and every day that goes by, the pain gets worse.

Melissa Lee of Jackson says she has a shoulder injury, not to mention stroke-like symptoms. But because of a medical implant in her body, she is unable to get an MRI. She felt like she had nowhere to turn, so she called us. Lee is used to being active. But lately, that activity has been slowing down.

"Instead of taking two hours to clean my house, it takes two days because I have to stop and give my arm a rest, give my body a rest because the pain is too much," she said.

Lee is stuck in limbo. Back in 2015. she had a neurostimulator implanted into her back to control pain in her lower back and hips from arthritis and degenerative disc disease. She said it helped the pain tremendously. Fast-forward to 2017: Melissa fell down a flight of stairs and hurt her shoulder. Knowing she'd need an MRI, she opted to get a new neurostimulator implanted from St. Judes in Oklahoma, one that was MRI compatible.

"We go in, and it's my fiance and I sitting inside before the surgery and my rep let us know, if you need an MRI, you can get it done tomorrow, there won't be an issue."

But after getting the new one, doctors wouldn't touch her. She found herself calling multiple hospitals in Michigan and Oklahoma, only to get rejection after rejection. She said she even told her rep from St. Judes to only contact her if she had good news...that was a month ago.

"My unit is so new that the software is not out and they don't want to compromise their machines. It's extremely heartbreaking because it feels like I'm not a priority," she said.

When the neurostimulator was implanted in Lee's back, she was given this card, that directs radiologists to a website that has directions and requirements to give an MRI. But that wasn't enough for hospitals. So News 10 reached out to a radiologist to see what the deal was. She told me if she has the card, there shouldn't be a problem.

"She just needs to have the documentation and the majority of implants that are placed are MRI compatible, just for this reason," radiologic technologist Dawn Keyser said.

So why is there a problem? Fox 47 reached out to the company that makes the implant, Abbott. They said that any questions patients have, they should call their doctor. So we called one of the hospitals Lee went to and was hung up on. All of these roadblocks leave Lee with a choice between chronic pain in her hips and back, or her shoulder, a choice that she shouldn't have to make.

"This has caused a great deal of pain and strain because there is so much that I can't do. I'm basically at the mercy of someone making a phone call seeing if they want to get me in for an MRI....what do I do?'"

Fox 47 made more calls to hospitals and experts in the area. We were told the hospital with the right equipment is out there, so there is hope. Lee says her lawyer is getting involved and hopes to find a place to get her in soon.

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