Troy Chroniger enjoyed a busy, if hectic, life in Orlando, Florida, as a construction estimator and dad to three daughters. To relax, Troy, age 43, enjoyed sports and an occasional motorcycle ride with friends. Life changed dramatically one Saturday in November 2011, when he was out for a ride, hit a rough patch of road, veered and collided with a guardrail. He was rushed to a hospital in Orlando, where doctors diagnosed him with a debilitating brachial plexus injury.
"It was one of the worst the doctor said he'd seen," Troy recalls the physician saying. Of the five nerves that make up the brachial plexus in the shoulder, Troy suffered a complete nerve evulsion injury. His doctor referred him to Mayo Clinic, which performs hundreds of brachial plexus procedures annually.
At Mayo, Troy visited Peter Murray, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the delicate and complex procedures required for nerve injuries and the accompanying loss of function that can occur after an injury such as Troy's.
"When I first began my career, patients with this type of injury used to have their limb amputated," says Dr. Murray. "Now, we look at how we can make the limb better. And, there are many new surgical options, including taking other nerves and transferring them into the arm to detour around the nerve injury."
Troy underwent a series of procedures over three years as doctors transferred nerves from his chest to his arm. Earlier this year, he had a surgery to set his wrist in a more permanent position. "The surgery was to keep my wrist in a more fixed position, so it can help me in everyday life as opposed to being a hindrance," he says, demonstrating how his arm used to hang lifelessly at his side.
Through it all, pain has been a constant, however, Troy says. "I remember I was told that as severe as my injury was, I'd probably have chronic pain for the rest of my life," he says. At first, he was unable to work due in part to a heavy dose of prescription medications. But thanks to the collaborative approach at Mayo Clinic, doctors were able to restore not only some mobility to his arm, but also provide a unique approach to pain management.
Troy recently had a spinal pain stimulator implanted in his neck. The device that enables him to "dial up or down" on the stimulus to help ease the pain caused by the nerve injury. And so far, it's worked wonders. He's off all narcotic pain medication, he started a new job, and he's back to exercising and enjoying time with his friends and his daughters.
"I've come a tremendous way forward," he says. "Not everything is perfect, but it's getting there."
Learn more about Troy's story in the video below: