Well. Finally, after 6 months and multiple doctors, I am approved for the Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) trial. It’s been a battle with Workers Comp to get to this point, an unnecessary battle since the procedure was inevitable, but they do have a knack for dragging things out longer than they should – hence why I have permanent, irreversible nerve damage. But I digress; let’s get back to the procedure.
After passing 2 psych evaluations (one with my dr and one with the WC dr) with flying colors (apparently I am well groomed, articulate and intelligent), we are moving forward with the SCS trial. I’m scheduled for October 29, and the electrodes will be removed on November 1. The trial will consist of several electrodes being placed subcutaneously in the epidural space, and the lead wires and actual device being taped down to my back. I should feel relief pretty quickly IF it’s going to work at all. If I get at least 50% relief from the nerve pain in my legs, we can schedule surgery for the permanent implant, which will consist of more electrodes, and the wires and device will be implanted as well. Then I will have a remote control to turn the unit on 3-4 times a day, for about 2 hours each time. Unfortunately, SCS seldom works on back pain; however it has been very successful in the treatment of peripheral nerve damage and the resulting pain in the butt, hips, pelvis and legs.
The technology itself is intriguing. The electrodes are actually placed above the affected area of the spine. In my case, the electrodes will be placed in my thoracic spine to treat the injury in my lumbar spine. The implant doesn’t magically make the pain go away, but instead it changes the nature of the pain, or rather the brain’s interpretation of the pain signal from the nerves. It converts the pain to a tingling, vibrating sensation, which, trust me, is way more preferable than the pain.
I hope this is the answer for me. It’s been almost 3 years since my injury. Three years of unrelenting severe pain, of needles and medications and treatments and physical therapy and surgery. Three years of battling the WC insurance company. Three years of trying to explain my pain to my friends and family and doctors. Three years of missing out on a social life, of making plans and then having to break them because I’m having a flare up, of my friends and my girlfriend moving on with their lives while I hang in limbo. Three years of disappointing my daughters, letting them down because I can’t make it to their volleyball game or band concert, can’t drive them to a friend’s house or walk to the park with them. Three years of sympathetic looks and of hearing “You’re just way too YOUNG for all of this!” (Duh. I know.) I just need to move on to the next chapter of my life, whether it’s pain free or the same as it is now. I just want to know. The SCS is pretty much my last option before another fusion and discectomy surgery, before being sentenced to a life of non stop pain. If that’s the case, as much as it would suck, at least I would just KNOW it won’t be getting and better and make permanent adjustments to my life to take my limitations into account. But just being stagnant, not moving forward and hanging onto hope, it’s awful. I’m ready to move on.