In June of 2011, I had a stroke. My voice, right arm and right leg were affected to the point of being virtually nonfunctional.
I was referred to a number of rehabilitation programs, one after the other, with some signs of progress, until March 2012, when I fell and broke the femur of my right leg. This required the replacement of the ball in my hip socket and set me back almost to the beginning of my troubles.
Since that time, I have never regained the mobility I had and I have had to virtually start all over again. A miracle of modern medicine is needed. And, amazingly, one is on the scene.
About halfway through this time to date, I essentially maintained a positive attitude that I was going to work things out somehow, but it became obvious that selling our two-story house and moving into a one-story villa in a retirement community was necessary.
This was facilitated by a multitude of friends, my family and my wife's hard work while I was in the hospital. Living became easier, but my physical problems remained.
It became obvious that my therapies since my fall have been significant but not sufficient for me to regain the use of my right arm, hand and leg.
If I could pick up a piece of paper with that hand, it would be a world of difference. The spasticity in my arm and hand, caused by my stroke, makes it impossible for me to do that now. Spasticity happens when the nerves and the muscles don't cooperate.
It isn't that I have no strength, but I can't control the muscles in my arm and hand because they are too tight. The same is true of my leg; it will not perform the way I wish it to.
Pain is not a significant problem. It is the lack of control that challenges me to find improvement. We have tried a knee and foot brace, but it is too cumbersome for my wife to get it on my leg properly, so it is of no practical use.
Finally, it was apparent to one of the therapists that the only recourse left was a treatment, entirely new to me, which I am seriously considering.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that is used to relieve spasticity. It can be administered in both pill form and liquid form. The pill form is easier to control by virtue of its being taken daily in a defined dosage.
A side effect of overdosage might be confusion and drowsiness. In my case, less than the prescribed dose gave me these effects.
I am able to tolerate a small dose that has relieved frequent, painful spasms I was experiencing. But oral Baclofen in doses sufficient to cure my spasticity appears not to be an option for me.
The other choice is use of a small, internal pump that can administer a precise liquid dose constantly. The pump would be implanted in my abdomen, and a catheter would carry the medicine to the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.
It is somewhat similar to a pacemaker, although a pacemaker sends electric signals and the pump sends liquid medicine.
The process of implanting the catheter into the spinal column is a delicate one and the process of removing it would be equally delicate if that should be necessary. The medicine cannot be stopped abruptly, so it is important to keep refilling the pump with the Baclofen at three-month intervals.
The possibility of regaining some movement is encouraging; however there still remain in my mind some doubts about the side effects and dangers of the pump.
Sleepiness is already something of a problem from the stroke - what if it increased? Stomach upsets and headaches are not too worrisome, but what if the catheter gets loosened from the spinal column, or there is a mechanical failure of the pump?
Serious problems are possible though the information we have on the pump says they happen rarely. I need to build confidence in letting things go out of my hands.
With the help and guidance of physicians we will make the decision soon.