Pain Pump Posting Hiatus

Synchromed pain pumpI apologize for the hiatus in posting. I can only blame it on the minor surgery I had Monday, November 2. All went well, as expected; but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do much useful work yet.

I’ve mentioned my chronic pain before, but I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my “pain pump” or not.

I have chronic pain in several forms, and I’ve had it for more than 60 years. The two worst causes right now are my severe psoriatic arthritis and my sometimes excruciating peripheral neuropathy. In addition, I still have an occasional migraine, although I seem to have mostly “outgrown” those in my mid-40s. Before that, I had suffered migraine headaches every day for more than 20 years and less often even before that. The first one I remember, I was five years old; and I thought the left side of my face was rotting off for two days!

Since there is no known cure for either psoriatic arthritis or neuropathy, I use a variety of methods to control the pain. Probably the most effective way is by using a “pain pump” implanted under the skin of my lower right back. It pumps a tiny — but constant — amount of opioid liquid to my spinal fluid 24 hours a day, and can be adjusted by using a magnetic controller in my doctor’s office.

The pump holds up to 40 ml (about an ounce and a half) of a dilute liquid, which lasts for several months. When it runs low, it can be refilled over and over again by sticking a needle through my skin and into a diaphragm in the pump. About every five years, when the battery runs low, the entire unit is replaced.

No big deal. Really.

I got to the hospital about 8 am. Something caused the doctor to run late, but that was no problem to me. I was prepared. I spent the time reading a good science book on my iPhone. An anesthesiologist came for me about 11:00. He slipped a mask over my face and told me, “Just relax now and breathe deeply.” I remember taking about three breaths. The next thing I knew, I was in another room on another table, and somebody was telling me to wake up. By about 1:00 pm, I was on my way home.

While I was asleep, they rolled me over on my stomach, made a small incision in my skin, removed the cigarette-box-sized-but-round old pump, inserted a new pump just like it into the same spot, hooked it up to the tubes already in place from last time, made sure it was working, and glued my skin back together. I had a strip of clear, waterproof tape for a bandage.

I’ve had no increased pain from the surgery, and I’ve needed no additional help at home. It was by far the easiest operation I’ve ever had. So maybe it’s just making excuses to blame the posting hiatus on that. I dunno, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Wouldn’t you?

I’ve written this not only to make excuses, but also to inform others who might be suffering. Chronic pain is a terrible and very common problem among older people, and even among many younger ones. Pain is supposed to serve a purpose, but chronic pain serves none. It just hurts and hurts and hurts and it seems like there’s nothing you can do about it and sometimes you almost want to die.

Almost.

My medicine doesn’t take all the pain away, but it helps. It takes the edge off  and makes the remaining pain bearable. Sometimes, it almost goes away for a while.

My first pain pump 12 years ago

I resisted getting a pain pump for many years, until one of the best doctors I have ever known told me there was nothing else he could do for me. He had recommended a pain pump before, and he recommended a pain pump again. I saw two different “pain doctors,” and they both recommended installing a pain pump. So I had a pain pump installed. The relief was both quick and wonderful. For a long time, I told people I hurt less than I had hurt for 50 years.

It has never done the whole job. I still have to take pills. And I still hurt sometimes. But it helps so much I only wish I had gotten my first pain pump many years earlier.

I’m not a doctor, and I certainly don’t give medical advice. I only post this here in the hope that it will provide information that might help somebody else.


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