Sunday, September 18, 2011


Last Wednesday I went for what was supposed to be my first TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) treatment. Per Neurostar, the machine's manufacturer, TMS is "a highly focused pulsed magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood". It's new, expensive and most insurance companies don't yet cover it, but as a volunteer guinea pig, I'm getting it for free.

It's supposed to be a non-evasive procedure and I figure as long as I don't have to swallow any pills, there really shouldn't be any bad side effects. Of course this is me we're talking about here, so the words "supposed to" and "shouldn't", never really work out the way they do for everyone else.

The first session never even got off the ground, because the pdoc and nurse running the machine weren't able to find my motor threshold, which is the amount of magnetic strength that is needed to move my right thumb. I should have known I was in for trouble with this when they pulled out the instruction manual, trying to figure out why it wasn't working. Eventually they said they'd have to contact their company rep and reschedule.

I went back in on Friday and they said the problem was related to the magnet I had for my VNS implant. The one they told me I had to bring with and tape to my chest to keep the VNS off, though I don't even know if the thing is even on any more. I think the battery died.

Anyway, they start moving the contraption around on my head, trying to find the motor threshold, which they tell me they were able to and things seems to be going better this time. At least they seemed to be until they actually began the first treatment. The total treatment is supposed to last 37 minutes. The machine cycles through intervals of 30 seconds during which, there are 4 seconds where the machine is actually emitting the magnetic pulse. During those 4 seconds, it's supposed to feel like light tapping on your head, and there can be some mild to moderate scalp pain.

What I experienced was neither mild nor moderate. Aside from child birth, this was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt, and I have a pretty damn high pain tolerance. During those four seconds, it felt as if someone were rapidly hammering a red hot nail into my skull in the same spot, over and over and over again. I was in tears. I told the nurse that it was hurting like hell, so they adjusted the pulse down. Unfortunately that didn't really change the level of pain, it just expanded the treatment time from 37 minutes to an hour.

I sat there and endured it because the nurse kept saying it's not uncommon for it to hurt the first couple of times. However, after coming home and doing more research online, I don't think it's supposed to be as horribly painful as I experienced it. I think they have the machine set up wrong, both in the amount of pulse I'm receiving and in the placement of the device on my head. The treatments are supposed to be 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks, but no one could endure a full course of treatment with the pain I was experiencing with just the one. That's why I think they have to have it set up wrong.

I have contacted the manufacturer, but had to leave a message because it was already after hours when I tried. I'm hoping they call me back first thing tomorrow morning because I'm supposed to go for another treatment tomorrow at 11 am. If not, I'll still show up tomorrow but tell the nurse they need to contact their rep before that thing goes back on my head because I don't think it should be this painful. They have to be doing something wrong.


Anonymous purple pineapple said...

Holy shit Sid, that's not good at all!!! That sounds so wrong and I don't blame you for going the extra steps to ensure proper functionality of the machine before the hook it up to you again. Wow, you'd think they'd learn that machine like the back of their hands before hooking it up to someone's head. Please update how things are going with this.

8:27 PM, September 20, 2011  
Blogger Saracide said...

No good! How did it go afterward?! :(
I hope they got it figured out!

6:23 PM, September 22, 2011  
Anonymous Jenna said...

Oh my gosh - that is scary! I am glad you are ok.
Just found your blog and looking forward to reading more.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Jenna Xx

8:31 AM, October 31, 2011  

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