Hendricks County farmer regains independence after back surgery, rehab

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The family farm has steadily grown since Mike Stephenson bought the first 42 acres West of Danville in 1970.  

Now his acreage is in the thousands and the yields are triple what they were when he started.

"Oh man, it blows my mind that corn planter is what? 16 rows. I started with a two-row," Stephenson said.

He first climbed up on a tractor - a 1948 Fireball when he was 13 years old. He's sentimental about the one he keeps in a storage barn outside of Amo.

"I like to hear the way it sounds and runs it kind of purrs like a kitten. Steers real easy, shifts gears easy," Stephenson said. 

Stephenson,72, is the beloved head of the family.

"He is very ornery. He is a Stephenson!" said his granddaughter, Brittany Stephenson.

She says the Stephensons pride themselves in being workers, but after years of toiling she can see her PaPaw is slowing down. 

"When I was young, riding in the tractors and the combines with him and playing at his house and just now he's not getting around as fast as he used to you know.  He's getting older. It is harder because he was able to climb up in those tractors," an emotional Brittany said.

Decades of hard farm work has led to back and neck issues and years of chronic pain.

"I was an old grouch. You know, when you don't feel good, you are not normal. Life's not so pleasant," Mike Stephenson said.

Stephenson sought a solution with back surgery and while recovering at Danville Regional Rehabilitation physical therapy and microcurrent point stimulation or MPS.

"Mr. Stephenson had some nerve root issues and we can actually release the paraspinal muscles along the spine to then influence better movement and decrease pain," said occupational therapist Dan McKinzie.

The low frequency stimulation is appplied at key trigger points for 10 to 20 minutes several times a week for four to six weeks. MPS is different from TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) devices utilize alternating current applied through a pads. MPS therapy uses direct current applied through a non-invasive, metal tip, directly to the skin, providing precise pain therapy. 

Stephenson sees marked improvement in his neck.

"I think about the fourth time she checked it and the degree of motion like this had gained like 20 percent and I can roll and it don't grind in there now," Stephenson said.

"I think it's one of the most effective modalities that has ever come across the rehab world.  Eighty percent of people do respond in some fashion," McKinzie said. 

"Seeing this tool help him is pretty amazing," Brittany said.

Right after surgery her PaPaw was dependent.

"He couldn't take a shower by himself. He couldn't walk. He couldn't dress himself," Brittany said.

Now he's getting around without a walker and allowing his four sons to take over the fields.

"I'm going to slow down. I'm not going to put out a garden this year.  I'm going to try to behave myself. It's hard to do."

Instead of farming this spring, he's fishing and feeling more like the Papaw his family remembers.

To learn more about MPS and rehab opportunities around central Indiana, American Senior Community staff will be available at the WTHR Health and Fitness Expo at the Indiana State Fairgrounds from 10AM-5PM Saturday and Sunday.

Download your free ticket here.