U.S. Pain Foundation was formed because one individual was in search of support, community and hope. So he created it…
In 2003, Paul Gileno was 30 years old, and one of the top chefs and caterers in Connecticut and New York. He’d worked in the food business since he was 13, starting out as a dishwasher and eventually owning his own businesses: a gourmet food store, a catering company, and a small eat-in restaurant. He always identified himself as a cook — mostly of Italian and French food — and loved what he did.
But one day at work, he was injured while lifting a very light box. Twisting his body as he lifted, his spine broke, and he severed the sciatic nerve. From that moment on, everything changed for him. He went from being a highly sought-after chef to a pain patient.
He was seeing a number of healthcare providers, including a pain management specialist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a psychologist. He began grueling physical therapy, underwent multiple failed back surgeries and various pain management treatments. Nothing made a difference.
His life seemed to be in shambles too. The pain had put a huge strain on his marriage (ending in divorce) and his relationships with his six siblings (whom he did not speak to for years). Yet one of the hardest moments was when he had to accept his pain was chronic, forcing him to sell his businesses.
Paul found himself in a deep depression. His whole life he had identified his worth by what he did: he was a chef. Without that passion, he didn’t know who he was anymore.
Seeing a psychologist to work through the anger, grief and loss, Paul kept hearing her repeat the same message during every session: he wasn’t alone and many people with pain endure the same thing. He realized if that was true there was no organization or group out there serving people like him. So he decided to make it his calling to help other chronic pain warriors like him.
He wanted to create an organization focused on the patient perspective. It would be patients helping patients through support and community interaction. Living in Connecticut, he initially founded CT Pain Foundation in late-2006.
With weekly support group meetings, Paul soon found himself surrounded by others who understood him. Together, they began helping each other find new meaning in life: a new, redefined purpose. What started as a way for Paul to connect with other pain warriors soon grew to a movement. He had no idea that his small nonprofit would end up being the missing link the pain community had been searching to find for so long!
It was in 2010 that Paul met Nicole Hemmenway. Nicole had just written a book describing her journey living with chronic pain. CT Pain had been expanding its support groups and was looking for other ways to help patients find empowerment. Speaking with the authority that came from telling her story, Nicole felt certain others would also benefit if they had an avenue to share their stories as well.
The two put their heads together and decided to partner with a fellow pain patient who was a professional photographer to create a project that would bring public visibility to the invisible, internal struggles of people living with chronic pain. The INvisible Project was born. The project includes profiles (personal pain journeys) of individuals along with photos of them on their best days … and in their darkest moments. The goal is to show the reality of life with pain, and to offer hope and inspiration to millions.
That first year, nine people were featured with profiles by Nicole and professional photos taken on a day in the life of each person.
The INvisible Project catapulted CT Pain Foundation into the national spotlight. Soon Paul was inundated with emails from people asking if they could join even if they didn’t live in Connecticut. Paul’s whole purpose for creating this organization was to help the masses; he never knew when he originally formed the nonprofit that the name would cause confusion.
So in 2011, CT Pain went national … becoming the U.S. Pain Foundation. The organization is the leading patient-advocacy organization ensuring that people with pain are heard and validated. U.S. Pain is a lifeline for many with pain – a resource that offers support and hope, community, and strength.