Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Visit with a Physiatrist

We’d been having some trouble finding a doctor* to be my primary physician and now after a few false starts and try-outs we’ve got him. Dr. Dana. (I think his name sounds like he should be doing health segments on the local news.)

My appointment was about 20 miles away and on a day when Lisa was unavailable to take me. But the timing of Barb and Jenny’s visit was perfect. So off we went to Walnut Creek.

The doctor was impressive: he asked questions and listened; he tested, hypothesized and explained. I thanked him at the end and told him this was the most time I’ve had with an M.D. since my operation, and that almost doesn’t count since I was unconscious.

In the exam, he tested my reflexes, strength, mobility and sensation (pin-prick). At every point along the way, he stopped to explain which nerves seemed to be affected and at which level they exited the spinal cord. He was able to determine that some of the problems occur within the cord itself and some are at the point where the nerves branch off and become the “horse’s tail” (Cauda Equina). All this, from tapping on my legs with a rubber mallet and sticking me with a pin.

This unfortunately tells us nothing about the long term prognosis, so for now we are waiting for the nerves to calm down and return to normal. As far as we know now, there may be no permanent damage, just a lot of rehab and waiting (18 months or more) for the nervous system to sort itself out.

We set up an appointment for an EMG test (a myogram) which should tell us which nerves are conducting signals to and from the brain and which are still having trouble.

Also in this visit the doctor signed orders to continue my home therapy (I get about 15 hours per week) until May 15th. After that, if we meet the goal of getting me able to travel independently, I should begin out-patient therapy.

Thus is the March of Progress. It’s been clocked at speeds up to one and a half miles per hour, but it’s only getting better.

* For those who might have been wondering, a physiatrist is
A physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

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