I decided to start this blog category for the purpose of educating the curious & possible future candidates of this implant I've recently had put in my back. I get a lot of questions since this all began (months of preparation before the actual implant) and people who are curious because they or some one they know have chronic pain like me. It's one thing to read about things like this from their makers. It's another to hear it from some one who is personally acquainted with the device. So here I am. I'm your guinea pig. Anyone who knows me already knows my pain history. I won't get into too many details because this blog is about the implant. But I'll just give a brief description for education purposes & why this device might be needed for others.
I had 4 back surgeries previous to the implant (5 now.) I had several damaged discs to say the least. I also have Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis, both progressive autoimmune disorders. Needless to say, I live in daily pain. I've had physical therapy, multiple surgeries, and multiple injections of the course of a few years. I was also on a very strong regimen of narcotics for two years prior to my back surgeries. It was the first attempt to avoid the surgeries in the first place. But I couldn't accept the medications for the rest of my life because I felt it changed who I was as a person. It didn't make my quality of life better if I wasn't actually living my life as 'me.' So I took myself off the medications (under Dr. supervision of course) and went ahead with other routes. The implant came after all attempts at everything else. Keep in mind you don't have to have all my conditions to qualify. It's for chronic pain, period.
After months of trial and error with injections I had a consultation with my pain management Dr about the implant, and then they set a date to do what is called the "trial period." (The trial lasted about a week and a half.) This was a small procedure with light sedation (similar to injections) where the Dr put a temporary set of leads inside my spine.
These are the actual set of temporary leads that were put in my spine for the trial period. My Dr told me to keep them as a souvenir. He's funny like that.
The leads were placed inside my body on my spine and then had cords coming out of my back that were attached to the leads. The cords were sewn in place on the outside of my body (so that the leads wouldn't move during the trial.) The cords were then attached to what I called the dinosaur. Think of a really giant pager (if you can remember what those were.) This was my dinosaur:
You can see a bit of the cords on the bottom there. Those cords are the cords that came out of my back (attached to the leads) and led to this dinosaur of a remote that clipped to my hip/clothing (just like a giant pager.) But this device controlled all the settings. Oh that reminds me, some of you might be wondering what the neurostimulator does exactly. It is a device (as we've established) that is implanted in your back and attached to leads that are attached to your spine, and the device sends impulses through you body (upper or lower, depending on where you get the implant.) If you click here, this will tell exactly how it works to stop pain.
(It will open a new page in your browser.) Okay... back to the trial, they bandaged me up like a mummy... well only my back, but I felt like a mummy. Here were my bandages on my back:
I had impulses going all through my lower body (I am getting another implant in my upper back in the future. But most people don't need one for the upper and lower lumbar like me. I'm just a freak of nature.) The cords coming out of my back are neatly hiding under all that mummy wrap. Here's the downside, I couldn't shower for the whole trial. Since the cords are coming out of your back (literally) you can't get anything wet. You have to sponge bathe or squat under the tub faucet like I did and do your best. It was not fun. But worth it. So a week and a half later, the Dr removed my leads (no special procedure, he did it right in the patient room.) Then I had to take a course of strong antibiotics to keep safe from any possible infection due to the work on my spine, and we set the date for the implant for about 6 weeks later (they have to let your spine heal from the trial and make sure there was no infection or bad effects from the leads.)
(But in order to qualify for the implant after the trial, you have to have received at least 50% or more pain relieve during the trial, FYI.) 6 weeks later (roughly) it was surgery day. This is a major surgery and they will cut through a lot of muscle and tissue to get to all the places they need to put the implant in. Here is a pic of the implant (I borrowed it from this article here, where you can also get more info on the Eon:)
The device is implanted in your body as such.
The surgery was about two hours long. I was sedated but not completely out while the Dr put the leads in (because they needed me to voice the feelings of the stimulation as they were installed.) And then I was put completely under while the implant was implanted into my body. I woke up in the recovery room. Here I was right after I woke up. I was saying, I am totally stoned... Ok, I was really saying, "Thumbs up. All is well" to all my friends in the cyber world. But I was in fact, totally stoned. I had this REALLY bad headache when I woke up. I've had spinal fluid leak headaches before, and that's what it felt like. So they put some strong narcotics into my IV until my headache was gone. That was on top of all the meds I received during surgery. So ya, I was a little out of it. Don't judge me.
Then my best friend (you too will get a best friend if you ever have one of these) started to program my device. You will receive said best friend during your initial consultation for the neurostimulator. He/she (I had a she) will be a St. Jude rep (makers of the Eon) that will follow you all through your neuro journey. They will call and/or text all week during your trial and check on you. They will make themselves available for questions at any time (texting is always fun at midnight.) They will be at all your appointments that involve the stimulator. They'll be your comfort, question answerer person, and anything else you need them to be during this series of months. My personal BFF even served as a personal comedian and flattery filler. Because she was totally impressed with me having 6 kids and being the size I am. She just couldn't get over it. She loved to play a game with all the other medical staff and ask them to guess how many kids I've had.
They will even be with you in the OR during your trial procedure and your surgery. You want them there too. Your BFF has a master remote, and they can control all the impulses your body feels...they can even turn the impulses up REALLY high. Be sure to stay their BFF! Okay, I've decided to cut it here for now and write a part 2 of the blog. I will pick up with what happened after surgery & explain all that good stuff in the next blog (ie, what to expect during recovery, how long, etc.) This is enough info to process for now. In the meantime, you can read all about this nifty device at Poweroveryourpain.com