Thursday, March 6, 2014

Staying Afloat

When times get really rough

November, December and January were very hard for me.  I had kind of a failed trip to Mexico where I usually float high on the warm waters of the Pacific.  But I couldn't hack the heat, my headaches got worse, the hotel messed up my reservation and kept moving me around from room to room.  There were a lot of noisy parties during a usually quiet time of year.  I finally gave up and came home early.

My headache doc is a prince of a guy, but he inadvertently gave me the message that there wasn't anything more he could do for me.  He also suggested it might not be helpful to go back to Michigan again, (the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute).  I was working with an anesthesiologist, who had no more tricks in his bag.  He also gave me to understand that since the occipital nerve injections hadn't helped, I was not a candidate for an occipital nerve stimulator.

In short, I felt like I had been written off.  I was sinking.  My concentration was shot.  I couldn't really think straight.  I had no plan for what to do next and no energy to figure it out.  I knew I was on the edge of depression.  I was at a low ebb, living from pill to pill, injection to injection with headaches in between.


In January, at a follow-up visit to Pacific Rim Headache Center, my doc suggested it was time to take a serious look at an occipital nerve stimulator, disabusing me of the notion that I wasn't a candidate.  Failure to benefit from occipital nerve injections do not rule out an occipital nerve stimulator.  He gave me contact info. on a couple of respected centers that were doing the procedure, the Migraine Treatment Centers of America and the Washington Center for Pain Management.  I went home and went to work. 

My first attempt to get the ball rolling was disheartening.  Online, I sent for a packet of information on the Omega Procedure from the Migraine Treatment Centers of America.  I got a cheery phone call offering all kinds of information, then a packet of glossy brochures in the mail, then another phone call.  Everyone was very eager to help.  Finally, I called to make an appointment.  Upon learning I have Medicare (plus a secondary), the Migraine Treatment Center(s) of American was immediately uninterested in my business.  Secondary insurance or no, they serve no one on Medicare - period.  They also told me Medicare considers occipital nerve stimulators - for headache - an "investigative" procedure, not covered.  I was angry and frustrated and felt like I'd been gut punched again.


Sea Change

With little optimism, I called the Washington Center for Pain Management, which does the Reed Procedure.  (The Omega Procedure and the Reed Procedure are different names for essentially the same procedure.)  They were encouraging.  In February, I made an appointment.  My husband and I went to see Dr. M in Everett, which is pretty close to home.  We both liked him.  He answered all my questions and outlined the series of steps I would need to go through as well as addressing the issue of insurance coverage and cost, which most doctors, hospitals and clinics are reluctant to discuss in any detail.

After leaving, on the drive home, I realized I felt better than I had in months.  I became more buoyant. My mood lifted.  My sort of mental vision snapped back into place.  I was thinking with a sense of clarity that had been missing for weeks.

Who knows where this will all lead me, whether the occipital nerve stimulator with work for me.  But the point is that I now see possibilities when none seemed to exist for me previously.

Hope renewed

In the water, I am naturally buoyant; yet I had been sinking.  Staying afloat requires hope.  
Now, I hope the new procedure works.  
I hope for lots of swimming come spring and summer. 
I hope for a fall trip to somewhere warm with a great swimming hole.
Any ideas?

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