Radiofrequency Ablation

That is the official name of the procedure I had done yesterday morning.  Tim and I got up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) because my check in time was 6:30.  My dad came over to hang out with the boys…and made them pancakes for breakfast.  (Sometimes, I want my dad to baby sit me.)

While I was getting ready for the procedure, I sent Tim to Walmart to do a little shopping!  I’m sure he loved it.  He will do almost anything to avoid shopping, but I think he was being extra helpful considering what I was going through.

The nurse put an IV in so that they would have easy access to give me pain medication.  I declined the Valium, since I didn’t do so well with it a few weeks ago.  After I signed all the paperwork, the doctor came in to check on me before heading into the surgery suite.  She asked how I was doing with the Valium and I had to tell her I didn’t take any.  I think she wished I had.  I told her that I would take IV pain meds as long as they started with the lowest possible dose and went slowly.  I didn’t want to be out of commission the whole day.

Once I got into the surgery suite, they had me lie on my stomach on the stretcher.  The bed was very narrow, so they strapped my arms in so I wouldn’t have to hold them up the whole time.  They prepped and draped my back.  The doctor had asked the nurse to give me a little Versed to help calm down the muscles in my back.  But the nurse saw that my blood pressure was 96/57 and she didn’t want to give me the medicine…even after I told her that was a completely normal pressure for me.

Eventually, she did give me some meds and she would occasionally push more meds to keep me relatively comfortable.  When I first talked to the doctor about this procedure, she mentioned that some people find this to be slightly more painful than the initial injections I had.  She lied.  It was much more painful.  Especially considering that the initial injections had very little pain associated with them.

The first step was to insert the needles, under Xray guidance.  Once the needles were in place, the testing phase happened.  First, they administered a stimulus to see if they could recreate my pain.  This was to determine if they were in the right spots.  Naturally, when they are recreating my pain, it caused me pain.  But it was nothing compared to what came next.

After testing to be sure they were in the sensory nerves, they had to make sure they weren’t in the motor nerves.  To do this, they cranked up that stimulus to make my muscles jump.  The idea was that the muscles in my back would twitch, but if I felt anything in my groin or leg, I had to let them know right away.  There isn’t a really accurate way to describe what this felt like.  At one point, I thought for sure that someone was jabbing an ice pick into my tail bone.  I kept yelling for them to turn it off, but the doctor kept asking me where the pain was.  I kept saying ‘ow, ow, turn it off.’  She asked again where the pain was.  My mind was only focusing on the pain and I couldn’t form the words to tell her that it wasn’t in my leg.  I really had to focus to get out the word ‘tailbone.’ Then she turned it off.  In reality, that whole exchange lasted maybe 8-10 seconds, but it was terrible.

It was during the testing phase that most of the pain medication was needed.  Once the doctor was confident that the needles were in the right spots, it was time to start the burns.  This is what I had been anxious about.  It turns out that this process is quite mild compared to the testing phase.  Each burn lasted 90 seconds.  The first one caused a bit of tingling, but not really any pain.  The other three were even easier.  After each burn, she would move the needles to line up the next section of nerve to be burned. 

Don’t get me wrong, nothing about this is comfortable.  She is moving around rather large needles that are attached to a machine designed to destroy a section of the nerves that God put in my body for a reason.  But after going through all the different appointments and injections and the really painful testing phase, this seemed rather minor.

When she was done, before pulling the needles out, she administered some steroid for pain relief and some numbing medication that went all the way down my leg.  This basically rendered my right leg useless.

After I was wheeled down to the recovery area, I let the nurse know that I had to use the bathroom.  In my opinion, they may have had the IV fluids going in a little fast.  The nurse took another set of vitals, (my blood pressure was all the way up to 100/62), she took the heart monitor pads off my back, and she pulled out my IV.  As I was getting ready to stand to walk to the bathroom, I discovered how much my right leg wasn’t working.  I almost fell.  Fortunately, I am strong enough to hold myself up with one leg.  The nurse asked if I wanted a wheelchair to get to the bathroom.  I said I would prefer her arm, since it was just across the hall.

It is a very unusual feeling when your leg doesn’t work.  I could see it right there.  I was telling it to hold me up.  It just wouldn’t.  I had to laugh.  I can’t think of anything else like it.  Except maybe the feeling you have when you are drunk and you know you are swerving all over, but you can’t make yourself walk in a straight line.  My right leg was definitely drunk!

The nurse helped me back from the bathroom and called Tim back to go over the discharge instructions with him.  The doctor had written me a prescription for some Percoset to help with the post procedure pain.  I accepted the wheelchair ride out to the car.  I made Tim stop to get me a cup of coffee and a banana on the way home, since I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink.

The ride home was a bit rough.  As the IV pain meds were wearing off, I was in a lot of pain.  We stopped at Shopko to drop off the prescription and they told Tim it would be at least 20 minutes.  He took me home and helped me drunk-hobble into the house and onto the couch.  Then he went to pick up the prescription.  I took 2 as soon as he walked in the door.

I ate a little bit of lunch and alternated between watching some Netflix and trying to nap.  Unfortunately, the Percoset was going a number on my stomach.  Just when I thought I was going to be able to fall asleep, I would start to get nauseous again.  And any time I had to go to the bathroom, I had to ask Tim for help because I still didn’t trust my drunk leg.

I spent much of the afternoon on the couch.  Eventually, my leg sobered up and I could do things for myself.  The pain was so much worse than I thought it would be.  I knew that the doctor told me I could have some increased pain for the first day or two, but I don’t think I had prepared myself for what it would be like.  I was counting the minutes until I could take the next Percoset.

That night was Jaden’s first practice for youth football and I really wanted to be there for it.  I had Tim drive us up and he set a chair under a tree for me.  I was miserable the whole time.  I was in pain and my stomach wouldn’t settle down.  I only made it about a half an hour before I asked Tim to take me home.  It was one of those times when I wish I didn’t have such a strong gag reflex, but I think I would have felt better if I could have thrown up.  No luck.

Instead, I went to bed around 7:15, right after I took some more Percoset.  I kept the bottle of pills and some water on my nightstand in case I needed more throughout the night.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t fall asleep.  My stomach was roiling and I ended up getting up and getting some crackers like I used to when I was pregnant.  I did manage to finish the book I was reading, but it was after 10:00 before I finally fell asleep.

About 1:00 a.m., I had to get up to use the bathroom.  The first thing I noticed was that my back didn’t hurt when I got out of bed!  This is such a huge thing.  My back always hurts when I get out of bed.  I also noticed that the procedure-related pain had abated and I didn’t need to take anymore Percoset to fall back to sleep.

This morning is even better.  I haven’t needed any Percoset all day (and I don’t anticipate that I will).  I did take some Tylenol because I had a headache.  I managed to get up and get ready without an considerable discomfort.  I did make Tim carry the laundry to the washing machine because I wasn’t sure I should be lifting anything heavy.  I didn’t have any pain when I had to bend down to load the dishwasher or to unload the dryer.  This is the best I have felt in months.  I am still cautious because I don’t want to lift or bend or twist in such a way that might hurt.  So, I am still moving a little slowly. 

And I do still have some pain.  There is some pain in my right hip and a little bit in my right buttock.  I don’t think that is related to the ablation procedure and it wasn’t something that the procedure was designed to address.  I have to say that at this point, I am very pleased with how things have turned out.

I still need to run.  I have been cleared to run up to half a mile, at a very slow pace, as early as today.  My plan is to try that after dinner.  I think I am going to walk up to the track at the high school and run two laps.  That way I will have an accurate measure of half a mile.  I don’t want to do too much.  I will wear my Garmin to be sure my pace is embarrassingly slow.  And then I will walk home. 

My follow up appointment is in three weeks.  It is my understanding that I will start physical therapy at that point.  I’m hoping to get some core exercises.  My midsection is a bit flabby because for the past several months, and activity that caused me to contract my abs, also caused back pain.  I have some work to do.

Wow-this ended up being really long.  Thanks for sticking with me.  I will let you all know how the half mile run goes.  I’ve never looked forward to any run more than I am looking forward to this half mile.

4 thoughts on “Radiofrequency Ablation

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