Day 231 – What is Really in a Year?

An overly condensed version of what brought me to the point of surgery is quite simply all other treatments to this point had failed to provide relief nor did they allow me to successfully complete the necessary rehabilitative therapies.

Day 231 – What’s Really In A Year?

The date is August 22, 2017 and it is the 234th day of the year. For 231 of these days, I’ve been battling the rare and ferocious disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

My day begins at 7:30am. I wake up, roll over, and kill the alarm. Ouch, that hurt. Darn left shoulder and arm. Silly me, it’s only been 231 days of waking up in pain – ‘bout damn time I learn to figure out how to turn off the alarm without inducing more pain.

I woke up excited. It was that kind of little kid on Christmas excitement. You know, that joyous “lets rip through what Santa brought me” type of feeling. That's what I'm feeling like today before going into spinal surgery. Today will change my life and Crissy’s for the better. This surgery will work and I’ll get the use of my left arm back.

A few quick sidebars before I head into surgery. A whole lot happened in 231 days. My time suffering from CRPS slightly beats President Trump’s tenure in office. The first Tesla Model 3 cars were delivered. Amazon bought Whole Foods. The NFL finished the 2016 season and is already playing preseason games. Jay-Z dropped 4:44 and Beyonce had the twins. Even O.J. Simpson was back in the news as "the Juice" was granted parole and will be set loose in October.

Let all of that marinate a little bit. As your brain percolates over some of 2017’s headlines, imagine traversing the rigors of your daily life with literally the worst pain imaginable to the point of disability. Once you’ve successfully done that, try imagining living with that pain over, and over, and over again for 231 straight days. Make sure you throw in the loss of a limb or else you’re cheating. For “expert level gamers,” you can take it up one more notch and try doing all of this in your first year of marriage. There are plenty of other land-mines I could place in your conscious, but for now, it might be best kept in your subconscious (relax this is my first post, plenty more to share).

An overly condensed version of what brought me to the point of surgery is quite simply all other treatments to this point had failed to provide relief nor did they allow me to successfully complete the necessary rehabilitative therapies. My walking pharmacy of pills isn't cutting it. I've yet to have success in occupational therapy let alone graduate to physical therapy. Nerve blocks, nope. Tests revealed bone resorption and amputation was a real concern should we not reverse the rapid course of the CRPS soon. A relatively minimally invasive spinal surgery was required to help block pain so there could be substantial pain relief and success in rehab and save my left arm. (I'll shed much more light into these details in future posts).

Don’t let the direction of this post fool you. Just because I had spinal surgery today, I think I would qualify as a “supporting actor” at best. The real stars of the show on August 22nd were a) my wife, Crissy, for being the amazingly strong woman she is and b) my surgeon, Dr. John Huffman. I was simply laying there in surgery or recovery for a good chunk of the day.

Crissy had the enviable task of being the concerned wife in a waiting room with my parents. Not that my parents are bad or anything. They’re really great and supportive. I’m just sure its not easy to stay calm when you husband is having a 2 hour surgery on his spine and you have no choice but to be rock solid. She aced it with flying colors of course because she was trained at a young age not to be poised in these moments and not be too emotional. I on the other hand come from an Italian mother and a Jewish father so I think letting emotion out is just natural for me.

Dr. Huffman and his team at Holy Cross Hospital Pain Management here in the D.C. Metro area gave me the single biggest tool to fight back against my case of CRPS when they successfully implanted a Medtronic spinal cord stimulator (SCS) into my neck and clavicle. Dr. Huffman is not only a man of his word, but a compassionate wizard of a doctor who made sure to drastically change my life and Crissy’s for the better. The immediate efficacy of the surgery was visible while I was in recovery and present before I went home as an outpatient the same day. Video evidence proves I felt quite chipper after surgery. 

I want to save more details about the specifics for additional blog posts to dig deeper into the SCS. For now, suffice to say it’s like a pacemaker for pain. You can tell your kids I’m like Tony Stark aka Iron Man that way I sound a lot cooler than I actually am. J

If you had asked me way back on the New Year’s Day, “Hey Jason, what do you expect to accomplish this year?” Never, not even a chance, would I have replied back with something like “I think I’ll end up on an operating table seven times before finally getting to the magic procedure.” Hell, I wouldn’t have even said I was going to be on an operating table once. Not one of these procedures was even in the cards before I was diagnosed with CRPS this year. Yeah, eight times on a table in a cold room getting poked, prodded, cut on, etc, that’s a quota for a lifetime! I’m confident number 8, the first jersey I wore in football and baseball as a kid, will be the final surgery I need (Note to Mom and Dad, remember how great I looked in that black and gold OBGC #8?). The SCS along with a combination of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and mental health therapy will help me beat CRPS.

I say all of this with confidence as I dictate my first blog post to my wife or maybe it’s simply the remaining dopiness of the anesthesia from surgery earlier today. No, I think it is the bravado that this procedure is going to work and is already working.

There is still not a definitive timetable until Dr. Huffman or any of my other docs say that magic word I want to hear, “remission,” and that is ok. I think it will be sooner rather than later. So does Crissy and so do our parents.

If you can handle looking at wounds, scroll down a bit after I sign off from this post for a picture of the gnarly open wound on my spine. I guess they don't always use stitches these days. It's a glue that helps for a more clean scar and more protected surgical area.

The next handful of posts will include a mix of my recovery and what the previous 7 months looked like for me.

Ciao for now. Beat CRPS!

Jason

War wounds below...

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3 comments

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Andrew Gunn-Wilinski

Dear Jason and Crissy,

Wow! My heart ached reading about your journey over this past year. I know from my own experience the angst, fear and uncertainty a health issue this severe adds to ones life. You are a trooper! I know your blog will bring hope and reassurance to many peoples lives.

I am sending you and Crissy many blessings and healing vibrations for continue healing!

Be well,
Andrew

Andrew,

Thank you so much for the kind words and the generous blessings. This is partly cathartic for me and I’m enjoying the writing aspects. Web building is a new skill to have in my back pocket, I guess. I truly look forward to helping others. Even if it is just 1 person, I hope I can help them positively affect change in their life. Best wishes to you and Tom.

Jason

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