Wow. I’ve been busy… so busy that a month has passed and I just went to LA and back for another fill-up! It has become almost routine. Sometimes I think about the drive beforehand and it seems long … but on the day of my appointment, it is no big deal. I break out the tunes and my favorite podcasts and before I know it, I’m taking the Sunset off-ramp and headed for 100 UCLA Medical Plaza. I always schedule an early afternoon appt., around 2 pm, so I can get in and out before the commuter traffic hits.
I am so comfortable with the office now that sometimes I will open the door and say, “Hi honey, I’m home!” Mark is usually at his post at the front with Andrew and Nick at their computers next to him. “Hi Sharon!” they all say. “How is my favorite patient?” is one of Mark’s favorite ways of saying hello. I grab the restroom key and dash. “Be right back!”
When I get back my nurse, Erica, greets me. “We’re in here today!” she says, gesturing to one of the exam rooms. I sit in one of the comfortably padded black chairs and we talk for a while about how my month has been, has my pain been controlled, any medication changes, my sleep, my activity level, mood, etc. After we have caught up and she’s taken notes and checked her previous notes, it’s time for my medication refill.
I get up on the exam table and lie back. To access the pump, which is in my lower left abdomen, she cleans the skin thoroughly and inserts a needle through the skin to access a port in my pump. She says I am going to feel a pinch, but I tell her it is nothing, not after the pain I’ve been through! And it does feel like nothing. She withdraws the medication that is left over, usually about 4 -7 mm. Then with the two syringes full of my new medication* that she has prepared beforehand, she begins my refill. It goes quickly and I don’t feel a thing. When she’s done she puts a small round band-aid over it. I stand up and she hands me a small round disc, and I hold it over my pump, so the computer can sync the new information, such as amount and percentage of each medication, flow rate, etc… as well as my next refill date. And that’s it for my refill.
Dr. Prager checks in with me at some point during my appointment. Once in awhile, he does my refill himself. But usually he just pops in to greet me and give me a hug. If there are any specific concerns or questions he addresses them then. I remember what it was like the first time I saw him: I was in a reclining wheelchair with ice around my pelvis, unable to sit, walk, or even stand without help. Now, when I tell him of my latest activities, he is delighted. “This is what I do this for,” he says. It’s a special moment. How do you thank someone who has given you back your life?
* The medication in my pump is a mix of bupivacaine (marcaine), clonidine and morphine. These three medications work synergistically to relieve neuropathic pain. See “What’s in my pump?” for more information.