Today was the payoff of five months of protocol. Month one, see the doctor. Month two, the first diagnostic procedure. Month three, the confirming diagnostic procedure. Month four, see the doctor to evaluate the effectiveness of diagnostic procedures one and two. Month five, the title of the post. I can explain most of it, except the x1. No idea what that means.
Bilateral means both sides of my back. L2/3/4/5 are the vertebrae from about the waist on up. MB is medial branch. That’s the nerve bundle exiting the vertebrae at L2/3/4/5. RFA is radiofrequency ablation. Ablation is vaporizing the ends of the offending nerves by the radiofrequency waves. The hardest part was getting to today.
In the diagnostic procedures the nerves were given a shot of anesthetic to see if numbing them reduced or eliminated the pain in my back, which it did until the very next morning. I thought the second diagnostic procedure actually was the RFA, and was crushed when I woke in pain the next day. A call to the nurse disabused me from the notion I should be dancing on tip toe, and I realized appointment four was not a follow-up, but a review of the state of the work to that point.
I survived the protocol. I climbed up to the table today and listened to the happy chatter of the staff during their pre-surgical check list. Three visits later, we do recognize each other, and they especially recognized my socks. My hand knit wool socks I wear all winter. One of them idly picked some fuzz balls off and told me I really should wash them inside out to prevent that.
Other fun things about this outpatient procedure: I had to wear the gown, but kept on my bra (hooray) and my jeans and underwear. I merely unzipped and they did a practiced roll down of my jeans and pants at the waist, past the operating field. The warm blankets went on. Dozeville, before the happy juice. The doctor came in, leaned down so I could see him, and got my name and birthday again. It was the real me; the juice went into the IV.
Once again I was not asleep, and this time the doctor asked questions about sensations in my back as he placed the needles. These needles were larger than the first two times, because the radiofrequency wire still had to go through. I mentioned I certainly felt a particular needle, and I got another slug of happy juice. But, in very short order I had to roll over onto the gurney to go to recovery, where my pre-requested snack of two packs of fig newtons and black coffee awaited.
This time I was not bright as a new day in spring. I dozed between bites of fig newton and could barely finish my coffee. When time came to zip up I swayed from side to side. The extra slug of happy juice.
Home to the ice bag. My sister hit upon ice bag extraordinaire. Back in the days we had little girls filling zip lock bags with acorns for Patty’s critters, the bags went into our freezer until delivered, to forestall the little buggers that exit acorns and metamorphose to something else. One day an ice bag was needed, and a bag of frozen acorns was handier than a bag of frozen peas. Frozen acorns stay frozen and very cold for the better part of a day, and refreeze with no guilty consequences. Jan made a cloth bag to permanently enclose a bag of acorns, and for the last three years it’s been the one. It will go to work with me tomorrow.
My last appointment is in a month, when we will determine if the procedure was a success (for up to two years!). I've already made up my mind.