Thursday, June 07, 2007
Especially for Stephen: More about my urethra
Well, like most of my run-ins with the medical establishment, getting Botox injected into my sphincter wasn't as bad as I feared. It will be a couple weeks before I'll be able to tell if it helps.
A few hours before I was due to have the procedure, I was still waiting to hear back from the HMO about whether they'd cover it or not. I'd called them as soon as I scheduled the procedure, but played phone tag for a few days until yesterday, when I finally got hold of the woman who is apparently my "case worker." At first, she said they would not pay, because as of their most recent review of the literature (last March) the procedure was still considered experimental. So I figured I'd have to call off the procedure and wind my way through the appeals process, and I told her so. She told me she would double check with Dr. So-and-so, and would call me back.
As soon as I hung up, I dialed the urology clinic to ask if they could give me any ammunition to support the necessity of the procedure, but the PA I talked to acknowldged that they knew some insurers--particularly Medicaid--took this position and there wasn't anything definitive in the literature. At this point, I was also cruising PubMed for anything recent on the topic, but without real success: just a review published a little less than a year ago, with an abstract that didn't really say anything.
At that point, my case worker from the HMO called back and told me to go ahead, keep the appointment, and they would pay for it. She didn't exactly say why, but she said she'd be contacting my urologist so that they could get more current information about the procedure. She offered a nice apology--We're sorry, we promise we'll do better next time--and called me "Kiddo." I imagine this woman probably feels like she knows me pretty well, knows all about my MS, who I'm seeing and what drugs I''m taking, and why.
So the procedure took about a half hour. Strip nekkid, get on the table, put your legs in the stirrups, and wait for the docs while the nurse sponges iodine all over your bits. Then, a little bit of lidocaine in the pee-pee, you might feel a little chill, then a clamp is gently attached to the family jewels, and you stare up at the ceiling while you wait for the doctor to show up.
Twenty minutes later, here comes Dr. A with Dr. B in tow. Dr. B is a resident and he'll be doing the procedure. Between my elevated knees, I see young Dr. B fiddling with the thing that will be shoved down my urethra like a sharp stick through an Oscar Myer wiener at a cook-out. At this point, my pulse escalates from the already elevated dumpadumpadumpa to hummingbird-speed wheedleeedleeedle, and I blurt out, "Oh, that's just great," and immediately regret it. Dr. B is unfazed and tells me he's inserted catheters maybe 600 times and I won't feel a thing.
And God bless him, Dr. B is right; I didn't feel a thing. Dr. A points at the monitor and shows me what the inside of my urethra looks like: it looks like the inside of a water slide, except it is a sort of blotchy pink and there are no screaming half-naked children whooshing through. When, a few seconds later, we get to the sphincter, I shut my eyes.
Dr. A is now addressing Dr. B, telling him where ("there, right at twelve o'clock") to do the injection, and a couple seconds later, I feel a jab somewhere where I have never been jabbed before, and I jump a couple inches off the table. It's dulled by the lidocaine, though, so it's like when the dentist puts the giant needle of novacaine deep into your skull. They do this a couple more times, then suddenly I feel a trickle of something run down my bottom, and the catheter's out, and the doctors are out the door. Somebody brings me a few towels, and then I'm left alone to wipe off the iodine, dress, and go home. I eat a big piece of carrot cake in the car while my wife drives me home through rush hour traffic.
Yes, afterward it hurt when I peed, hurts a little less today. Last night, I remember that somebody said something about getting a dose of Cipro to make sure I don't get an infection, but somehow I left without it. All in all, sorta unpleasant (like going to the dentist, except you're wearing no pants and everybody's attention is fixed on your crotch), but less unpleasant than the hated pressure flow study (smaller catheter but no anaesthetic, plus the butt-plug and electrodes).
If it works (how do I know if it's working?), I'd do it again.