Submitted by Cathy Cuff-Coffman

This is Part 8 of Cathy’s multi-part blog series, documenting journey with a Baclofen pump implantation. You can read Parts 1-6 here.

“You Are Free to Move About The Cabin”

I was so comfortable last night at the Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital.

My partially paralyzed body, from a slip-and-fall in March 2020 (which resulted in a cervical 3-7 break and spinal cord injury), is adjusting to the intrathecal baclofen being pumped into my spinal cord via Medtronic’s SynchroMed™ II pump, which was surgically installed March 4, 2020.

My intense, two-year relationship with spasticity, also known as “high tone,” and the accompanying, constant searing pain, is now a distant friendship. The pain is still there but a mild annoyance instead of a continuous suit of too-tight armor fitted with internal swords.

My head is clearer since I’ve gone from taking a clinical overdose of oral baclofen. With doctor’s orders, I was taking 120 mg orally daily (the maximum recommended dose is 80 mg orally daily).

Now, the pump is titrating 275 micrograms of intrathecal (liquid) baclofen directly into my spinal cord daily.

And, I was so warm, sleeping under the fuzzy blanket my friends sent.

So I was dismayed when I had an 8:15 a.m. start time for a 90-minute physical therapy session…but I was not too upset because a double session with Kate and Brian can be intense and fun.

After dressing in one of my signature “snarky tee-shirts,” I was ready for the rehab gym. Brian came to my room to squire me down. Along the way, staff and nurses would say, “Congratulations!” or “Way to Go!”

I looked at Brian, and he said, “Yeah, Kate put out the word that we upgraded you to a ‘Level 3’ last night.”

That means I’ve worked hard enough to walk alone, with a walker, in my room and hallway. I’m also allowed to walk in the courtyard with visitors with my walker.

It’s a big deal for anyone confined by immobility problems, and in retrospect, I’m happy Kate made it a celebratory event.

When I first broke my neck in March of 2020, there was little chance that I would walk. Cervical injuries can be systemic, and as with all spinal cord injuries, recovery is unpredictable.

In 2020, it took me six weeks to earn my Level 3.

So, as we head into St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I am happy to roam the halls and courtyard.

I might even do an Irish jig.