Taking It Up a Level
Mike Espeset, pictured with his wife, Ann, has been with YPO for 11 years. This was his first call to Healthnetwork.
Ding-dong! Mike Espeset waited in the December cold for someone to answer the front door. As the president of Story Construction in Iowa, Mike has a tradition of giving Christmas hams to the company’s 130-ish employees. This year, one of his project managers, Shane Geiselhart, had been suffering with back problems and working from home. Mike saw Shane regularly on Zoom meetings, but it had been a while since he had visited him at home, so he decided to drop off the ham in person and check in on Shane.
When the front door opened, Mike was shocked. He knew Shane as an upbeat, energetic person, a hard worker, and a competitive power lifter. Now Shane looked worn down. He’d lost weight and was clearly suffering. Shane showed Mike his work setup in the basement. By that point the pain in his back and hamstring was so severe, he couldn’t sit or lay on anything soft, so he did most of his work standing or laying on the hard floor with a computer or phone elevated above his face. Shane had been seeking medical answers for months, but he’d been putting on a game face for work, so Mike had no idea how bad things had gotten. When their visit ended, Mike drove immediately back to the office and sent an email to Healthnetwork.
“I’ve been in YPO 11 years so I’ve known about Healthnetwork, but I never really thought I’d have reason to use it,” says Mike. “I don’t consider Healthnetwork the first call, more like the last call when you’ve exhausted other options.” After seeing Shane he felt like, “This is exactly the kind of case for Healthnetwork. There was such little clarity in his diagnosis. It was time to take it up a level.”
In a Bad Place
Shane’s problems started in 2018 with what he thought was sciatic pain in his left leg. “It was annoying but it wasn’t slowing me down,” he remembers. At that time, Shane was competing in local powerlifting meets and training for larger competitions. Aches and pains were a normal part of life. He saw a physical therapist regularly to manage any issues and be sure he wasn’t overdoing things. Various injuries and pains came and went, but the sciatic pain kept getting incrementally worse. Then one day in January of 2022, Shane woke up and realized, “This is not normal. I need to acknowledge this as an issue and figure it out.”
Over the next 11 months, Shane saw doctors and PTs, had MRIs, got spinal epidural injections, and took far more pain killers than he was comfortable with. He got no answers and no relief. With the spinal epidural, doctors told him he could expect relief from the pain for 4–6 months. It sounded like heaven. But after four days, the pain was back. The second and third epidurals didn’t even touch the pain.
Shane had to stop working out, stop driving, stop jogging with his two Golden Retrievers, and stop playing football with his son. “Physically I could try to push down the pain, but mentally I was getting so frustrated. I was doing all kinds of research trying to figure out what spine conditions could lead to this kind of pain. I couldn’t get any answers. I would have traveled anywhere, even overseas. The doctors did not have a solution or any kind of path to relief. I was in a bad place.”
Not a Spine Issue
Over that hellish year, Shane told anyone who would listen about his swollen, painful hamstring. “But because of the sciatic pain, they kept focusing on my lower back.”
Then Shane’s boss, Mike, made the connection with Healthnetwork Foundation, who secured an appointment for Shane with a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. “In my first conversation with Mayo the doctor said, ‘This isn’t a spine issue,’” Shane remembers. “I was in the spine department, and I thought, Here we go again.” Shane braced himself for more months of waiting and rescheduling. “But then the doctor said I belonged to him until there was a diagnosis,” says Shane. “I can’t say how big of a relief that was after all the bouncing around I’d done!”
Shane’s doctor described his plan: a nerve conduction study and MRIs of the hips and hamstring. “They scheduled all that to happen on one day.”
On Friday afternoon in February 2023, Shane got what he’d been craving for more than a year: an answer. “There was a golf ball-sized tumor, a schwannoma, in my hamstring that had grown within the sciatic nerve sheath.” The pain was not from a spine issue as everyone had thought. As Shane puts it, “99 percent of time the problem is in your back. I was the 1 percent it wasn’t.”
Shane had surgery just after Valentine’s Day to have the tumor removed. The pain that had been a constant companion for so long was gone immediately. “There was a huge build up and frustration for 11 months. Then in two weeks everything came together and got fixed,” he says, still in awe how fast things went.
Whatever I Can Do
For his part, Mike is thrilled he was able to help one of his key employees and more than glad to contribute to Healthnetwork Foundation. “In times of need we always say, ‘Whatever I can do.’ With Shane it was obvious—you know what, ‘Here’s something I can do.’”