Ever-growing societies ask for role models, for people who, as Plato would say, divert their vision from their own pond towards the larger world, who can instill hope in our souls, help us get through the day, and dream of a brighter tomorrow. In other words, all of us are looking for modern superheroes, whose heroic acts transpire through little daily deeds, always giving and asking nothing in return. And who is better to play this capeless part than mothers, who give birth, nurture, and watch us grow and prosper, and whose happiness is equivalent to ours? This is why our Top Doctor Magazine team wishes to dedicate this article to mothers, our capeless heroes, on this most special of days.
As a token of appreciation, we would like to bring to the light the story of a true hero mother, whose drive, determination, and dedication to her objective let her reach unimaginable peaks in anesthesiology and pain management medicine, bringing sustainable solutions to the Hawaii community of pain management patients. As Dr. Dawn Sparks, a Case Western Reserve University, OH alumnus trained at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, told us during her interview, “If you really want something and you really put your mind to it, and you really put your heart and soul in it, you can pretty much produce anything that you want.”
Dr. Sparks’ Early Steps into Medicine
Starting from a young age, Dr. Sparks has sealed her connection with medicine. Following in her father’s footsteps, who performed the first lung transplant in the state of Ohio at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Sparks immersed herself in the noble field of medicine and joined Case Western Reserve University, OH. Right from the start, she had to face people who saw only roadblocks down her path because she brought a miracle into the world at such a young age: “I had my daughter when I was still nineteen, and I had her on a Friday night and went back to school Monday morning.” But where others saw impediments, Dr. Sparks saw her destined path: “I had this goal of becoming a doctor, and everybody said, this was going to stop me. And I was like, no, this is just part of my path.”
Taking the Pain Management Path
Looking back to those college years, Dr. Sparks still can’t believe how she managed to attend medical school, work a demanding job, and raise her daughter at such a fragile age. “And then, during that time, I never stopped or thought that I wouldn’t get into medical school or stop the pursuit.” Her efforts were never in vain; she joined the anesthesiology department at the Cleveland Clinic, where Dr. John, one of her mentors, gifted the book called “Pain: The Fifth Vital Sign” to her.
Inside, a message written in a dedication note was about to open her horizon towards a deeper understanding of pain: “Pain is the experience; suffering is the interpretation.”
Dr. Sparks shares with Top Doctor Magazine the way she understood those words: “And I just remember thinking, that was so profound because pain is super subjective and nobody understands it. So, many doctors just blow it off and just want to give it medication. I remember thinking there was a faulty issue with how we treated pain even early on and why weren’t we addressing the source of it. We weren’t treating the source. We weren’t investigating why people had their pain and where the sources of pain were actually derived from. For that reason, Dr. Sparks took it upon herself to “solve that piece of the puzzle.”
Being on the Patient’s Side
It wasn’t only mentorship but also her own life experience that shaped Dr. Sparks’ towards pain management. She was involved in a terrible car accident before her daughter was born, out of which she miraculously escaped alive: “I was in a coma for four days. I was in the ICU. I had multiple surgeries. I broke all the bones from the left side of my face, both my wrists and my hands. I had to have my trachea resected, and my chin sewed to my chest.”
By means of this experience, Dr. Sparks learned how out-of-touch physicians were concerning pain medicine since they would prescribe fentanyl lollipops, something unimaginable to us, and other long-acting drugs that, without surprise, drove patients towards addiction and crime. She even shared a story about a doctor in Minnesota who was killed by a pain medicine addict. “It’s like, they’re addicted, right? It’s their drug; they go crazy.” Unwilling to risk her and her daughter’s safety over this matter, Dr. Sparks chose to roll with the Aloha spirit and relocate to Hawaii, where she has been living since 2015.
Using the Aloha Spirit to Perfect Pain Management
But the stories about endless pain management drug prescriptions are far past fentanyl lollipops. Today’s technological advancements are seeing such a constant and speedy process that pain management can be “managed” through electronic devices. Nowadays, Dr. Sparks is an active promoter of neuromodulators, which she calls “pacemakers for pain.” These devices intervene between the nerve signals and the brain, forbidding the former from ever reaching the latter.
Dr. Sparks is more than grateful for being able to not only identify the source of pain but also see “what’s going on psychologically, what’s going on with your physical wellbeing and your energy levels and cause all of those things to contribute to pain.” With both expertise and compassionate care, she performs true miracles on her patients, relieving them of pain while psychologically bringing them on their own two feet. “They’re off their medication; they’re able to move around, they’re getting full-time jobs. You know, some of them had horrible foot pain, they couldn’t even put on socks and shoes, some of them were in wheelchairs, and now they’re walking!”
The Future of Pain Management
Looking towards the future, Dr. Sparks brings the true pain management enthusiast that she is to the stage to bless us with her optimism. “The future is super bright, and I think because we have people in the world like Elon Musk and thinkers that are always striving to improve the realm of pain management.” With technology advancement promoters like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, insurance programs such as Medicare ready to reimburse patients for neuromodulators, and a close pack of 5,500 pain management physicians in the U.S. alone, the sun will surely shine bright on pain management’s horizon.
In the meantime, as a parting reminder, Dr. Sparks would like to thank from the bottom of her heart all the physicians and medical personnel who braved the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic one step at a time, encouraging them to stay resilient and keep up the hard work in this never-ending battle against the virus. “I think it’s been a really hard time to be a physician, and I just want to tell people, ‘Don’t give up, never ever give up.'”
The Fates are not kind to every one of us, and some of us are constantly tested, constantly forced to break our own barriers to fulfill our purpose, our calling in life. And one of these people is Dr. Dawn Sparks, whose story truly deserves to stand as a model and an inexhaustible well of hope for those who recognize themselves in her story but require help to keep pushing forward.
However, Dr. Sparks would not have become the accomplished model of today had she taken heed of all those negative voices that couldn’t understand the beauty in being a young mother. Instead of being an overwhelming burden, her daughter always stood as her primary source of inspiration, or courage, of motivation, the one who always understood her struggles and comforted her in a time of need. Even today, Dr. Sparks’ daughter, who works by her mother’s side, uses small gestures to help her mother start her day on the right foot: “Now, she’s working out of my office, and she’ll put little notes sometimes on my computer when I’m having a really busy day, that’ll say, ‘You can do it.’ ‘You’re doing a great job.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘I’m so proud of you,’ little things like that make me realize now that she probably understands in a different way all of the stuff that I endured.”
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Sparks and her mission, make sure that you check out her website.