No, this is not a photo of some Secret Agent gizmo. It's my handy dandy bag o' medical apparatus that I deal with every day. The smaller device near the top left is actually a computer that "talks" to the computer and battery implanted in my lower back (okay, it's in my butt, right near my back jeans pocket). To do this fancy schmancy communicating, I take that thing that looks like it has a keyhole shaped cut-out and hold it over the area where the implant is and then press various buttons to turn off/turn on, increase/decrease the electrical stimulation that's being sent to my spinal nerves. And how does that happen? Well, there are wires and electrodes that run under the skin of my back from the implanted device all the way up to C-5, C-7 and C-9, which are places on my spine where major spinal nerves connect to branches that serve my upper extremities. Oh. And that thing that looks like a Wonder Woman belt is, actually, a belt with a big round magnet on it. That particular magnet also goes over the site of the implant every week or so. It's hooked to a battery pack and transmits energy to re-charge the implanted lithium battery in my behind. There. Was that confusing enough for you? Just think how I felt when I had to learn how to work the darned thing while I was still struggling to recover from the surgery required to burrow all that technology inside me!
The point of the implanted Nerve Stimulator is rather fascinating. I'll try to put it in terms we can both understand:
The trauma to my spinal nerves caused RSD (now more commonly called CRPS), which is a nerve condition not fully understood. But it leads to chronic, nearly debilitating pain and increasing stiffness in muscles and joints that are affected. Rather than keeping the patient-- that would be ME!!!-- on narcotics indefinitely, the stimulator is used to "occupy" the spinal nerves with continuous low-grade pulses of electrical energy. This works on the theory that a spinal nerve can only transmit one sensation at a time. If it's occupied with an electrical current from my implant, it cannot also receive pain signals from my injured areas and send them on to my brain. If my brain cannot get the message, "Hey, we're hurting down here!" then I won't feel discomfort. I only feel the electrical impulses, which I can control as needed.
I hope that wasn't too Star Trek-y for you!
If you can tell by the tone of my writing, I tend to make light of all this. But I'll let you in on a secret: There are days and nights when I revisit the whole accident, and how it affected my life, and it's terrifying. Still. That's why it's hard for me to dredge up the whole drama once again. But I also know from some of your emails and letters that many of you have also suffered through scary riding accidents and wonder how to deal with the pain, emotional loss and outright fear that you're now facing. I'm certainly no shrink, nor do I play one on an online horse blog. But I have been through all the stages of loving horses and riding and then being badly hurt and frightened... and then re-evaluating horses and riding all over again. Perhaps I can share what I've been through and it might help another kindred spirit.
I promise I won't bore you forever with my personal soap opera. But since this blog is supposed to be about my life with horses, I can't continually avoid writing about this particular aspect of my horsey life. So I'll put the saga into 3 parts. Consider this Part 1. Tomorrow, in Part 2, I'll tell you about that infamous day that it happened. Who knows? Now that some time has passed I may have a completely different perspective.