Patient Advocate Spotlight: Emily Gammell

12.17.19

Emily Gammell, from Nashville, Tennessee, has been struggling with chronic pain for nearly a decade. After years of searching for answers, she was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic condition that causes intense pain in the bladder and pelvis.

Since Gammell’s diagnosis, she has fought for relief, finding answers for herself and others in the process. Gammell is now a women’s health patient advocate and fights insurance and patient discrimination by sharing her story about living with and diagnosing IC.

In addition to IC, Gammell has pudendal neuralgia (PN) and pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD). All three diseases cause intense pain and require various treatments, which may or may not offer relief. While treating her conditions, Gammell ran into various insurance hurdles and was denied coverage for treatment options that were deemed “not medically necessary.”

At age 27, Gammell started having recurrent and painful urinary tract infections. She went from doctor to doctor and received no answers about the chronic symptoms she was experiencing. Many suggested she was in pre-menopause or needed therapy because her condition was in her head. Despite doctors and insurers efforts to dismiss Gammell’s condition, she was determined to find answers.

Gammell was finally diagnosed with IC in 2018 and began what she deemed a “life sentence.” Thankfully, through Gammell’s excellent networking and advocacy initiatives she has been able to turn her life sentence into a life of advocacy.

To relieve her pain, Gammell turned to the internet for answers. A deep search revealed some IC treatment options that could ease her chronic pain and restore her life. Unfortunately, the stem cell injection therapy recommended by her specialist, Dr. Barry Jarnagin, was deemed not medically necessary by her insurer. Gammell was devastated, but despite her insurer’s resistance to cover the treatment, Gammell was able to get coverage and undergo Dr. Jarnagin’s stem cell therapy which she says saved her life from chronic pelvic pain.

After finding some relief from the chronic pain she was experiencing, Gammell looked towards a cure. Through her advocacy and networking skills, Gammell discovered a breakthrough treatment being provided by Dr. Stewart Bundrick Jr.  Gammell drove eight hours to her appointment with Dr. Bundrick where he outlined the recent research on IC and told Gammell he could cure her condition in one to two years. Gammell was overcome with excitement knowing her life sentence may have a happy ending.

After a decade long journey of doctors, insurers and specialists, Gammell has now set her sights on dismantling the barriers she faced while diagnosing and living with chronic pelvic pain. Gammell’s experience battling insurance companies and managing chronic pain situates her to be a powerful advocate in the Nashville area. Be sure to connect with Emily via email at icpatientadvocacy@gmail.com or on Instagram @icpatientadvocacy if you want to learn more about women’s health, IC and chronic condition advocacy in the Tennessee area.