The procedure was one of the strangest experiences – and lets face it, I’ve had a few ops over the years. The first difficulty came when the operating department assistant (ODA) asked me to jump up onto the operating table – and then lie on my stomach. A near Olympic feat for someone with back pain, a dodgy leg and foot drop!! The consultant allowed me to choose which type of trial I opted for – explanations later! – and so began the placing of tunneled electrode leads into my back with arrows drawn in marker pen. I was asleep for the actual placing of the leads and then woken up to assess if the electrodes were in the correct area of the spinal cord nerves –
“can you feel that, Claire?”
“No…” still feeling very groggy
“How about now?” to an immediate pulse of the strongest pins and needles you have ever felt.
“Yes, but it is in my stomach and around my ribs” Fully awake now!
“Think we need to change something here, team!”
And so the currents to the various electrodes were played with until the feeling was covering my leg, my foot and my back. I even have some coverage in my good leg and this is with just one lead. For those of us who have been patients on the St Thomas’ pain unit, we know that this is something special having been warned that it may not be possible to cover pain in more than one location. In recovery I was reminded how to use the temporary battery and charger, before returning to the ward – I was in theatre for about two and half hours and another half hour in recovery. Of course the medics never commit to a timings but I believe that a trial can take anything from an hour to several hours on the operating table.
Back on the ward I needed to complete every surgical nurses’ post operative list – the obligatory cup of tea and sandwiches – Ben, you were dead right – check, trip to the toilet – check, be up and moving – albeit slowly, check! Then TTOs (medication to non medics – antibiotics and pain killers) arrived and I was free to go.
The trip home to Surrey on Friday evening through rush hour London traffic was not easy. My back was starting to really hurt from the surgery as the operative drugs were wearing off, but I used the stimulator for my chronic pain – it is important to be able to distinguish between the two, not to use too much medication for the surgical pain and thus to be able to understand if the stimulator is working for the chronic pain. Clear as mud to some of you.
My wound was bleeding after the journey, but I talked nurse Duncan through applying a new dressing over the original – it was drummed into us that it is very important not to remove the original due to the risk of infection – enjoyed some dinner and settled later for the night. I used the stimulator before settling, as they should not be left on whilst asleep, and had a pretty good night for me!
Today has been quiet, a bit sore and I have been experimenting with the stimulator. So far, so good – the feeling is the strangest thing, and until the lead beds in a little it is quite positional, so I am experiencing sudden surges of current. At the moment I’m wary to say whether it is definitely going to help me, but I think that for me the electrical sensations are masking the nerve pain and are preferable. So fingers crossed, everyone, I’m cautiously optimistic.
Thanks for the words of support – I will post some more info about the actual spinal cord stimulator for anyone interested, and some musings about living with chronic pain, along with updates on my recovery and the future plan of action.