Yorkshire businessman continues work of his late wife

22 August 2018

A businessman from North Yorkshire who thought he might have to give up the hobby he is passionate about, due to crippling back pain, has been able to continue thanks to pain management injection treatment at Spire Leeds Hospital.

Stephen Hipps, 72, breeds prize-winning Ryeland sheep, one of the UK’s oldest breeds, at his farm near Harrogate. He had discectomy surgery 30 years ago and has suffered from debilitating pain caused by sciatica for many years, and more recently, arthritis.

Stephen Hipps

The steroid injections, given to him around once a year, at Spire Leeds Hospital means that he can be pain free and also regain the mobility required for the physically challenging work needed to prepare his flock for local shows.

Stephen’s hobby has special significance for him as he and his late wife Margaret started breeding Ryelands in 1981 founded on winning bloodlines. Admirers of the breed include HRH the Prince of Wales. After Margaret sadly passed away in 2007 Stephen decided to continue her work and to carry on her legacy. Spending all of his spare time working with the breed helped him to cope with the grief, soon gaining a reputation as a top breeder and continuing to win prizes.

“Margaret was extremely knowledgeable about the breed and showed for many years. I used to watch her which is how I learned. After her death I decided to have a go on my own and it soon turned into something I feel passionate about. Looking after the sheep, which can weigh 15 stones, is very physically demanding and you have to be physically fit.

“Preparing the sheep for shows, involves a lot of bending and stretching, twisting and turning. None of which I could do without pain management injections. I’m indebted to Dr Karen Simpson at Spire Leeds Hospital for without the treatment I don’t think it would have been possible to carry on,” said Stephen, who has two stepchildren and nine grandchildren. One of his grandchildren, Aimee is already showing an interest and ‘helps out’.

The businessman who owns Dalesauna in Knaresborough, a manufacturer of saunas and steam rooms, is now semi-retired and able to devote more time to his hobby, picking up many prizes. Home-bred successes include the Great Yorkshire Show, the Royal Lancashire Show (now discontinued) York Rare Breeds Show and beyond. He has won the Ryeland Wool on the Hoof Championship three times and overall Supreme Wool on the Hoof.

“Margaret would have been proud of this accolade as it was one of only a few my wife didn’t manage to achieve before she passed away and it’s a fitting tribute to her,” said Stephen who also won Breed Champion at the Great Yorkshire Show 2016 with his shearling ram, Valentino. He became president of the Ryeland Flock Book Society in 2015 and is also a well-respected judge of the Ryeland breed.

Dr Karen Simpson, consultant in pain management at Spire Leeds Hospital, said, “Stephen had a long history of chronic degenerative multi-level spinal pain which were limiting his daily activities, his mobility and looking after his sheep. Clinical examination and spinal MRI’s pinpointed the problem.”

The treatment involves a combination of injections to manage the pain - facet blocks in the lumbar and thoracic regions of the back and dorsal root blocks. These are repeated around once a year or when is needed.

“His treatment options would be pain management vs surgery. We opted for a conservative approach with nerve blocks to aid physical therapies which we limited with careful assessment and timing of treatment when needed. Without the injections treatment he would have needed more medication with worsening side effects as he ages, and he may have had to consider surgery.”

Dr Simpson explained that injections can be used for both diagnosing and treating back pain. “While there are several different types of injections, the premise is generally the same. A local anaesthetic and a long-acting steroid are injected into a muscle, nerve or joint near or in the spine. If this results in immediate pain relief, the targeted area is likely to be the cause of the patient’s pain. When used for therapeutic purposes, the injections can be repeated up to two or three times a year to provide ongoing pain relief

Epidural injections deliver medications directly into the epidural space in the spine. Facet medial nerve blocks and facet joint injections treat the spinal facet joints, which allow the spine to bend and twist. If needed, multiple injections can be administered to multiple arthritic joint.
Stephen said, “The relief is immediate, there are no side effects, I feel one hundred percent better straight away and can go home the same day.

“This hobby has been really therapeutic for me and the sheep provide a connection with a wonderful past that I had with my wife. I plan to continue sheep breeding for as long as I’m able.”

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