POSTCARD#277: Delhi: The story so far: I went to see a well-known anaesthesiologist lady doctor, professor in a government university hospital, down-town Bangkok, about the 24/7 headache I’ve had since September 2015. To cut a long story short, she performed the PRF microsurgery on the nerve, 25 July 2017 and when I woke up the next morning, the headache was significantly gone.
Unbelievable… only a tingling sensation in the place where the pain used to be. No time to ponder on that, I had a flight to Delhi in the afternoon. So I sent an email to the Doc saying, the pain has gone, treatment successful. Thank you so much. Bye, packed my bags, taxi to the airport, checked my phone and the Doc had replied; possibly three pain-free months like this, no headache, and after that, when it returns (because this is not a cure), the pain will be noticeably less than it was before. Feels like a gift, I’m amazed, monks and other holy people have induced karmic intrusion, prasada.
On the plane over to Delhi there was this special consciousness of having been blessed, I felt like dancing in the aisle. “These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slo-mo. The way we look to us all, oh yeah”.
Sit back in my seat and review the experience of it through notes made just after: Here I am, back in the white room with the doc, my fairy godmother, dressed in white. Residents and other persons in white too… getting kinda crowded in this small room. More of her assistants squeeze in… there’s not enough space for me, the patient… claustrophobic, and a moment of panic. It passes. I stay calm. They get me to sit on a chair, lean over, face-down with head on the edge of a pillow placed on a gurney. It takes a bit of organizing, small hands in green cotton cuffs gently shifting the pillow until it’s comfortable, and I’m looking down at the floor, darkness, people’s feet in black, overshoe, rubber boots.
I’m in the operating room, OMG I’m not anaesthetized, hey! somebody! you forgot to give me a shot! After a while, as if they’d forgotten then been reminded, a surgical assistant, miniature lady in green cloth gown squats down close into my space . A chair is pushed in where she puts her stainless steel tray. Wearing rubber gloves, shower cap and face mask, she heaves my arm, like the branch of a tree, around and on to the chair, ties tourniquet, smack, smack, smack on the back of my hand, finds a vein and sticks a needle in. I’m taped up with a hard plastic valve set in place, ready to go. She plugs me into a relaxing woozy cotton-woolly sedative, and nothing matters anymore.
Cloths and plastic sheeting placed over my back and neck, and I can’t see anything but floor tiles. Darkness and the sounds of quiet voices chatting, somebody makes a joke, they laugh, another joke, more laughing. I’m thinking, hey what’s so funny? Sounds of shifting chairs scrape clunk! And I can see sideways they’re carefully wheeling in a large machine on a trolley with rubber wheels. A small hand comes down, seeks out the electric socket, plugs it in, switch on the switch… is it going? Yes. This must be the unit that generates the radio frequency pulse to stun the nerve.
More people coming in and out, I feel them brush against me… someone says ‘sorree.’ Trying to picture what’s happening out there and above my head. Thais are small in stature and used to this kind of closeness with each other. I’m the big foreigner one step removed, but with head leaning over and surgical cloths spread over my upper back, it’s as if I’ve disappeared.
It was over in 45 minutes, the central event was, after the deep probing needle to find the nerve, the PRF itself. Doc says, now I’m going to send the pulse, okay, are you ready? And it started; an awareness of the huge intrusive spike. An electric shock obviously, sustained, intense, deep hard pressure. As if it were penetrating the bone itself. More like a deafening sound than an agonized experience almost unbearable, it felt like I was being permanently bonded to the metal and concrete of the floor.
Then it stopped and that was it. I’m allowed to sit up, look around, people everywhere. Surprised to see the doc wearing a green gown and shower cap to cover her hair. Facemask removed from smiling face; how are you feeling? And I was just fine.
“And I was just fine.” Śūnyatā, but now without headache. A fresh space to explore.
A great empty space, like a skyful of lake…
Peace as last.
This is it exactly, and room to move. It’s a revelation to escape from that prison of head pain, and time to see it from a different perspective…
Two years is a hell of a long time for something like that.
Liberating, is not the word. What I’m learning from this, is mind states, states of mind. Extremes, I need to let it even out, equanimity. This is the direction things are going…
Liberation = Letting (it) go.
“We say we long to leave Samsara’s game;
Why is it then that we remain attached?
Each thing we fear seems by another matched
That keeps us circling, moths about a flame.
In seeking praise, we run the risk of blame;
Our gain becomes a loss if from us snatched;
And from the want of pleasure pain is hatched,
While envy soon breeds slander out of fame.
If we think well on this we need not be
Impaled upon the horns of hopes and fears,
Aversions and desires, joys and tears;
By leaving craving and dislike behind,
And by this means alone, a man may find
– From “The Four Immeasurables” by Ben Naga
“By leaving craving and dislike behind, and by this means alone, a man may find Immeasurable Equanimity.”
Cultivate these qualities:
1. equanimity uppekha
2. love metta,
3. compassion karuna,
4. sympathetic joy mudita
I’d have to write a post about this and how it is for me to simply study the Pali/ Sanskrit meaning of each one.
I think I would enjoying reading that.
I might take that on, thanks for the encouragement
Loved this post Tiramit – because it’s full of relief and happiness and energy! I do so hope the effects last a very long time 🙂
Thanks Jude, how can it be described… like stepping out of the door of the prison.
Really happy for you 😘
Floor tiles will never be the same ….. I am so glad you have found relief T. Enjoy this new experience, and have fun 😎
Thanks Val and yes, every time I look down at floor tiles, indelibly stamped 😀
So very happy for you! Wonderful news, T! 🙂
I continue to have a good amount of arthritis pain, but i’m taking herbs and supplements that help a lot.
So glad you are going beyond that vast, unending pain!
from Emily Dickinson:
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
Wonderful, thanks Tom, and now I have to look into the poems of Emily Dickinson.
Many of Emily’s poems reflect ordinary, bourgeois values; other of her poems are far beyond the ordinary and reflect a deep, revolutionary perspective. If they were all of the latter type, probably none of her poems would have gotten published.
A deep revolutionary perspective housed in the ordinary, bourgeois values of the day. Appearances are what ‘most people’ depend on, don’t rock the boat or it will seem as if we drown…
Relief at last – so pleased for you!
Thanks Eliza, this is how it is. Relief for the next three months.
May it be longer… be open to possibilities!
I will, thanks for the reminder I need to shake off the attitude of one suffering chronic pain
Does not sound like fun but GLORIOSO that the headache is gone for awhile. You were very brave but desperation sometimes gives courage. Happy for you, ellen
Desperation gives courage, yes it does, and it goes unnoticed in the struggle to stay within the norm. Thank goodness it’s over now, GLORIOSO is the word (Italian?). A whole new perception of the world…
good to hear …
Thanks Bert, so far so good…
I’m so glad to hear that you got real, meaningful relief from the relentless headache.
Thank you Judie, yes this is the period of gladness. I’ve been here before for a few weeks then the headache comes back. This time was a more of an intervention, so it’ll be different. So far so good, it’s been 3 weeks!
You’re welcome! I had radio frequency ablation RFA), which sounds similar (perhaps the same). Sadly, it didn’t work for me. I’m very glad that you have found relief. Absence of chronic pain feels like a miracle!
Hi Judie, and thanks for your reply, this is interesting for me of course. Can you tell me a bit more about the RFA; when it happened and which part of the body?
Sure. This isn’t where I had it done, but I think it’s a pretty good explanation: https://www.tmjtreatmentsc.com/radiofrequency-ablation-migraines/. I had it done twice last summer in an attempt to short circuit my chronic (daily) migraines. They “zapped” certain nerves in my neck. Before each procedure they targeted those same nerves with Novocaine (or something like that. The test sessions gave me a day or two of relief. But the RFA didn’t do anything except perhaps give me a little more mobility in my neck. The migraines were unaffected.
Sounds like they didn’t hit the nerves in question but came near. It’s a bit of an ordeal to have to go through to get at the right nerves, possibly a number of times. So I don’t imagine you’ll do that. What I had was pulsed radio frequency PRF less invasive perhaps but the time it takes (2 hours start to finish) is an issue. I’m okay right now but it won’t last, they say. If I’d had RFA, it would have led to a longer pain-free period.
Wow, that is a long time. This took about 45 minutes if I remember correctly. No, I won’t go through it again since it was extremely expensive. I do hope that you results exceed this predictions.
I meant the whole time from aesthetic 2 hours. The nerve pulse treatment was 45 minutes, same as you. It’s something I’ll have to get used to, I’ll keep trying. Thanks for your valuable input.
tiramit– tried posting this comment several times. Amazed at the detail of your memory, but also noting the bizarre and (to me) unprofessional behavior of the peanut gallery there. Insensitive to your vulnerable and very suggestible state.
Unprofessional? It’s got to do with Thai cultural behaviour. Everything needs to be sanuk, funny and friendly. Also, they somehow expect the foreigner to be able to share in the sanuk concept as well – don’t ask me what a visit to the dentist is like…