DENVER (KDVR) — A Lakewood woman is crediting a unique type of surgery with helping her end a yearslong addiction to opioids. 

Malia Baird is quick to admit she is not a victim. She was driving drunk in 2009 when she crashed her car in Lafayette, breaking 13 ribs along with her hip, ankle and arm. 

“When I woke up, my body was broken apart, and I had already had a few major surgeries,” she said.

Baird was placed in a coma for three months and was prescribed multiple narcotics to deal with chronic pain following surgeries.

“I had to have them to relieve the pain,” she said.

How a neurostimulator helps manage pain

Baird wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to be drug-free until she found Dr. Giancalo Barolat at Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center in Denver.

Barolat is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists and thought Baird could be a good fit for a device called a neurostimulator.

“A lot of conditions are caused by the fact that the electrical part of the nervous system does not work right,” he said. “We try to change the malfunction of the nervous system by introducing different signals.”

Barolat installed a device on Baird’s spine, which she can turn up or down with a remote control depending on her pain level that day.

Baird has been drug and alcohol free for a few years and credits the surgery with saving her life.

“Every time I come into Dr. Barolat’s office, I hope he never gets tired of me saying, ‘I love you,'” she said. “This neurostimulator truly gave me back a quality of life that only someone could dream of that went through what I went through.”

Neurostimulator treatment growing more popular

Barolat said the treatment is becoming more popular as more Americans struggle with lengthy narcotic addictions for chronic pain. 

“People take them because they do something, and most of what they do is they actually dull you,” he said. “They dull your reaction so maybe you still have the pain, but you don’t care as much.”

He said insurance typically covers neurostimulator implantation if the situation warrants it.

“It can be a very effective, very long-term treatment for some of these conditions that I treat,” Barolat said.