Avera Medical Minute: “Life-changing” device helping GI patients with pain

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 10:51 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Health experts say Pediatric Gastroenterology is a growing field and doctors are finding more specialized treatment options for kids with GI issues.

One of Kalen Meyer’s favorite places to be is on the back of his dirt bike.

“its just fun to drift in the dirt. and my favorite thing is to smell the gas. I love the smell of gas,” said Kalen, 11.

When he’s not on his dirt bike, he likes to hang out with his friends. But these are activities that Kalen hasn’t always been able to participate in.

“Its been emotional,” said Kalen’s mom Janna. “Its been about 3 years watching my son miss out on birthday parties, miss out on school, miss out on life, because he’s been in so much pain.”

Kalen said his pain started when he was six.

That was 4 years ago.

“I remember my mom was dropping me and my brother off and I had this really bad stomach ache and she like kept me in the car and rushed me over to the doctor,” said Kalen.

The journey to figuring out what exactly was wrong would take years.

Countless doctor visits and medications later, they finally figured it out.

“Our ‘Aha!’ moment came when I was reading what these kids with functional abdominal pain went through, and checking everything off the list,” said Janna.

Finding that answer of functional abdominal pain only solved part of the problem.

The second hurdle was figuring out how to treat Kalen and help him feel better.

“Functional abdominal pain in children is a complicated condition to treat,” said Dr. Sarah Cole, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Avera. “It involves a hypersensitivity between the nerves in the gut and the brain and sometimes that response becomes dysregulated and can cause kids ongoing problems with pain.”

Janna then found out about a device that could provide Kalen some relief.

It is called IB Stim.

“The IB Stim is a nonsurgical device that is placed on the ear and it comes in contact on the ear with certain nerves. Essentially what the IB Stim device does is it targets pain areas within the brain to help with pain,” said Dr. Cole.

Getting an IB Stim for Kalen would prove to be another long and frustrating journey.

“So we started the process with the insurance company, we had to go back and forth they had to deny us,” said Janna.

After multiple appeals and multiple denials, the Meyers were fighting as hard as they possibly could to advocate for their son and his health.

“Then, the magic happened,” said Janna. “They denied us. Then IB Stim, the company, called me and said, ‘We’ve heard about you. Dr. Cole has told us that you’re seeking our help and we want to help you.”

Kalen was able to finally able to access the treatment.

“We just recently introduced the device here at Avera and have just had Kalen use the device and so far, he’s had complete resolution of pain,” said Dr. Cole.

Kalen’s very first treatment was life-changing.

“That morning we woke up, and he was ready to start his day,” said Janna. “He hadn’t been ready to start his day in over 3 years. It was exciting to us, it has been a blessing.”

Kalen on his way to feeling better.

He’s back on his dirt bike and back with his friends.

But his mom hasn’t given up fighting.

She wants other kids to find the same relief Kalen is experiencing.

“I just pray other insurance company hear this story, and hear other stories, and can look past everything else. Get through this red tape and let these families and these kiddos deserve to have a life.”

IB Stim is one of many treatment options offered at Avera to children with gastrointestinal issues.

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