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Tackling a case of lacking nerves
I still have the nerve it takes to hunt rattlesnakes, I just can't feel my way into it
I’m not chasing rattlesnakes this spring. It’s not that I’ve lost the nerve to do it, my nerves have just let me down in the ability to do it.
It has to do with my connection to the Earth—and by that, I mean the dirt and rocks.
Time was, that I had a fully cooperative relationship with the ground. We had a supportive connection. Seldom did I lose my balance, and I never “fell.” If I did hit the ground it was a controlled tumble. I rolled through and bounced right back up.
But here just recently the ground up and decided to smack me right in the face a couple times— hard, fast, and unexpectedly.
Why the sudden change? Well, it’s not just because I hit 60 years of age, as some might suspect. True, I’m not as nimble as I was at 20, but that’s not it. For at least six years now I’ve been gradually losing the feeling in my feet and it’s reached a point that it’s a problem.
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The ability to simply walk off-trail through the woods is something most outdoors folks take for granted. Those of us who do it daily develop an off-trail navigation sense. Our eyes help us pick a path of least resistance and best footing and we more-or-less feel our way along effortlessly and without much worry.
That was me, until my recent face-plants. I didn’t worry much when it came to walking rocky slopes to find rattlesnakes this time of year. But this year?
Yeah, I’m not doing that.
There is an added danger for me, but more than that I loathe the idea of being a worry for others I’m with. So, nope, not doin’ it.
Instead, I’m sitting here on a warm, March morning with my feet in a plastic tub with electrodes in the water and with a second pair adhered to my leg just below my kneecaps. After I’m done with the tickle-soak, as I call it, I’ll wrap a strip of infrared lights on each foot for 20 minutes.
I’ll be doing this twice a day for 90 days. I’ll also be visiting the fine folks at NeuroGen Medical twice a week for the next three months for vibration, adjustment, and soundwave, therapies. I’ll also be taking supplements and going on a pretty strict diet. Apparently, I’ll lose lots of weight, too.
Full disclosure, I’m trading my services in documenting my experiences for your entertainment for a healthy discount on these treatments. Gotta pay the bills, folks.
Double full disclosure, I’ll be honest about the experience and I do have my doubts. I just come from an old-fashioned white-coat-and-stethoscope kind of medical outlook, you know.
If anything pushed me toward calling NeuroGen, it’s probably my experience with the ol’ Whiskey Dog and Tulsa Animal Acupuncture and Canine Sports Medicine. Whiskey’s vet sent us to them because there wasn’t much he could do. Animal Acupuncture put us on a path to not cure Whiskey, but at least to curb, comfort, and delay the worst of the effects of puppyhood stifle (knee) injuries.
So, here’s the background on this deal.
When I started having this weird sensation of numb toes years ago, the regular docs couldn’t tell me much. At first, it was this little annoyance I just mentioned off-hand as an appointment came to a close. “Hey Doc, I’ve got this weird thing where my big toes feel like they’re asleep all the time. Is that weird, or what?”
I saw a neurologist who put probes on my legs and said it was physical/mechanical, not neurological. He hooked me up to get better-fitting shoes with pricey custom insoles. Did that for a couple of years.
Then I saw a podiatrist, who explained I’d been wearing shoes that weren’t wide enough and that I needed a different, better, kind of insole to help reshape my foot and take the pressure off nerves between the joints. Did that for a couple of years.
And then I had some issues with bunions and saw a different podiatrist who fixed me up with $500 orthotic insoles, which did take care of the bunion issue.
I asked him about what I had come to learn was neuropathy in my feet, which was by this time affecting all of my toes and the balls of my feet. I told him I had learned this may be related to my rheumatism.
He asked if I’d ever had a lower-back injury, and with my affirmative answer he said it was likely related to pinched nerves and arthritis/aging and there was nothing I could do. All those nerves are connected, you know.
That was pretty depressing.
Fast-forward another couple of years, and last week and I was in the office of Dr. William Lewis looking at the same sort of thermography camera the vets used on Whiskey. It showed the blood flow in my feet and toes was clearly impaired.
Next, I was chuckling when asked to stand barefoot on one foot with the other lifted up by my knee.
“Ah, sobriety test, eh?” I quipped as I removed my socks.
And then I failed. Surprisingly. Unbelievably.
“Let me try that again,” I said as I lasted only a second or two on my right foot.
It was an eye-opener. As I tipped one way and the other and waved my arms, I realized I was essentially trying to balance on my heel. I could feel pressure more on the upper part of my foot and ankle, as my foot flexed, than on the bottom of my foot or in my toes.
Turns out, your toes send some really handy signals to the brain when it comes to maintaining your balance.
Another test involved what amounts to putting oven mitts with electrical probes in them on my extremities. For any of you dog trainers out there who have used electronic collars, the pulses were similar. For anyone who has touched an electrified fence, it’s similar but not as painful.
“You’ll feel it in your hands and it might make some muscles contract,” the technician said.
She placed the mitts on my hands, I felt a “thump-thump” and my forearms twitched like a pair of startled cats!
Then she put the mitts on my feet.
“Is it on?” I asked.
I felt absolutely nothing. She put the mitt on the top of my foot. I felt nothing.
I even asked her to put the thing back on my hands so I could feel it again and put it back on my feet again. I just could not believe there was absolutely no sensation in my feet—at all.
My wife, DeAnna, and I met with Dr. Lewis a few days after the first appointment to go over my results and talk about a path forward. The treatments, and the diet, are quite a commitment and the clinic actually requests that family members attend the follow-up session.
In a nutshell, he explained I’ve lost a little over 50 percent of the feeling in my right foot and not quite 50 percent in the left, that it likely is RA (rheumatism) related, and that he believes the issue can be reversed, mostly if not completely.
So here I am, laptop on my lap, feet in a bath with my new at-home version of the thumper used at NeuroGen, the Re-Builder 2407. It’s delivering electrical pulses to my feet, which I can’t feel even if I turn the dial to 11 if you’ll pardon the “This Is Spinal Tap” reference. I just have to trust it’s doing something. It seems a little silly, to be honest. But they say to keep that dial at 2, to begin with, and that I’ll be able to feel something eventually.
We’ll see how it goes. And I’ll keep you all up-to-date.
I told Dr. Williams if this actually works I’ll go rattlesnake hunting this time next year and do a story and video in his honor.
Maybe we’ll even convince him to come along—if he’s got the nerves.