Monday, September 20, 2010

Dr. Zap-love: or How I Learned to Stop Hurting and Love the Borg.

OK, so, once again, it’s been a while. So many things have been going on in my life that it is quite literally crazy. Let me talk about one thing that’s going to happen this week. But before I do, we need to rewind a little bit.

If you dig back through some of my posts, you’ll see stuff about my back problems. They all started on Father’s Day 2008, and we thought that chapter was done in January of 2009. I had surgery, and after physical therapy I was back to about 95%. Then, I slipped on the ice on my way to lunch in February and herniated the same disc again and herniated the next one up (L5-S1, and L4-L5).

The past 19 months have been a series of physical therapy, trigger point injections, epidural steroids, facet injections, neurotomy, and lots of medications, including Gabapentin, Celebrex, Flexiril, Baclofen, Depakote, Vicodin, and Lidoderm patches, not all at the same time, but lots of them. Sometimes I got some relief, but never for more than a few weeks; and I had to deal with the side effects of the medications: some memory issues, loss of concentration, weight gain, exhaustion, and some memory issues (yes, that was a joke). As an example of some of the thinking issues I’ve been having, it has taken me about 45 minutes to get to this point; normally I’d be done by now.

My pain management doctor wanted to try Botox injections (not for my face, in my back), but my insurance wouldn’t cover it. Finally, he decided to try a test of a neurostimulator. It took a few months for the insurance company to approve it, including a visit to a psychiatrist, but they finally approved the test.

The test went great. The doctor took the electrodes, put them in at around L2 and pushed them up the epidural space to around T7, 8, and 9. Then he tied off the electrode wires with a suture to hold them in place, and connected them to the generator. The generator was about the size of an iPod but twice as thick. I could control the strength of the electrical signal and had three “programs” of different sensations. The primary sensation was like my legs were licking a 9V battery. The other two programs were different pulsation patterns. Here’s a picture before the doctor took the wires out of my back.

Back 3a

During the five days of the test I felt great; the pain was gone. I went through three 9V batteries, but the pain was gone. I could walk without a cane, I could drive without problems, I could even climb stairs with no issues. I was genuinely sad when they took the trial out. That afternoon I got a call with my appointment with the neurosurgeon who will put in my permanent implant (he’s the same doctor who did my first back surgery).

After some “interesting” discussions with the insurance company to get the referral fixed for the surgery, I had my pre-op appointment and today I had my pre-op lab work done.

So, what will the finished project look like? Well, there are three parts to the system; the electrodes (it should be the first one), the generator, and the remote. Also, to up the “cool factor”, the generator battery is recharged through electromagnetic induction.

Now I’m sitting here with a hospital wristband on my arm that I can’t take off until after the surgery because I had all my lab work done today. I think it will be annoying in the next few days, but at least I got it done.

So, that’s what’s been going on for the past several months. If it seems like I’ve been ignoring you, I’m truly sorry. If I grossed you out with the picture, well, too bad; I can’t help the hair on my back. Hopefully next week I’ll have some good stories for you about my visit to the hospital on the 23rd. And now that I’m going to become one of the Borg, hopefully you won’t all shun me, and will accept me like they did Seven of Nine.