Sunday, December 4, 2011


Sorry for not getting to this sooner, but that's the way my life goes.  No bad, but good.  I'll share for those who may still be interested.

Due to the continuing pain in my back, despite the improvements from physical therapy, something had to be done.  At the end of the day when I would lay down in bed I would still have throbbing in my entire lower body.  My left leg was not only numb, but tingly.  Right leg only numb.  Left hand numb and tingly too.  Can't do Aleve or ibuprophen due to kidney issues, so you just live with it, right?  Wrongo.  Thanks to the wonders of UCSF medicine, brought to you by the people who kept me alive, and a referral by my orthopedist, Dr. Shane Burch, I finally got an appointment with the UCSF Pain Management office.  So, on November 5th, I, along with Darrell and a good friend Wes Castro (a most interesting fellow, if you ever get the chance to visit with him), headed north to SF.  We had some difficulty getting there, but thankfully, after not a little fret on my part, which annoyed Darrell and Wes I think, we got there with time to spare.  So as I got settled in the waiting area, Darrell and Wes headed out into the streets of SF until my return from the inner sanctums of the Center.  Here we are in front of the very low key office in the shadow of the big UCSF Mt. Zion hospital.
I will now introduce the supporting characters by order of appearance.  First was Dr. Ramana Naidu, a Clinical Fellow of anesthesiology and pain management.  He asked a lot of questions but never actually said that he was going to be the one inserting the needles into my back.  Next to him is Jackie Weiss, a 4th year medical student (she made sure I knew that she was a 4th year student), who was there to observe.
The next participant was the nurse, who only wanted to be identified as 'Nurse Kelly'. What her real name is I don't know.  At first she didn't want to be photographed but after I assured her that there were no law enforcement people tracking my blog she agreed to be photographed.  I didn't pixelate her face either.
Now behind us you can see a couple screens where MRIs of my spine are being shown.  It was from these pictures that Dr. Naidu planned his work.  To the right of Nurse 'Nancy' was a portable Cat-scan machine that they use during the procedure.  He was supervised by Dr. Melanie Henry, MD, MPH (whatever that means) and Assistant Clinical Professor and Attending Physician.  You can just call her Doctor.
So as I understand it (I was there but face down on the table to the right of Dr. Henry so I didn't get to see much), they rolled the portable Cat-scan machine over me while the rest of the cowards stayed back away from the deadly rays it produces while Dr. Naidu began to stick needles into my back to inject some steroid that I think starts with "D".  The steroid then reduces the pain and pinpoints the problem area for future possible oblation of the actual nerves.  The injections last 2-6 months.  The oblation can last 8-10 years.  The only hitch was when Dr. Naidu would stick the needle in me and then I'd hear, "I'm hitting bone. I can't seem to get between them."  The object is to get the needle between the two rubbing facets in order to inject the steroid at the offending spot.  Dr. Henry would respond, "Just back it out and try it at a different angle."  So in again he would stick the needle, unfortunately, with the same result not infrequently.  I stopped counting how many times he had to stab me.  That's not the important.  He got it done.  The pain from the injections themselves was not so great for a few days, but a couple days later my spinal pain was much better.  So far it has worked, somewhat.  It doesn't relieve all pain, but a lot of it.  So thank you to these wonderful people at UCSF for making my life better.  Can't wait to do the bottom one & the right side.

Of course the most important reason for me recovering from the procedure was so that I could play golf with my UCSF oncologist, Dr, Jeffrey Wolf.  That's right, my Dr. invited me to play golf with him at a pretty famous golf course there in SF.  He arranged his schedule (and mine) so that we could golf at Harding Park.  Most of you won't care, but, it's been a regular PGA Tour stop, the course where the President's Cup was played in 2010 and 2011, and hosted the final Senior PGA Championship tournament of the season just a few days before we played.  Another patient was supposed to play with us, but had to back out at the last minute.  It was meant to be as we were paired with a young couple who had a 10 month old baby girl.  Some people deal with stress in different ways.  I loved her way.  Just that morning she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and decided to try and relieve her stress by playing golf with her husband.  As I introduced myself to her husband, Dr. Wolf shared that I was coming back from cancer and walked back to the cart to get something.  Her husband shared her diagnosis from earlier that day. with me. I told him that Dr. Wolf (who just introduced himself as Jeff) was an oncologist and that we were paired together so that she could get some advise and comfort from Jeff.  Dr. Wolf then returned and I informed him of the young woman's diagnosis.  He smiled and walked over to her, pulled down the neck of his turtle neck shirt, and showed her his car from when he had his thyroid removed due to cancer when he was 28.  It was way cool, and they talked quite a bit and thanked him as they left feeling so much better about the whole thing.

Now to answer the question that is on everyone's mind, "But how did you do?"  I did OK.  Started out too sore and stiff from 2 days in SF and triple bogeyed the first 2 holes.  Got looser and by the last 2 holes we were tied.  The clouds had come in and it was drizzling.  Dr. Wolf chipped in a shot out of a greenside pot bunker, with a downhill break that hit the flag dead center and the ball jumped in.  It was a great shot!  For the last hole it was so dark that we couldn't see. Fortunately there were a couple of guys from Ireland playing behind us that asked if they could play with us so that they could finish the course.  I said "Of course", as Dr. Wolf hesitated, but I reminded him that we needed their young eyes to be able to see our balls in the dark.  They helped a lot.  We all finished as it started to rain.  I shot an 89, which isn't too bad for my first time on the course and starting out with 2 triple bogeys. We both determined that we were going to break 90 as we were tied at 46 after 9 holes, and we did it.  Would it have been bad form for me to win?  I guess I'll never have to worry about that anyway.  Then we had dinner at a great little Italian restaurant.  Home by 10:15.

My last thank you go to Joan and Dan Murphy.  Remember my friend Dennis Lozano from my very first stay at UCSF?  Well, his wife Marie, is a sister to Joan Murphy.  They live about 3-4 miles from UCSF and about 1-2 miles from Harding Park.  They invited me to stay at their place on Weds. night, so that I didn't have to get a hotel and would have a place near the hospital for my early morning appointment with Dr. Wolf.  It was a wonderful stay.  It was so great to be able to learn more about them and their beautiful family.  Marvelous food.  Great and very interesting company.  A great bed with all the comforts of their home.  It was wonderful.  Thank you Joan and Dan for your hospitality and care.  I apologized to them and to the rest of you for my failure to take any pictures.  Next time, Joan and Dan?