Thursday, December 17, 2009


(This is kind of a long post. Please don't miss the next post, Sew Buttons On Your Underwear.)

Everything went fine. Pretty much. Loose clothing. Check. No buttons on the underwear. Check. Prearranged cot for lying down upon arrival to Anesthesiology. (record player scratching) It seems the message was not conveyed to the appropriate person or persons - something about a new computer system and, you know - these guys just aren't used to checking for Notes in the Notes Field.

Not to worry. I found a half-comfortable bench and made myself half-comfortable. They did have a gurney for me to lie on when I got to the Operating Room.

Did I say Operating Room? Well, turns out that's where we were. I was expecting to be in any typical exam room. After all, I was only getting an injection. But we were in an operating room (my first) and it didn't look nearly as glamorous as it does on TV. It was both awesome (the equipment was pretty cool) and slightly nerve racking.

I was lying down when I met the doctor and we were able to conduct most of the interview that way. This is somewhat problematic and it occurs every time I see any doctor. I'm usually not in pain during this interview - either because I've made myself comfortable by lying on an exam table or because my meds are working. I pass all the tests with flying colors and when he asks, "How's your pain right now?" I have to reply that it's nearly zero but I always add "but it'll be a 10 in ten minutes." I get the feeling that I'm not taken seriously.

Anyway, this doctor, Dr. Needles, he showed me my MRI - which was the first time I had seen it. It was pretty spectacular. Imagine a circle about the size of a silver dollar and next to it, almost touching, is another circle the size of a dime. The silver dollar would be the disk and the dime would be the spinal cord.

Next, imagine there's a circle that encompasses the other two such that this boundary circle comes close to but doesn't touch the other two circles. I don't know what the boundary circle is called but imagine this boundary cannot be penetrated. (Actually, I believe it can be but just work with me here.)

Now, imagine the silver dollar becoming ovoid like an egg with the "pointy" end pointing towards the dime. My pointy silver dollar is crushing my dime! It was quite the visual and in my entirely unprofessional opinion I'm lucky to be walking at all!

With the preliminaries out of the way, including the signed consent stating that I am fully aware* that nearly anything could happen from this point forward, I got on the table and dropped my drawers.

After administering a local anesthetic, the doctor inserted a needle into a sacral foramina (the top one on the right). He would pause for an x-ray photo op, adjust the needle, take another x-ray, and so on, alternating slight movement of the needle with a current x-ray image showing him exactly what was going on.

At some point, while the needle was in me he casually mentions that he might nick a nerve. He asked if I wouldn't mind not jumping off the table if that should happen. (Breathe, breathe.) I could hear my heart monitor and I'm quite sure it was approaching 100. No problem, doc, I'll let you know.

As it turns out, he didn't nick anything so that was good. When everything was in position, he injected a dye. On the x-ray he could see where the dye spread and that told him where the medicine would spread. That done, he injected the medicine. At this point, I started feeling some pain. The dye and the medicine were now filling the remaining space between my ovoid silver dollar and my flattened dime. Space being limited, this caused extra pressure on the dime.

We finished up, I got off the table, and I received my "post-op" care. While I was standing there, the dye and medicine continued to crush my poor little dime. Let me just say here that the pain I was now feeling made the last two and a half months look like sissy stuff. The Do Re Mi scale didn't apply any longer. Before I left the room, I couldn't put any pressure on my right leg at all. I had to request a wheelchair ride out of the hospital. (I didn't get a sticker or a lollipop or nothin'.)

Getting in and out of the car was pretty tricky but by the time we got home, some of that pain wore off so I was able to hobble to my trusted bed under my own power. And now the pain as at the level it was this morning which is 0 when I'm lying down and pain and numbness when I stand up, escalating in intensity over a span of ten minutes to the point I need to lie down again.

It could be a couple days before I know if this worked or not. If not, they can try again from a different approach.

*If you don't count the four percocet I took earlier.

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