Finally, a proper drug

Well I gave it a go. Seven months after its installation up my spine, accompanied by a battery that has left a lump on my left side, I have concluded that the Spinal Cord Stimulator does not bloody work. Not for me, at any rate. We’ve tried every setting bar one and none of them has made a blind bit of difference to my pain. RIght now, it’s switched off.

We will explore that final setting in the Spring but, in the meantime, I shall explore the delights of medical marijuana. Had a chat last week with a consultant and he promised to fix me up with some real good shit.

No dude, it’s legit. Cannabis is legal in the UK if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed through a pharmacy. The Medical Marijuana Clinics can select from strains of the plant to treat a range of conditions. The default method of consuming the stuff appears to be vaping which, even though I wouldn’t have to hang around on a street corner with me bum-crack showing, doesn’t appeal. So, as soon as I have parted with the required readies — the stuff does not come under the NHS, sadly — I will be supplied with two bottles of oil to drop under my tongue. Sub-lingually, madam.

The useful ingredient in both of these is CBD oil, which is readily available in health-food shops to treat sundry ailments. It worked for me, once, for a few weeks. But there will also be a squirt of THC, which is the stuff that makes you high. I forgot to ask if the lower, day-time dose may have that effect. The second bottle features a higher concentration of THC and will be designed to help me sleep. I also forgot to ask if I can drive the following day. (Hell, if it works I’ll sell the car and use taxis.)

The downside, to a Brit used to getting all his drugs for free, is that it’s bloody expensive. I’ve parted with 70 notes for the consultation and will pay a similar amount for any follow-ups, plus each prescription and each delivery of Mary Jane. I estimate about 150 quid to set up and running costs of 120-odd per month. If I switch to vaping I will also pay for the device and a set of scales to measure out the flower.

So will it work? The acid test will be not if it does work, but if it continues to work for more than a few weeks, delivering lasting relief. It’s been 37 YEARS fer Chrissake! It’s beginning to affect my sunny disposition.

Watch this space.

… to get his pain fixed!

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.

The paddle

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.

The slim controller

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.