05:14:29 pm on
Monday 22 Jul 2024

More Back Surgery
Matt Seinberg

Last October, that was 2018, I had a trial procedure for an Abbott Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS); Dorsal Column Stimulators is the name of other similar models. This procedure is supposed to reduce back pain by neuromodulation; that is, sending electric impulses into the spinal cord. Thus, the nickname of the SCS is pain pacemaker.

• Was I fit for the procedure?

I had to have an examination by the pain management physician. Then I talked with a clinical psychologist, over the phone, for mental clearance. Those two minutes cost $100 and were not worth it.

The procedure for the trial was straightforward. I didn't lose anytime at work. The best part was, the trial worked. The lower back pain, which I have endured for way too long, reduced dramatically; it even stopped many of my headaches.

It took from last October to this past March 2019 for approval for the implanted SCS. First, Workman's Compensation had to approve it, which took the majority of time. Then I had to get a thoracic MRI, which is the area the stimulator paddle would go in. Finally, I had to have cardiac clearance, medical clearance and pre-surgical testing, all within thirty days of the operation date.

What's the difference between a procedure and operation? I can only take a guess based upon the amount of discomfort. The trial was a procedure, as I was up and around the same day.

The permanent implant was definitely an operation, as I was not up and around the same day and the pain I have at the suture sites is severe. I had the operation last Wednesday, with every intention of going to work on Saturday.

• There was no way I could go to work.

That didn't happen. I could barely get out of bed on Saturday. I had to use my cane to leverage myself just to sit up. There was no way I was going to work that day.

I did go to work on Sunday and regretted every moment of it. I was in so much pain at the suture sites I could barely stand up; the pain was showing in my face. One of the managers even said that he couldn't believe that I was there after hearing what I was having done.

I couldn't believe it. I left at 2:30 pm, went home, took a painkiller and went to sleep. Rinse and repeat. There was no way I could go in on Monday, either, and I was off work on Tuesday. As I sit typing this column, my back is burning and I can't wait to lie down.

My wife asked me if the back pain is gone. The honest answer is I don't know. The suture pain is so intense I can't feel anything else. The physician says it can be 6-to-8 weeks before all the pain is gone. I'm a fast healer; I can only hope that the pain subsides quickly.

The physician also said to ensure the suture sites weren't red and oozing. When my wife took off the bandages after two-and-one-half days, she really didn't want to look, but I had to know. She said they looked fine. A couple of days later I asked my daughter to look at it and she said it also looked fine.

• Plan for any procedure or operation.

I alternate ice packs to keep the swelling down, which helps relieve some of the pain. That's what I'm looking forward to in just a few minutes. Now, I know, a procedure has no stitches, but an operation does. Next time I'll know and plan better.


Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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