Thursday, May 01, 2008
As they used to say of Ragu spaghetti sauce (or was it Prego?): It's in there. Last Monday, we woke up at 4:45 a.m., so we could be at the hospital by 6:00. I was still on the fence as whether to put in the permanent device, but it seemed like there wasn't any downside to going ahead (except possibly for the cost to my HMO), so I did. Unlike the initial implant, I got to be under general anaesthesia, which put me a bit more at ease. By 8:30, I was waking up in the recovery room and thinking about how great that first cup of coffee would taste.
To control the permanent device, I received the small blue gizmo in the picture. It's got a small LCD screen on the front and a plug-in antenna for communicating with the Interstim device. I place the end of the antenna over the small bulge in my tush where the device lives, hit the 'Sync' button on the blue gizmo, and if I've positioned the antenna correctly, the blue gizmo beeps and I can switch between the 4 stimulation programs stored in the blue gizmo, as well as increase or decrease the stimulation level by small increments. Cool.
The four programs stored in the blue gizmo were put there for me by the Medtronic guy, based on what worked for me during the trial period. Because the permanent set-up is more sophisticated than the trial device, it can do some additional tricks. Most notably, the permanent device can be programmed to cycle from full stimulation to no stimulation and back to full stimulation over a short period of time. This prevents the nerves from acclimating to a constant level of stimulation, which would diminish the device's effectiveness. The 4 programs on my blue gizmo were all set up this way. Unfortunately, though, this ended up being a significant annoyance, because I was feeling the stimiulation not just in nether regions, but also in my right foot. When I'd be off my feet, say at work, I could feel and even see my foot flexing and relaxing as the level of stimulation cycled up and down.
This cycling wasn't something I could control from my device, but yesterday I had the urologist's nurse Jenny (or possibly Jenni) turn it off. See, the urologist has an even cooler big blue gizmo for controlling my little blue gizmo. It looks a bit like an overgrown Palm Pilot, complete with stylus. Jenny (or possibly Jenni) taps on the big blue gizmo's screen, and it wirelessly transmits instructions to my little blue gizmo, turning off the cycling in my 4 programs. Again, cool.
The thing that's less cool is that I'm still not sure if it's helping or not. I still pee as often as I used to (maybe 15 times in an ordinary day?). I still have to go urgently. I still can't quite empty completely, even if I spend ten minutes in the can pressing my hand into my lower abdomen. I'd say the urgency is somewhat lower, meaning when I feel like I hafta go, I have about 8 seconds to get to the bathroom instead of 5. But I also feel like my bowel function has improved slightly as well, though that has at least something to do with my more regular (get it? regular?) use of Miralax (which I am pleased to be able to now purchase OTC, which allows me to use the brand-name stuff instead of the generic stuff I got when it was prescription-only, which seemed to have a bitter taste and which seemed to leave me comically flatulent).
I got my staples out on Tuesday, and by next week I'll be able to bend, stretch, and swim as much as I like. This is good, because since getting the trial device a few weeks ago, I haven't done much by way of physical activity, and I can tell: I'm a bit wobblier, stiffer, and flabbier than I was a few weeks ago.
So the jury is still out on this thing, but at least I feel like I'm close to getting back to ordinary life, such as it is/was. This is good, too, because it's finally spring, and not a moment too soon.