Johnny has been troubled by acute nerve pain ever since he became paraplegic, through a flying accident in 1985. Since then he has tried everything, from cranio-sacral massage to spinal surgery, from faith-healing (not enough, clearly) to dope cookies — all without lasting success. I did get two weeks off after the cookies (Dad, bless him, was my dealer) and a full six weeks after trying CBD oil, but after the jolts kicked in again they would not go away. I stayed clear of opiods, thank God. They didn’t stop the pain; I just didn’t care about it.
But I have spent all the past 36 years on healthy doses of other prescription drugs, including anti-depressants that coat the damaged nerve endings. Without them, the pain would be even worse. I have always pointed out that the stuff was there for the pain rather than depression, but the pills must have affected my demeanour. It would also acccount for the levels of vagueness and general lack of spunk that cost me work as a freelance and one particularly exciting full-time job. That’s my story, anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I tried something else and, as I write, am waiting to find out if it works. In the Neurological Wing at St.George’s Hospital, Tooting, I was fitted with a spinal cord stimulator that emits a signal to counteract the pain. It consists of a strip (they call it a ‘paddle’) of electrodes fitted to the appropriate lumbar vertebra and connected to a battery pack inserted into my side — at the bottom of my left-hand ribcage. I was only in for a few days.
Yesterday I returned to have the device switched on and tuned. The staff used a tablet to start and adjust a vibrating signal emmited from my device, to help me find the best location and signal-strength. The device was then switched over to emit the same signal but with the vibration removed. I was presented with an actual i-Pod Touch to help me adjust the timing, and a substantial magnet for jump-starting it (or me, I need to read that up). The prognosis is a 70% reduction in 70% of the pain, which I can live with and which I hope will allow me to come off the pills. I’ll need a new battery pack every five years.
Next Monday I have to send Merry (Clinical Nurse Specialist) a photo of one of my wounds, just to check all is well. By then I should also know whether or not the device is helping.
Whatever the outcome, many thanks to Merry, Messrs Pereira and Mostofi and the Neuromodulation team for their skill and care.
So far, Johnny hasn’t noticed anything exciting, apart from the vibration frequency appearing roughly the same as that of his electric toothbrush. Perhaps he could have shoved that up his bum, switched it on and saved everyone the trouble.