me and my neck

I haven’t written here since September? To be honest, this entire semester has gone by in a blur. Really, I ought to say non-semester, since I’ve been on medical leave, yet again. This time, it’s mostly my neck. Apparently, my facet nerves are damaged and inflamed as a result of my car accident this summer, so as well as the physical therapy I’ve already had, I need to have an outpatient surgical procedure called a radio frequency rhizotomy. At least it sounds impressive, eh? (And of course, now the weather is being its usual crazy Minnesota self, so my fibromyalgia is kicking in.)

This is a partial description of the procedure from SpineUniverse.com:

Once you are ready, you will be given an IV with a mild sedative to keep you comfortable but awake during the procedure. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the area where the injection is to be done. An x-ray machine is then used to guide the exact placement of the needle/electrode. Once the needle is injected, a mild electrical current is used to stimulate the nerve and confirm its exact location. You may feel slight pressure or tingling during this part of the procedure. Then the electrode is heated to deaden the sensory nerves. When the procedure is completed, the needle is removed and the injection site is bandaged.

In fact, the nerves are cauterized (as in burnt, yes) so they can no longer transmit pain signals to the brain. It’s obviously a much longer-lasting fix than just having a cortisone shot, which was another option.  In my case, the doctor will cauterized my facet nerves from C-4 to C-7 (In normal English, that means four facet nerves in my cervical spine, or neck.) Apparently the procedure itself isn’t that bad, because they are going to keep me so sedated I won’t even remember the surgery! It’s the healing that is going to be the tricky part. It can be fairly agonizing, I’ve gathered, because my nerves will be raw until scar tissue has a chance to form, which takes at least a week. And it can take up to four weeks for the results from the procedure to become clear. Ugh. And I’m having it done only five days before Christmas!

I was quite busy feeling sorry for myself the other day when my friend Nadine pointed out how lucky I was. Lucky that I have a problem that medical science can actually fix! Imagine the days not so long ago when people just had to put up with this sort of (at times excruciating) neck pain. I remember thinking about that years ago, when I was seventeen years old and had my two scoliosis surgeries. I have never, ever, forgotten the first time I saw myself after the surgery, reflected in the window at the end of the hall. Even wrapped up in a cheesy hospital robe, I could see that my spine was straight. For the first time in years. I actually looked like all the other girls I knew. And boy, did the tears ever flow. I still have quite a bit of back pain from the surgeries, and have degenerative disk disease and osteoarthritis in my cervical spine as a result, but I have never once been sorry I had those surgeries.

Sure, life would be easier without the surgeries and the fibromyalgia etc., etc., but I am not powerless in the face of them. And I am so grateful to all those in medical research who care enough to invent procedures and medications that either cure what I have, or enable me to cope better. George is taking a couple of days off work to care for me and then my birthmom is coming over for a day, and she’s promised to arrive bearing her delicious manicotti! And I have Fiona to take care of me, as she does so well, lots of books (piled everywhere in our bedroom and downloaded onto my Kindle), and podcasts on my iPod I’ve been meaning to catch up on. And the house is nice and cozy, decorated for Christmas. Plus I already have several visitors lined up, whether Fiona likes it or not! So in the end, when I think about, it looks as though there will be many benefits beyond the obvious medical ones.

PS Prayers welcomed! As are lavish get-well gifts, huge flower bouquets, the works!

Image of spine from:

http://www.backandjointpain.com/injection-procedures/cervical-spine/rhizotomy

 

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