I was in constant pain for 921 days

Danielle Buhrfiend, Patient

Danielle with Dr. Nikkel at a follow up appointment.

It was a semi-bright day on the 4th of March in 2019 when I was heading to South Haven for a sales call, as a Sales Representative for an Industrial Company, I was on the road 90% of my job. Within 6 mins of being on the road, split-seconds led to gasps, prayers to God that I don’t hurt anyone, as my truck went out of control on the black ice, one 360 later, a smash hit of a guard rail, two airborne jumps – one from going over part of the overpass then a second when I went down the embankment. My truck came to a crashing stop in the middle of an exit.

All went silent, I literally couldn’t hear, breathe, I thought I was dead, a few moments later I had to comprehend what happened and how I just survived. The pain, the sounds, the pounding of my heart all immediately immersed at once. The attentiveness that I needed to have to call 911 was pure instinct, I had to let someone know I have been in an accident. It would be mere moments before 3 more vehicles replicated the same scenario I was in, within the next 8 mins. A weaving Grey Crown Royal, then a Conversion Van, all weaving, swerving, hitting the guard rails, and then crashing.
That Wednesday would haunt my body, mentally and especially physically. From that point on it was doctor visits, specialists, surgeons, and then physical therapists. All in which humored me and judged at the same time, as they just couldn’t understand the amount of pain I was experiencing nor could they connect it. Why you wonder? All because of a left-out word on an MRI report, and a series of doctors not bothering to look at the actual MRI that led to a misdiagnosis. That diagnosis would cause me more pain, larger tears, and more physical issues with my arm and hand.

Before the accident, I was a very active person always on the go, community Mom for my older son’s football buddies, community Mom for my daughter’s playgroup, besides being in a run group, canoeing, bodybuilding, and hiking. I went from an active 40 something to an individual that would need to have help getting dressed due to the impact the accident had on my dominant arm. Besides the restrictive nature of my arm, I was in constant severe pain, every time I lifted my arm it felt like someone was stabbing me, putting my arm on fire, then my arm would swell and turn cold, it affected my forearm, and especially my hand. I could barely hold things without dropping them. On a good day, I could tolerate it without puking, I managed to hold in the tears and not wince, put on a happy face, especially around my 5 yr old. He couldn’t understand why his hugs had to be cut short, yes, even a hug, led to massive stabs of pain that would last hours. The pain was unreal, and as the time when on I was being told that this may be my life and I would have to accept this. I didn’t accept that, in fact, I further researched what I could do.

I almost gave up, because they were pushing me towards maximum medical thinking this was not able to be fixed. But I knew I had to keep trying to find someone who would listen, read through the charts and X-rays, and MRIs, and hopefully find a solution. I had to be my own patient advocate and I needed another medical entity to look and maybe listen to what I had to say. I was googling shoulder surgeons and among the ones listed I read a review of a doctor out of Bronson Hospital in South Haven by the name of Dr. Nikkel, the first line said, finally a doctor that listened… I felt hope once again and I immediately contacted his office. I spoke with a Jessica with whom I would become familiar with as time went on, along with Anna, and Diane.

My first appointment, I brought in all my DVDs of the scans, the documents, the records, the notes, everything, and I was praying to God this one was going to be different, and he was. Dr. Nikkel listened, he reviewed, and he was very forthright and direct. He said I can help you but we have to make sure you do not have CRPS this is one of the diagnoses that seemed in relation to my problem but it wasn’t my real problem. From that point on we had a plan, and it was going to take a couple more specialists to undiagnosed me with a condition I was diagnosed with, that I never had. As long as I didn’t have this syndrome, I could get the surgery to correct the muscles that were torn. Dr. Nikkel was confident he could correct the issue that I did have: a torn rotator and bicep along with calcifications that occurred because of the accident.

When I finally got the authorization to get the surgery, it was almost like winning a lottery. I was so elated that I could finally potentially get better. I had anxiety because this was major surgery, and I never had major surgery like this, but I trusted Bronson, Dr. Nikkel, and his staff and I was on the schedule to get an operation. I was told by friends and family that had shoulder surgery to expect extreme pain, of course, they tell you all the horror stories. I was mentally preparing thinking it was going to be worse than what I had already been through.

Surgery Day, I was cool as a cucumber, I spoke with the nurses and anesthesiologist Dr. Nickolson who was amazing and made me laugh. The staff went over everything with me and answered any questions I had, I requested we say a small prayer before and they acknowledged me after I said: God grant these specialists the skill to correct my body. Amen. I woke up and was set because they prepared me before and after the surgery of what to expect. During the first week, I called with questions that arose, and they immediately answered them. I was on the road to recovery, and I felt great.

When I went to my post-op with Dr. Nikkel, I told him I had to hug him because he gave me my life back, he gave me future pain-free days that I only dreamed about prior, and he did help me. Dr. Nikkel not only restored the sensation in my arm to hand from the surgery, but he gave me the confidence that I can be an active person once again the way I was before the accident and without any pain. I don’t count the days anymore because I just look forward to the pain-free years ahead. Thank you Dr. Nikkel for caring and having exceptional expertise in your surgical field. Your knowledge and skill, your staff, and the operating surgical medical staff made an impact on my future, and I am forever grateful.

On September 10th, 2021 at 9 am I had surgery to correct my shoulder from the damages from an accident that happened 2 yrs prior. Prior to the surgery, I was in constant pain for 921 days. Day 922 is the first day I didn’t wake up with stabbing pain in my shoulder, arm, head, neck aches, numbness, or prickles, nor a death cold hand. I am finally pain-free.

Sincerely, Danielle Buhrfiend

Click here to learn more about Dr. Nikkel and Bronson Orthopedic & Joint Specialists – South Haven.