I wish I could say I was doing something important or nobel, like building houses in South America or helping cool nuclear reactors in Japan, but I can’t. I’ve spent the past eight months battling two consecutive unrelated health problems that ended up putting me in the hospital for 3 months each, with little more than a 2 month break in between.
As I know most of you already know, I’m a quadriplegic subsequent to a bicycle accident nearly 7 years ago. Because of the way my injury is, I had terrible spasms in my legs that began emerging a month after my accident. They were bad enough to pull me out of a wheelchair when triggered (usually by a light touch), bad enough that I couldn’t do rehab, and so bad that no amount of oral medication (baclofen) could control them. Then I learned of the baclofen pump. It’s an implanted device that sends micro doses of baclofen directly to my spine to keep my legs under control. Every three months I get it refilled with a needle. A small price to pay not to live a life bedridden. Every five years it needs to be replaced completely before its battery dies. A year ago, I was due for a new pump.
The operation couldn’t have gone easier. I went under, they took the old pump out and put a new one in. Two hours after the surgery, I was on my way back home. Fortunately, the area of my abdomen where the pump is placed doesn’t have much pain sensitivity, so the surgery hardly hurt at all.
So, I went back to my life. After a couple of months, I began to have increased spasticity in my legs and back. I finally went to the hospital when my blood pressure dropped suddenly. It turned out that my pump tubing either had a leak or had one created when the pump was replaced. One way or another, I had to go back in for surgery. Again, no problem. I was in and out the same day.
But, the following week, my blood pressure would skyrocket and plunge and I literally thought I was going to die. I briefly wrote out a living will and instructions for my family and friends. I was hospitalized again, during which time, they discovered that the pump had become infected.
This meant that I would have to have it removed and go for weeks with nothing controlling the spasms in my legs besides heavy doses of oral baclofen, Valium, methadone, and intravenous dilaudid for pain.
In this would be the start of my eight months of hell, during which time I would physically suffer more thanI did following my spinal cord injury nearly 7 years ago.