The Day That Changed My Life

I was eight years old and I found myself flat on my back, terrified. I was in the hospital. I told the nurses my leg hurt … it simply wouldn’t stop hurting. I kept pushing the call button and finally Nurse Tuttle came to the bedside to check what was going on with me. You see, my right leg had been fractured, and the orthopedic surgeon had placed a pin in the lower leg and put me in traction. The pin wasn’t in the right place and I had thigh muscle spasms until they changed the pin three days later. Those three days were my first introduction to pain. In fact, I can still remember the smell of the rubber mask they used to anesthetize me.

My injury happened while I was playing a game of touch football. It was a beautiful fall day when the leaves had just started to change and there was a crispness to the air. I thought it might be a good idea to play a quick game to pass the time until my dad finished playing his game of tennis, and then we could go home to the delicious dinner my mother was preparing for us. Little did I know that this was the day that would change my life.

I had broken my leg and was in traction for the next thirty days in the hospital. During my hospital stay I was able to observe the activity in the eight-bed pediatric ward that I was occupying. There were kids with appendicitis, head injuries, seizures, and assorted broken limbs. They came and went for the next month while I stayed, waiting for my leg to heal. I became fascinated with medicine and it changed my life. I loved the skill and the awesome power the orthopedic surgeon wielded, the care and the comfort of the nurses, the needs of the patients, and the constant activity of the hospital. It was in that hospital bed, watching the orthopedic surgeon and nurses provide care to me and others around me, when I decided I wanted to be a doctor. My mother was a nurse and had worked at a local hospital in St. Paul until I was born. Being a nurse, she would share stories about her work and all of the different ways she would help patients. Her stories not only fascinated me, but inspired me as well. These were the roots of my passion for medicine and helping others, eventually leading me to open my own Pain Management Center.

I studied chemistry at the University of California, San Diego. During school I taught tennis, bagged groceries, and painted houses to help with college expenses. I then moved on to study medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I never seemed to be able to get enough and always enjoyed the additional lectures at lunchtime in radiology and general surgery. I stayed at UCSF for nine years, which included four years of postgraduate training, two years of general surgery, two years of anesthesia training, and a year of research year in cardiovascular anesthesia. I then went to Cleveland to join a practice of anesthesiologists. During that time in Cleveland, I kept getting calls from patients asking for treatment and management of their pain. These continued requests finally led me to start my own pain management clinic in 1998, when I founded the Kozmary Center for Pain Management. Since then, we’ve seen countless success stories and have continuously helped patients cope with pain and regain function in their everyday lives.

The way we treat pain is to first make a careful assessment, and then arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Many of my patients have been to five or more doctors in search of pain relief. Many have been misdiagnosed and undertreated. Too many doctors have a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to the treatment of pain but we have found that approach simply does not work. Pain management is a very individualized process and the treatment must be tailored to each patient. Using medical records, questionnaires, physical examinations, and diagnostic studies, we are better able to determine the specific cause of the pain and treat it effectively.

We offer a complete spectrum of treatments options from simple to complex depending on the patient’s needs. Everything from trigger point injections to spinal cord stimulation is available at Cleveland Back and Pain Specialists. Our ability to assess and treat pain problems is unmatched. I can’t begin to count the number of people who’ve walked through our doors and have undergone treatment only to have their lives changed by my team and I.

Outside of work, I love to play and watch tennis and fly small aircraft. I share my passion for flying planes with my oldest son and we try to log hours together whenever possible. My middle son is a computer whiz and is currently a programmer for Microsoft while my youngest, a daughter, is applying to medical school. My wife, Cynthia, and I have been married for 28 years (I met her at UCSF where she worked as a registered nurse) and love to travel together, especially to San Diego and Maui when we have the chance. She shares my passion for helping others and does so as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT).

In summary I’d just like to say that the best part of my job is being able to see my patients get better. Reducing pain, improving function, and getting them back to their lives is the greatest reward that I could ask for.