Patient Finally Discovers Relief from Regenerative Medicine


For years, Nicole Hunter tolerated knee pain and a lack of mobility, but she couldn’t find relief in ways others did. Arthroscopic surgery didn’t completely solve the issue, and neither did cortisone shots and various other medicines and treatments.

Finally, she was presented with the opportunity to try regenerative medicine at the UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital Center for Pain. She was skeptical about whether it would work – after all, it’s not fully approved by the FDA and, thus, not covered by her insurance. However, the 44-year-old was desperate for help, especially because orthopedic surgeons typically don’t consider knee replacement for patients younger than 50.

So, Nicole underwent a couple of injections from Dr. Ashar Afzal in 2022, and the results have been positive. It’s been nearly a year since the first shot, and Nicole credits Regenexx with enhancing the quality of her life.

“I really appreciate what Dr. Afzal did for me,” Nicole said. “I don’t know what kind of life I’d have without this. I mean, the knee’s still not perfect, there are some challenges yet, but I don’t know how decrepit I would be if I didn’t have this done. I’m grateful for him to be able to provide this service to people.”

As Nicole knows, Regenexx isn’t for everyone. Only certain individuals are good candidates. The process typically consists of two injections, where bone marrow is harvested from elsewhere in a patient’s body and re-injected into the area where pain exists. About six months later, a booster shot is sometimes administered.

Before the procedure, Nicole rated the pain in her right knee in the 8-9 range on a scale of 0-10. She could only stand for about 15 minutes at a time, struggled to walk more than a half a block, lost sleep due to the pain and couldn’t ride a stationary bike.

After two injections about seven months apart, Nicole’s pain was dramatically reduced to the 3-4 range. Now, she can stand up to two hours continuously, sleeps much better and can ride a stationary bike.

“Nicole was a good candidate for stem cells, and some patients have better genes than others,” said Dr. Afzal. “If you have good stem cell genes, we don’t have to draw as much blood to process to get the amount needed to complete the procedure. Every patient is different.”

Nicole was a good candidate for other reasons, too.

“She’s strong minded, works through the pain and was committed to the best outcome,” said Dr. Afzal. “I’m happy we were able to help her find some pain relief.”

As a bonus, working with everyone in the pain clinic turned out to be a rewarding experience for Nicole.

“They’re wonderful,” she said. “Because I had to be off work for a while, they filled out all my short-term disability paperwork and anything else I needed to have done. And they fit me into the schedule whenever I needed to be seen. I love all of them – they are so good.”