Jack quickly pulled his truck over to the side of the road. Here it comes again, the sharp, electric-shock stabs of pain that ran from his ear to his jaw. He rubbed the side of his face knowing it wouldn’t help. The pain didn’t last long, but it stopped him in his tracks and made him close his eyes tightly.
“I really don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Jack said to no one as he slammed his hand on the steering wheel. He gathered himself together and put his blinker on to pull back onto the road.
Jack had been suffering with this intense pain for more than ten years. It would come and go, getting worse each time. He went to several doctors. The dentist extracted some teeth and repaired others, however, the pain continued. The ENT doctor said he had temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ). He went through all the procedures for the diagnosis. Two years later, Jack was still in pain.
“I guess I will just have to live with it.” Jack told his wife, Susan, during dinner one night.
“I wish there was something I could do. I know it has to be almost unbearable for you. I pray every day that God will send us the answer.”
Susan went to see a new dentist. While she was in Dr. Kaye’s office, Susan told her about Jack. The dentist was intrigued and wanted to meet with him. At first, Jack refused but finally agreed.
Dr. Kaye examined Jack and explained the different conditions she had been researching. She referred him to a facial-pain specialist. Jack had struggled with the pain for so long, he really didn’t believe it could be fixed.
Jack waited several months until a week of severe pain and sleepless nights convinced him it was time to see the specialist. The day of the appointment, he pulled into the parking lot beside Dr. Bryan’s office and prayed that God would have his hand on this visit. He needed answers.
Jack and Dr. Bryan hit it off immediately. They were both hunters and discussed different hunts in between questions about the pain. Within ten minutes he looked at Jack and said “It’s Trigeminal neuralgia.”
“Huh? Can you say that again?” Jack looked at him bewildered.
“Your pain is being caused by a condition called Trigeminal neuralgia. The trigeminal nerve and the cerebellar artery are touching. The lining of the nerve has worn away and that causes the nerve to send the lightning sharp pains to run along your face. It’s unusual for someone your age to have such a severe case. Sometimes that means there might be a tumor pushing on them. I would like to run some tests.”
The words ran together in Jack’s mind like sand in an hourglass. He was relieved that someone had finally put a name on it but frightened that he could have a brain tumor. The next few weeks were intense, going through all the tests and waiting for results.
Dr. Bryan called and informed Jack that there wasn’t a tumor. It was a great relief to him and Susan. The doctor suggested a medication to try. The new medication affected his short-term memory and his temper. He became very hard to live with. Susan finally told him that he had to try something different. The medication didn’t control the pain completely and was making the family miserable.
“Okay, Doc, we have to try something different.”
“You would be a perfect candidate for microvascular decompression.”
“Huh? Can you say that again?”
Jack’s mind was jumbled again as Dr. Bryan explained how they would go in behind the ear and separate the nerve and artery. They would wrap Teflon gauze around the nerve to protect it, and the pain would stop. The best doctor was in Pennsylvania, if he decided to go.
It all sounded very simple. It would take a lot of prayers before he would be ready for this journey.
Dedicated to my loving husband, who suffered for 12 years. He has been pain free after having the surgery two years ago this month.
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