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Stella Spotlight: Symptoms, Stigmas and Innovation

Stella Spotlight: Symptoms, Stigmas and Innovation
By stella
27th Jul 2022

At Stella, we continue to innovate like our lives depend on it. With any company focused on innovation, you must be agile and willing to take some risks. As executive leaders at Stella, Chief Growth Officer Matt Erley and Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon face difficult, yet inspiring, challenges every day. 

Recently, they sat down and shed light on the business side.

When asked what keeps Gershenzon motivated, he credited the weekly stories of how Stella has helped change a person and family’s life.

On the other hand, Erley credits culture for his drive.

“I’m motivated every day to change the stigma that emotional trauma is a disorder that can’t be treated.

He notes that his biggest accomplishment as a business owner is building best-in-class teams and is only able to be successful because of the people around him.

Gershenzon had some advice for those starting, running and growing a business in today’s climate.

“In the beginning, you’ll have more bad days than good ones. Just remember that’ll change. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Let your team members own things – they’ll be better than you.”

Read the full interviews below: 

Your Symptoms Are a Big Deal with Matthew Erley 

Who is Stella?

Stella is building the leading platform to connect emotional trauma sufferers with the most innovative and high-outcome treatments. We are here to break the stigmas around emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress and help people find healing.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a direct-to-consumer growth guy. I love bringing new products and services to market. I saw an opportunity to bring a more sophisticated approach to growth/marketing in the healthcare space and wanted to use my skill set to help people suffering from emotional trauma. I’m motivated every day to change the stigma that emotional trauma is a disorder that can’t be treated. Through a number of modern treatments, we can now treat the physical injury caused by emotional trauma and PTS. Sufferers can find relief.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Building a best-in-class team that supports one another and our patients every day. I’m only able to be successful because of the people around me.

What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Facing challenges head-on is uncomfortable. You can’t hide or sit back and be passive as an executive. If there’s an uncomfortable situation, whether that be with an employee, a customer, or an external partner, I’ve learned to address it immediately. Especially in the age of remote work, picking up the phone to resolve an issue is so important.

What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Keep moving and taking a step forward every day. Progress is everything. Optimize for it.
  2. Surround yourself with kind and supportive people (you will need them along the way).
  3. Remember your purpose and why you are building this business. It’s easy to let frustration and doubt creep in. Stay centered.

(Bonus) – Get some sleep. You will need to have lots of energy!

Breakthrough Treatments for Emotional Trauma with Michael Gershenzon

Who is Stella?

Stella provides innovative treatments for those suffering from debilitating mental trauma symptoms. Our clients are often those that have been unable to find relief with traditional modalities, such as pharmaceuticals, and have been searching for relief for years or even decades

Tell us about yourself.

I was working as an investment professional at a private equity firm when I was introduced to a doctor (Stella’s now co-founder) innovating in mental health. Shortly thereafter, the mutual friend that introduced us died by suicide, shocking us all. A month later, with the backing of the private equity firm for which I was working, we started Stella to help those suffering in silence find relief.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The weekly stories of how Stella has helped change a person and family’s life.

What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Transitioning from being the only employee doing everything to building a quickly growing, incredibly talented team and stepping into a managerial role has been (and will continue to be!) an interesting challenge.

What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. In the beginning, you’ll have more bad days than good ones – just remember that’ll change.
  2. Articulate your mission on day one and care about it a lot.
  3. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything – let your team members own things – they’ll be better than you.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Make sure you’re long-term business model is sound – otherwise, you risk building a bridge to nowhere. That’s not to say you need to be profitable immediately – but you absolutely need to articulate how the company will be profitable long term.

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Case Study: Can the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Reduce Symptoms of Long Covid?

Case Study: Can the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Reduce Symptoms of Long Covid?
By stella
04th Mar 2022

Since March 2020, there have been 442 million COVID-19 cases worldwide. Over the last two years, we’ve learned a lot about how the virus works and how to protect ourselves against it. We’re also learning what COVID-19’s long-term impact on our mental and physical health will be.

While most people who are infected with COVID-19 recover from their symptoms in within four weeks, studies indicate that about 10% of people experience long Covid symptoms.1 Long Covid can present itself in many ways but the most common symptoms are:2  

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Brain fog
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fevers
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, etc.)
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Research on Long Covid

Medical professionals continue to innovate as we learn more about how COVID-19 can impact the body in the long term. While early papers, case studies, and trials have provided helpful information about Long Covid, more research needs to be conducted.

Stella Certified Doctor Dr. Luke D. Liu and Research Coordinator Deborah L. Duricka recently added to this body of knowledge with their independent study conducted earlier this year, Stellate ganglion block reduces symptoms of Long COVID: A case series. This study explains how the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) successfully reduced two individuals’ long COVID symptoms.

SGB’s History and How It’s Used Today

SGB is an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion – a bundle of nerves in the neck – first performed in 1926 to treat chronic back pain. Almost 100 years later, SGB is still a common pain management procedure. 

In 2006, Stella’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eugene G. Lipov pioneered the use of SGB to alleviate symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – please note that Stella prefers the term Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). Two years later, a peer-reviewed study on the topic was published.

Dr. Liu’s study offers another possible application of SGB: the treatment of long Covid symptoms.

SGB as a Long Covid Treatment

People with long Covid may develop dysautonomia, or the dysfunction of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system regulates non-voluntary body functions like digestion, blood pressure, sweating, and more. Many with long Covid present with some these symptoms.

During SGB, local anesthetic is injected which temporarily blocks or “turns off” the nerves it’s injected into which can help restore normal biological functions. 

Dr. Liu performed SGB on two women with long Covid symptoms. After the procedure, both women reported improvement, suggesting that SGB may be able to effectively treat long Covid symptoms.

Reviewing the Case Study

Eight months after the onset of the COVID-19 diagnosis, the 42-year-old woman was still experiencing over 7 different long Covid symptoms:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Mental fogginess
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Altered sense of taste and smell
  • Lack of appetite and food aversion due to changes in taste and smell

The unpalatability of food led to a 30-pound weight loss that continued to progress. On top of her symptoms, she had been let go from her job and was teaching four-hour CPR courses with difficulty, relying on her teaching manual to recall facts and procedures previously well known to her. 

After receiving SGB on her right side, she had immediate improvement in taste and smell as well as improvement in mental clarity and concentration. Two days later, she received SGB on her left side and immediately experienced more improvement to their taste and smell.

Soon after, she was able to drive home without conscious effort to recall the route, demonstrating noticeable improvement in memory. On top of that, she was able to teach a nine-hour course for CPR instructors without relying on written material, demonstrating a drastic improvement in recall. 

Two weeks later, she reported durable restoration of taste and smell and refreshing sleep resembling her pre-COVID-19 baseline.

COVID Symptoms Before and After SGB Treatment

Seven months after her COVID-19 diagnosis, the 44-year-old woman entered Dr. Liu’s office. 

Initially, her COVID-19 symptoms were loss of smell and taste, mental fogginess, headache, and shortness of breath. 

One week after the onset of acute symptoms, her headache worsened, prompting evaluation in the ER. Her headache symptoms dissipated over the following two weeks but she still experienced a multitude of symptoms:

  • Declining cognitive function
  • Developement of stuttering speech
  • Significant cognitive impairment
  • Right-sided paresis (muscular weakness)

Her symptom of paresis prompting hospitalization and evaluation. Her MRI results demonstrated inflammation and did not show signs of neither a stroke nor viral infection of the brain. 

After being discharge with ‘sequelae of COVID-19-induced ventriculitis’ as a leading consideration, she was prescribed intense occupational, physical, and speech therapy for profound memory deficits, speech impediment, impaired coordination, inability to concentrate, and debilitating fatigue. Yet, despite these therapies, she could not continue her work as a special education teacher.

Now seven months later, she had returned to work with limited duties and shortened hours with while still experiencing Long Covid symptoms: 

  • Debilitating fatigue and speech impediment.
  • Altered taste that led to food aversion and significant unintentional weight loss.
  • Severe generalized body pain described as dull with pins and needles that occasionally kept her bedbound. 
  • The acute stress and mental or physical exertion exacerbated her right-sided motor deficits, fatigue, and cognitive issues. 
  • Intermittent headaches described as “crawling pain in my brain.”

Within minutes of receiving SGB treatment on her right and left side, her taste and smell drastically improved. Three days later, her physical and mental stamina had improved significantly, allowing her to perform routine household activities without debilitating lapses in memory. 

One week after treatment, she began a new job as a high-school teacher and was able to teach a full day of classes, which she states would have been impossible prior to treatment. Two weeks later, she reported durable resolution of stuttering and 75% improvement in all other symptoms. 

At 60-day follow-up, she reported normal levels of fatigue and cognitive function, durable restoration of smell and taste, and absence of post-exertional malaise.

COVID Symptoms Before and After SGB Treatment

A Promising Future

While this has not been through any clinical studies and the only data are investigative case studies at this point, its application in treating long Covid/PASC is novel but promising. 

The lack of effective treatments for long Covid/PASC makes the SGB an attractive therapeutic modality that deserves further investigation.

Read the full study here.

1. https://health.ucdavis.edu/coronavirus/covid-19-information/covid-19-long-haulers#:~:text=This%20condition%20can%20affect%20anyone,will%20experience%20long%2Dhaul%20symptoms.

2. Soriano J.B., Allan M., Alsokhn C., Alwan N.A., Askie L., Davis H.E., Diaz J.V., Dua T., de Groote W., Jakob R., Lado M., Marshall J., Murthy S., Preller J., Relan P., Schiess N., Seahwag A. World Health Organization; 6 October 2021. A Clinical Case Definition of Post COVID-19 Condition by a Delphi Consensus.

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Can Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Help Prevent Suicide?

Can Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Help Prevent Suicide?
By stella
03rd Mar 2022

Stella co-founder and leading trauma expert Dr. Shauna Springer spoke with Mission 22 to discuss the power of Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). Mission 22 is a national community supporting active service members, Veterans, and family members through three key areas of focus:

  • Support and Treatment Programs— addressing Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, suicide risk and other challenges.
  • Social Impact— uniting civilians and the military community to raise awareness of issues active service members, Veterans, and their family members face.
  • Memorials— remembering and honoring service members and Veterans through large scale installations and digital initiatives, while raising awareness for issues faced on home soil.

Stella believes that when biological interventions – like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) and ketamine infusion therapy – are paired with psychological interventions, like Mission 22’s Recovery and Resilience Program, the result can be life-changing.

In recent years, the 17 most common symptoms following trauma have been identified. On this list includes suicidal thoughts or attempts.

We can be so overwhelmed by our symptoms that we sometimes consider harming ourselves or suicide. When we’re experiencing trauma symptoms, we can also experience depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and substance abuse and are at higher risk for suicide. In fact, people diagnosed with trauma symptoms are 9.8 times more likely to die by suicide.1 

SGB has emerged as a promising treatment option for symptoms of trauma. Stella founders Dr. Eugene Lipov and Dr. Shauna Springer recently published a study with other trauma experts that indicates that the SGB is an effective treatment for trauma symptoms regardless of gender, trauma type, PTSD-related medication use, history of suicide attempt, or age.2 

  • Sleep Difficulties
  • Chronic Hypervigilance
  • Startle Response
  • Difficulties Concentrating
  • Floods of Anxiety
  • Irritability or Anger/Rage

Dr. Springer also explores a couple common misconceptions about SGB.

The first misconception is that SGB “blocks you.” This misconception is tied to the assumption that SGB is a nerve blocker, which it is not. If you’re asking yourself, “What Is SGB?” you can learn more about how it works here.

The next misconception discussed is the assumption that SGB “takes your edge away.” On the contrary, people who have received SGB by Stella have come back and reported that SGB had improved reaction time.

Listen to the full piece here:

If you are thinking about suicide or need emotional support, please text “HOME” to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling from Crisis Text Line. We want you to know that you are not alone and that there is hope. 

  1. National Center for PTSD. PTSD and Death from Suicide. Retrieved 9/28/21 from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/rq_docs/V28N4.pdf 
  2. Lipov, E. G., Jacobs, R., Springer, S., Candido, K. D., & Knezevic, N. N. (2022). Utility of Cervical Sympathetic Block in Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Multiple Cohorts: A Retrospective Analysis. Pain Physician, 25(1), 77-85. Available from: https://www.painphysicianjournal.com/current/pdf?article=NzM5Nw%3D%3D
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In the Press: A PTSD Treatment Hiding in Plain Sight

In the Press: A PTSD Treatment Hiding in Plain Sight
By stella
11th Feb 2022

On January 3rd, 2022, WRAL.com published an interview retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nelson Martinez and Stella’s Chief Psychologist Dr. Shauna Springer about the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) and its healing potential in the military community. Read on to learn what the pair has to say about Stella’s breakthrough PTSD (which Stella refers to as PTSI) treatment or watch the full segment here

What Lead Martinez to Stella

During his tours of combat in Iraq and Afganistan, Martinez was ambused and injured in the line of duty. While Martinez was trained to handle situations on the battlefield, he was not prepared for the transition back to civilian life. 

Once home, he struggled with survivor’s guilt despite his best effort to stay busy and push through. Martinez lost fellow Marines in battle and by suicide. He wanted to honor his fallen brothers and sisters by healing himself. 

After exploring his treatment options, Martinez decided that medication was not for him. He was drawn to the SGB by Stella because it’s a 20-minute procedure that’s effective for over 83% of people.1

Here’s Dr. Springer take on SGB:

“SGB is revolutionary. It’s one of the most promising things I’ve seen to treat trauma symptoms, and it’s been hiding in plain sight.”

How Does SGB Work?

SGB is an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion – a bundle of nerves in the neck – that helps restore normal biological function and can efficiently relieve even the most severe trauma symptoms. 

Dr. Springer notes that the best results come from combining SGB with therapy. 
You can learn more about how the procedure works, its benefits, and how it can complement your treatment plan in this article.

Martinez’s Life After SGB

After treatment, Martinez’s gradually felt more calm. He told WRAL.com:

“In simple terms, I feel great. My thoughts are clearer. I’m able to focus on things one at a time instead of everything racing through my head.”

Martinez’s progress fulfills his promise to his fellow Marines and offers hope to the veteran community.
Dr. Springer highlighted the fact that SGB is for anyone who suffers from trauma symptoms, not just veterans.

Watch the full segment here.

  1. Lipov, E., Ritchie, E.C. A Review of the Use of Stellate Ganglion Block in the Treatment of PTSD. Curr Psychiatry Rep 17, 63 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-015-0599-4. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11920-015-0599-4; 
  2. Navaie, M., Keefe, M.S., Hickey, A.H., Mclay, R.N., Ritchie, E.C., & Abdi, S. (2014). Use of stellate ganglion block for refractory post-traumatic stress disorder: A review of published cases. Journal of Anesthesia and Clinical Research, 5(4), [1000403]. https://doi.org/10.4172/2155-6148.1000403
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The Story of Our Trauma: A New Podcast

The Story of Our Trauma: A New Podcast
By stella
02nd Feb 2022

To Experience Trauma Is To Be Human

The Story of Our Trauma is a new podcast hosted by nationally renowned trauma psychologist and Stella co-founder Dr. Shauna Springer

Dr. Springer explores the peaks and valleys of trauma and what we know about the paths to recovery with experts, athletes, veterans, CEOs, and everyone in between.

Episode One: From a Marine to Inmate to Giving Back

How did Ron Self find himself in a situation that had him pulling the trigger in an attempted hit on a doctor’s life? The events of Self’s past shaped his traumatic and turbulent future. Dr. Springer asks how this US Marine how he overcame his trauma and went from inmate of the country’s most notorious prison to the founder of Veterans Healing Veterans.

“If you get with the right people and you work through [your trauma] there’s a sunrise on the other side. And that sunrise looks unlike any sunrise you’ve ever seen. It just has so much more meaning to it.” – Ron Self

Episode Two: Unfolding Trauma and its Collective Weight

Who heals the healers? Guy MacPherson has been answering that question for the better part of a decade on his top-rated podcast The Trauma Therapist. Dr. Springer asks MacPherson how his definition of trauma has shifted over time thanks to his experiences as a therapist and through his own reflection. The pair also discuss The Trauma Therapist Project– an organization that providers healers with educational resources and supportive community.

“I have a more open mind about what can be traumatic. We have to remember that what can be traumatizing for one person isn’t necessarily traumatizing for another person.” – Guy MacPherson

Episode Three: The Resilience Muscle & Shaping Life with Cancer

 Sally Wolf’s life took a sharp turn when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She stepped away from her role as a media executive and her new mission in life was to inspire others. Wolf speaks with Dr. Springer about her journey with cancer, what the Harvard alumni community means to her, and how she takes pleasure in the simple things, like being an “auntie” to her nephew and nieces. For Wolf, there’s always something special when you look for it, even on the most challenging days.

“I couldn’t control a diagnosis, but I could definitely control the team that I built, the people I let in. And that was huge for me.” – Sally Wolf

Listen to every episode of The Story of Our Trauma on Spotify now and tune in every other Wednesday for a new episode with exciting new guests.

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Treating Trauma: Lexi’s Story

Treating Trauma: Lexi’s Story
By stella
02nd Feb 2022

Trauma Is a Universal Human Truth

Did you know that 60% of men and 50% of women experience trauma at least once in their lives?1 That’s roughly every other person. This means that regardless of someone’s gender, age, nationality, religion, education level, sexual orientation, or income, there’s a good chance that trauma will be part of their story.

Defining Trauma

Trauma is derived from the Greek word “traumatikos,” meaning wound. According to Merriam-Webster, the Greeks only used the term for physical injuries, whereas today, trauma can also refer to emotional wounds.

trau·ma | ˈtroumə,ˈtrômə

a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
a physical injury

This article focuses on emotional trauma, which comes in many shapes and sizes. For some, trauma is an accumulation of stressors over time, and for others, it’s a single life-changing event.

Whether trauma occurs once or many times, it can cause the fight-or-flight response to get stuck in overdrive – sometimes resulting in debilitating physical and psychological symptoms. This overactivation can be observed with a brain scan.2

Trauma is Nuanced

Stella co-founder and leading trauma expert Dr. Shauna Springer notes that many people used to believe that “trauma is trauma is trauma,” regardless of the source. However, now we understand that the experience of trauma as well as the road to recovery looks and feels different for everyone.

In a recent episode of The Story of Our Trauma, Stella’s new podcast, Dr. Springer spoke with fellow psychologist and trauma podcaster Guy MacPherson about how his understanding of trauma evolved over time.

At the beginning of his career, MacPherson reserved the term for major incidents. Many assume that if they haven’t been in a car accident, haven’t been raped, or haven’t been to war, for example, that they haven’t experienced trauma. But, through his work with clients, interviews of his peers for his podcast The Trauma Therapist, and his own introspection, MacPherson realized that the definition of trauma is, in fact, much broader.

“I have a more open mind about what can be traumatic. We have to remember that what can be traumatizing for one person isn’t necessarily traumatizing for another person.”

MacPherson shared that being bullied in elementary school was an ongoing traumatic experience that changed trajectory of his life: “It’s very easy for people to think, bullying? Come on! Kids are like that. Get over it. Sometimes that’s true, and other times it’s not.” He explained that bullying impacted his self-esteem, how he showed up in relationships, and how he thought of himself in his adult life.

Stella’s Approach to Healing

Because trauma presents differently for everyone, treatment plans must be tailored to meet each individual’s needs. At Stella, we measure our success in lives changed. We’re dedicated to providing innovative treatments with life-changing results.

Lexi’s Stella Story

A quick note of caution: the following story contains content that may be sensitive to some readers.

As a four years old, Lexi began being sexually abused by someone that her family knew. The abuse continued through her early teen years and eventually turned into sex trafficking. 

Years of trauma caused Lexi to develop Post-Traumatic Stress. Lexi’s symptoms were significant. She struggled with nightmares and being easily startled by loud noises. For her, receiving a PTSD diagnosis (which Stella refers to as PSTI) was a validation of what happened to her, and it empowered her to heal her body and mind. 

Lexi struggled to enjoy everyday experiences like the sound of laughter, loud restaurants, and concerts. Desperate for relief, Lexi began researching additional treatments.

After she discovered SGB and read the research, she was cautiously optimistic. Lexi remembers, “It seemed way too good to be trust and way too simple, especially for someone who had been in therapy for over ten years.” 

When Lexi woke up after her SGB by Stella she “felt peace and could breathe” for the first time in her life.” In that moment, Lexi knew that: 

“Everyone needs to learn that [SGB] exists and have access to it.”

Stella’s mission is to bring SGB and other effective, research-backed treatments to all trauma survivors. Watch the video below to hear directly from Lexi about life before and after SGB by Stella.

To learn more about SGB by Stella, join us every Thursday at 3pm CST for our 30-minute webinar with live Q&A: SGB 101: A New Model of Trauma Treatment. All are welcome and it’s free to attend.

  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018, September 13). How Common is PTSD in Adults? U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp 
  2. Alkire, M.T., Hollifield, M., Khoshsar, R., Nguyen, L., Alley, S. R., and Reist, C. (2015). Neuroimaging suggests that stellate ganglion block improves post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through an amygdala mediated mechanism. Presented at the Anesthesiology Annual Meeting, October 24, 2015.

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