10/27/20 – Day of surgery
We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM. During pre-op, Claudia (another one of the major PIs) and the team placed a very large number of muscle sensors all over my legs, hips and back muscles. Surgery was approximately 5 ½ hours long, done face down. I obviously was put to sleep under general anesthesia, so the following is just my recollection of what I was told was done.
From a previously constructed 3D image of my spine and spinal cord using a Tesla 3 MRI machine, they are given a good idea of where the stimulator should be placed on my spinal cord. The plastic implant is very thin and narrow, about three inches long. It contains 16 little dots, and each dot is an electrode. Once initially placed, they start firing the electrodes from the top to the bottom. As they fire the electrodes they are hoping the muscle sensors will pick up electrical activity in specific muscles.
For example, when they fire the first row of electrodes (the electrodes at the top of the piece of plastic), they hope they are picking up activity in my trunk area. After that, the next row of electrodes will hopefully trigger electrical activity in my hip flexors. Then, the next row will hopefully trigger electrical activity a little further down the anatomy muscle order. If muscles are firing out of order or just not being detected, the neurosurgeon will slightly modify the stimulator to see if they can find better placement and responses. While they had hoped to elicit responses in approximately 50% of my muscles, they were super stoked because they achieved 100% responsiveness in my muscles even after being injured for nearly 39 years! With that said, nothing really can be extrapolated from this outcome other than it being a very good start.
After surgery, I’ll spend one night at the hospital and then back home to be poured into bed for mandatory one-week bedrest.
If there is a heaven on earth, it is having my wife by my side during the entire night of my one night stay at the hospital. It might not sound glamorous but it is incredibly giving and comforting. Love you, honey!