Friday, June 1, 2012

My Headache Journey Part 3 ...... We've finally found a solution!

This is a 3 part post about my journey to being headache free.
To read Part 1 click here.
To read Part 2 click here.

So where we last left off, I had just received a shot on each side of the back of my head in my Occipital Nerve to test if that was the cause of my pain/headaches. At 3 hours after, when I called in, I was still at a 0 for pain!

We were then headed to Michigan to visit my oldest sister, Sue, and her family. My nephew is graduating this year and he wanted us all to come out to Michigan in September rather than June for his graduation 'party'. He's a football player and wanted us to watch him play a game! How cool is that!? So we got in the truck and made the long ass trip to Michigan from Minnesota with two small kids! Thank God I just had those shots and am feeling no pain, cause being in a car that long could very easily induce a headache!
I'm proud to report my entire visit to Michigan was pain free. I don't remember the last time I went an entire week without pain or a headache! It was so refreshing! 
However, right on the 1 week date that I'm supposed to call with a follow-up of how I'm doing, you guessed it, I woke up with pain on the left side. So I call and report this and talk with his medical secretary to figure out the next step. 
The next step is supposed to be a procedure called Radiofrequency Ablation. What the hell is a Radiofrequency Ablation? The only ablation I've heard of is the procedure you have on your who-ha and that doesn't sound like fun. It makes me think of burning things, and things being a part of my brain!

But, says the medical secretary, your health insurance won't allow us to do the ablation procedure until you have had another injection to prove to them that this is a needed procedure! UGH!!! Are you F'ing kidding me?! My husband is on the phone with the insurance company, I'm on the phone with the medical secretary, we are just trying to get this all figured out so
I can let them burn my head for God's sake!
Then, all of a sudden she says, we got it approved! What? We're really going to do this? Yep, can you come up here tomorrow? Seriously!!!! Of course we can come up tomorrow. I'm scared to death about this procedure, but the shots helped with the pain, they are hoping the ablation will help too!
That night my husband and I are all over the Internet trying to research this procedure and the risks. It was hard to find information on this. But the risks didn't seem to out-way the positives. GAME ON!

For the purpose of this post I looked all over the Internet again to see if I could find a good definition of what a Radiofrequency Ablation is. I didn't think me telling you they gave me a bunch of drugs, made me goofy, asked me if I felt pain then electrocuted my head would suffice!
So, here is the description I found here:

Procedure Description:
Radiofrequency Ablation is a procedure which creates a nerve lesion produced by localized heat. When the lesion is placed over a painful nerve, pain signals are interrupted and pain perception by the brain is decreased. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting. The treatment is done with local anesthesia along with IV sedation when needed. Before the procedure begins your physician starts by cleaning the skin over the injection site and injecting a local anesthetic to numb your skin. Another needle is placed through the numb tissue and the entire procedure is performed using fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance. When the needle is in the correct location, an electrode is introduced into the center of the needle. Stimulation is initiated first with sensory stimulation and then with motor stimulation. When the correct needle position is verified, local anesthetic and sometimes a steroid medication are injected. Radiofrequency thermo-coagulation – The electrode is heated to 50-80°C and kept at that temperature for several minutes. Electro-thermal heat is generated, which allows for destruction of surrounding pain fibers, thereby decreasing your pain. After a brief recovery period, you are able to go home after the procedure. You may have some discomfort when the local anesthetic wears off.

Ah, yeah, what he said!

So we get to the clinic for my procedure. This next part I should have my husband write because I was so nervous about the procedure that it is kind of foggy. We basically get there, I put on a robe {but luckily get to keep my pants on}, they put an IV in me and start the sedative. I get loopy. No really, I remember walking into the procedure room, laying on the very skinny table {face down} and he starts to clean off the areas he is going to do the procedure. 
Dr. Spight said that during the procedure, the reason I have to be awake and alert is because I have to talk to him the entire time to tell him if I feel pain or not. Oh joy! I remember feeling a little discomfort similar to when I would push on my head and induce a headache. But it isn't unbearable. Probably the drugs, I'm sure. Gotta love those sedatives! I do remember once during the procedure one of the surgical techs saying something about Mike and I asked for a Mike's Hard Lemonade. I'm pretty sure they just laughed at me. 
I'm honestly not sure how long I was in the procedure.   I don't even think it was 20 minutes. The next thing I remember is sitting in a lazy boy on wheels and going back to my husband in the little check in room {not really a room, check in curtain area?}
At this point the back of my head is really sore, not a headache sore, but just sore. Probably from the procedure itself. So the nurse asked me if I wanted any pain meds and I said yes. I think she gave me Vicodin...whatever it was it knocked me out and my husband said made me goofy. 

So, that procedure was October 2011. I had to meet with him at 3 weeks after the procedure. In those 3 weeks I had some slight pain in my head, but not like it was. I can't find a spot on the back of my head to push and make it go away like I used to. It's like I can't pinpoint the pain. Dr. Spight said this is normal and about 6 weeks post procedure I should be feeling great! That is just the nerve trying to heal itself. 
 One of the weirdest things that happened is my hubby and I went out with some friends, had some cocktails, OK, a lot of cocktails and the next morning? Instead of inducing one of my headaches in the back of my head that would last the entire day? I had a headache in my forehead! Can I get a WHOOP! WHOOP!
Seriously, how awesome is that? I know it sounds strange, but it was a great feeling. I took Ibuprofen and wallah - it was gone!
At that follow-up appointment Dr. Spight  said to keep in touch. If the pain comes back let him know. As we left that appointment I broke down. Tears started streaming down my face. My hubby couldn't figure out what was wrong and when I could finally get my words out I told him that I just can't believe that he fixed me? I didn't think it was possible. I was just going along for the ride, I didn't really think it would work! It was a great sigh of relief, weight off your shoulders kind of feeling!

I didn't realize how demotivated I was when I was having pain. I wanted to just sit around and read my Kindle. I didn't  want to get any of our projects completed, I was always behind on laundry or cleaning or whatever needed to get done. 
The month of November we got soooooo many projects completed at our house! It was A.MAZ.ING! I'm like a new person! Looking back at my pain, I know I was having more headaches than I was complaining about. But it was like I was in a constant dull pain, I got used to it. Didn't even recognize it. Crazy!
So how am I doing now, almost 8 months after the procedure? 
I'm still pretty much pain free, put my orthopedic pillow in storage baby! Wake up pain free! 
I did have a couple times where I would get tightness in my neck, but took a little Tylenol or Ibuprofen and it went away. In March, though, I did get a headache and was worried about it. It was during my period though and the same thing happened in April. But after being pain free I wanted to stay that way. 
I called Dr. Spight and they said that at 6 months after the procedure you could have it done again. But {here's that but again} he wants to meet with me first to see what is going on. 
So on up to the cities we go. After telling him everything, he thinks that I just need to do some stretches. My pain isn't back like it was.  And, he said, I will know without a doubt if my pain is back. Sometimes when the nerves heal they heal the correct way so to be pain free and not so excited. Sometimes they don't. If they don't we do the procedure again. And I'm OK with this. 


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