electric cord

a ‘presentation’ on SCS at the inconveniently situated ‘Pain Clinic’ (shouldn’t that be ‘Pain Relief Clinic’?). Spinal Cord Stimulation: implantation of electrodes against the dura, the fragile sheath that protects the spinal cord. The electrodes connect to leads run around to a sub-dermal rechargeable battery and computer, after they have ‘tunnelled’ around to make a conduit for the wires. He had not thought himself suitable material for tunnelling, prior to this…

They offer to sedate the patient into unconsciousness for that part, though consciousness is required for the initial procedure where they jack the wires up against the spinal column and apply some volts so the patient can say: “Yup, I feel that all down the right leg.” Singular problem for this patient, is that right leg is no longer the right leg as acute pain has flared in the left. He must pray that he can shrink his ballooned lamina prior to the operation or he may have to confess his sins of pain and may be disqualified for his troubles… if only temporarily.

Every 3-4 days a charger is carried in a waist strap (you move it around the lump over the fat layer where the device is situated until it stops beeping.)

While this technical brief is presented, concentrating on surgical details, he prays a fervent prayer to Tara, Kali, Avalokiteshvara——the Bodhisattva of Compassion, to whatever local Devas might have dropped by, that it runs GNU/Linux, not Windows. It would be an idea to have an OS you can trust when the computer is implanted within you.

Spooling back to the arrival, he was wheel-chaired through most of the length and breadth of R D & E, Heavitree, as the walk to clinic first, then further to the ‘education theatre’, was quite a distance. Should we ask why they organize it thus when it may be counted a certainty that patients with impaired mobility will attend?

He needed to urinate while waiting and happened to be in the phase where an extraordinary ‘wait’ is endured due to neuropathic damage to the controlling nerve-bundles, so he was some little time.

He emerged to find half the students removed, the remainder waiting on his urinary performance… or should we say malfunction. He reflects on the good fortune to have built a wall of immunity to embarrassment (brick by dropped brick) over decades of medical procedure and the random indignities that Cauda Equina Syndrome can inflict..

This was endured for the benefit of around a dozen PowerPoint slides (of roughly a schoolchild’s competency) and a moderately informative Q & A. The consultant, an early middle age woman with home counties prep school accent, possessed an all-over tan which boasts an ignorance of skin cancer and three+ holidays abroad.

His partner/carer remarks on how that accent, almost de rigueur for female doctors, almost has a hint of speech impediment and he too thinks it is as if advertising: “I had a lisp but Daddy payed for this wonderful speech therapist and then I joined the amateur operatic society and never looked back …”. Perhaps this is needlessly unkind and possibly inaccurate (but social satire was ever thus, and there is still a preponderance of the upper-middle class among consultants… )

Forgoing wisdom ,he remarks to partner/carer that he found her plump arms and hips, her very flowery bra strap self-consciously emerging from beneath a carefully selected sleevless blouse, her cropped curls and laughter lines, raised a flicker of attraction (and this despite extra liquid Tramadol and also Diazepam after partner asked why his hand was shaking noticeably while he attempted to decant the correct amount).

His point was that this was effectuated purposely and it was of interest that this should be the case in this environment but this intention was probably lost in the interpersonal space.

He was left hoping she wouldn’t be the one performing the operation as he loathes medical procedures by attractive creatures, even only a twinge. Reassuringly bland but competent matri-patriarchs are required in women.

Post indoctrination, he lies cramped on a micro-sofa at Waitrose Café attempting to lessen his discomfort as he asserts internally that things were only as he had expected. Such issues are assuaged by a chocolate twist which breaks a dozen rules of his diet and a coffee with two cubes of brown sugar which he notes are devoid of paper wrappings——not denuding the world’s forests, which shrugs on a mantle of absurd preponderance in his mind, inexplicably.

And he is further assuaged to a state of inner satisfaction by buying his partner a subtly shaded begonia as thanks for being wheelman, wheelwoman, which she accepts gracefully while denying the necessity for such thanks.

That he is left thinking: “Perhaps these seminars are not so bad… “, seems more dependent on the effects of the Diazepam kicking in finely balanced by a caffeine jolt and taste buds saturated with chocolate and fat molecules than on the educative value of the experience.


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