Day 322: Blog’s Been Blank: Babe’s Been Broken

Day 322.  So many days passed.  Lost.  It moves me to tears to think of it.  I haven’t written a word since we last spoke.  Much water under the bridge on my journey.

Well, okay then.  While the rest of you were ring-ting-a-ling-ing at your champagne-toasting, hors d’oeuvre gobbling, slow-dancing fêtes, I was feeling like my lights were out.  I ended up spending a week at the very, very decidedly “developing worldWashington Hospital Center (just try using the bathroom in one of the patient rooms).  Oh just Deck the Halls with Boughs of Bedpans.

It wasn’t all bad:  I had round the clock IV Dilaudid, and though I was NPO (no food or water) for three days, and on a liquid diet for the following two days, it was sort of like being in some kind of a dreamy, stoned spa….I lost five pounds for the first time ever in the month of December.

My favorite moment in the hospital?  This email from Carlos:

The Sainted Carlos

I’ve heard you are in the hospital… what’s going on? Xmas in the hospital seems a bit extreme. Are you giving birth to baby Jesus? That would explain it. … Love, oodles of it.

I am STILL laughing at that email.  I’m sure darling Carlos can hear me, all the way down in Buenos Aires.

This visit was a scare.  I had pain around my navel, near one of my aneurysms.  A rupture there could mean curtains for me.  Oddly, the gravity of the situation didn’t register at the time.  I just knew I should move quickly, so I was my same plucky self.

Last week, when I was safely home, I saw a writing prompt that asked me to write about what I would do if I had only an hour left to live.  I felt like I really knew the answer, no speculation.  The answer is that I would do whatever I could to keep on living, but not send off the alarms to my loved ones because it would just torment them if I was wrong.  Luckily, I knew that this was a good plan, since I was wrong on this call.

I read fanciful answers others had posted, like go and finally eat that ice cream sundae I’ve been denying myself, or go and take the kids out of school so I can kiss them, or go find the guy who was my only one, true love, kiss him, and finally admit it after all these years.  None of these answers are in any way practical or even probable.  When you think you have only an hour left, you are afraid.  All you can do is what you do every day:  try to keep on living.  You do what you do in every single other situation: continue the perpetual motion of swinging one unremarkable foot and plunking it down in front of the last one. That is all of us survive the everyday trauma of living, as well as the life-and-death traumas.  We have no choice.  There is a certain comfort in that.

So, after a week on two different antibiotics (okay, I lie, five days.  I stopped them because they were killing me, rather than having any effect on any sort of bacteria that were supposedly in my gut), I am fine.  Feel great, in fact, a wonderful way to start the new year.  I have tons to tell you.  We’ll catch up in days to come.

Day 347. Pretty in PEMF

So my mom and Nathan watch the local FOX station evening news, and I happen to admit that because they called me the other night to say that Dr. Oz had been on to promote the next day’s show.  The topic was to be a patient-controlled device that seems to be quite successful in treating a number of health concerns, but particularly chronic pain such as headache, backache, and nerve pain.  Yes, please.

So, that was one Dr. Oz episode I TIVOed.  I was so excited about the topic that as I watched the show, I did more internet research than pay attention to the commentators.  Do you ever do that, and wake up from your internet dream only to discover that the whole show is over?  If you have a DVR, you can rewind it, but the time you set aside to watch it has passed and there you were, foiled by the time suck on your lap.

Well.  So, I learned that PEMF, or Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy, has actually been around since the 70s, and received its FDA approval in 1979.  (To be clear, this has nothing to do with the ordinary refrigerator type of magnets sold fallaciously as headache and arthritis cures; it’s a different type of magnet.)  The device is frequently used in the field of orthopedics for things like broken bones that won’t knit and arthritic pain.  Also some rheumatologists and physiatrists (pain doctors) are experienced in treating soft-tissue wounds as well as suppressing inflammatory responses at the cell membrane level to alleviate pain and increasing range of motion.

The device(s) (by various makers) seem to have been studied extensively over thirty-odd years — although I did note among the 40 and 50 abstracts I read that none seems to have investigated in a large study group of beyond, say, 50 subjects.  But studies seem to prove in small groups that PEMF Therapy can treat acute pain dramatically well, and chronic pain as well, but somewhat slower.  This has been my experience so far exactly.

Here’s what it looks like:

These machines have one major disadvantage, and that is cost: at present, insurance doesn’t cover treatment, so there’s no $25 copay/visit, and even if there were, at the very least one should be treated three times weekly.  Ideally one would be treated twice daily.  At $25 a pop for copay, the cost would immediately be out of most of our reach (and who pays a $25 copay anymore?).  If there is any good news, it is that some of the machines are now made for home use. Thus, rather than costing $25,000, they cost between $3000 and $5000, which still puts them outside of most of our reach. We can gather, though, if the insurance won’t cover a copay, they certainly won’t cover the purchase price of the machine.

One company, iMRS, figured out a way to let desperate people try the machines.  They rent a brand-new machine for $500/month (with a refundable $1000 deposit on the credit card).  We can rent as long as we like, and if we decide to keep it, all the rent (and deposit) will go toward the purchase price (which is close to $4000).  The cost is still outrageous, but for someone who is desperate (and potentially has only 347 days left on the planet), all money starts to look like the gold-colored five hundreds in Monopoly:  imaginary.

That last argument not holding any water, my Mom and Nathan helped me rent it for a month.  Let’s see how it goes.

Here are a couple of other parts of the machine:

So far, it hasn’t afforded the miracle cure I’ve been hoping for.  I would say, though, that it is fairly miraculous on acute pain, like the headache I wake up with three times weekly that I mention in the probe video, a feeling like someone is cracking open the bridge of my nose and then chopping it up in pieces.  If I run the probe over the offending areas for the prescribed 16 minutes, the headache will be gone afterwards (rather than taking a day, or more, of extra narcotics to try to treat it).   Similarly, it can help sometimes with arthritic pain that pops up as well.

Karma is sweet, though.  Nathan has had a shoulder injury for many years from parachuting from a plane.  He’s a tough guy and doesn’t take any painkillers or complain, but he says he hasn’t slept well for as long as he can remember, and putting on coats and things have been impeded from his range of motion.  I put Nathan on for one eight-minute treatment for chronic pain.  He didn’t feel much different immediately afterwards–and he was pretty skeptical about the device. However, he called me the next day to say that he slept better the night before than he had in as long as he could remember.  And even more compelling was that he had just about 100% range of motion back, which he hasn’t had in lo these many years–since a few years after the injury.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, frankly.  He deserves it!  (He’s coming back for regular treatments now, to make sure the treatment “sticks.”)

Now, here is the controller:

There are so many settings–and I have just as many ailments–I have had some trouble choosing the proper setting to use.  My brother suggested choosing the most painful thing for me, the neuropathy, and empirically pursuing that for the next month. That sounded reasonable, so that is what I mainly do, for 1-2 hours daily (except when I need to treat acute pain). I’ll let you know what I find out.

Any lower back sufferers out there?  $20 a pop; meet me in my guest room!  (By appointment only)