MRI and consultation with the neurosurgeon at Saint Louis University Hospital to determine if I’m a candidate for DBS have been bumped out to January.  For now I’m just doing some research and compiling questions prior to the consultation.  As I mentioned in the last post, I have a lot of reservations about moving forward with the surgery but we’ll listen to what they have to say and go from there.  I also requested some information from the University of Virginia Hospital with respect to Focused Ultrasound.  I’m anxious to hear what they have to say but I’m pretty certain that its too early on for coverage by my insurance.  If by some miracle it is covered I would probably lean towards going that route despite the fact that its irreversible.

With the possibility that I may go forward with DBS, I’ve been contemplating what I could do to reduce or eliminate any pressure and/or chafing that might result from a pack strap laying over and rubbing against the area of the shoulder and chest where the leads and pacemaker would be implanted.  A protective shield, like the one from Vital Beat that I mentioned in the last post, might be an option.


The shield fits into a pocket sewn into a compression shirt, also sold by Vital Beat, and protects the pacemaker from impacts as well as irritation caused by seat belts.  Sounds good but I’m not sure that it sufficiently covers the area where the leads are implanted – over the shoulder and collar bone.  Merely based upon the photo above, it appears that a pack strap rides right over this area. Once over the shoulder and collar bone, the strap should pass over a portion of the shield before moving down under the arm.  Of course, this all depends on just where the leads and pacemaker are implanted.  I ran across this on Mountain Project where the person said they tried on various packs they owned at the hospital so the surgeon could determine the best placement of the implant to prevent rubbing and irritation.  That sounds a bit more promising and will certainly be something to ask the neurosurgeon about in January.  I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill here!!!

While thinking about the whole strap issue I recalled reading a thread on BackpackingLight about a single strap pack – the idea being that the strap would be situated such that it could be worn over either shoulder.  These are often referred to as Sling Packs and a few companies have manufactured various designs over the years.  This particular design was offered for a time by TrailLite Designs and made by Chris Zimmer of ZimmerBuilt, a cottage manufacturer of high quality custom-made packs.  It was known as the Bandoleer Pack.


The craftsmanship looks amazing and I’ve read nothing but good with respect to ZimmerBuilt packs.  Apparently it’s no longer available from TrailLite Designs so, assuming I go ahead with the DBS procedure, I might have to give them a call to see if they could still make one or proceed with making my own.  I believe the main pack body volume is around 1500 cu in so I may need something a tad bit larger.  Weight of the pack shown was supposed to be 8 oz without the removable hip belt so its quite possible I could be looking at something around the same weight as my existing Cuben Fiber pack.

Whether or not one could comfortably carry a max load of 18 lbs using one of these without switching from one shoulder to another from time to time I have no clue.  Maybe I’ll throw that question back to TrailLite Designs, ZimmerBuilt or the folks at BPL and see what they think.  My 3-season solo base weight hovers around 7 to 7-1/2 lbs.  Not too bad but I think I can go lower still.  On the AT, assuming I do mail-drops or purchase food every 3 or 4 days along the way, I think I should be able to keep my food and fuel weight down to less than 8 lbs.  Throw in a liter of water  and my total pack weight should be less than 18 lbs. (assuming I can’t drop any more off of my current base weight).  Going stove-less would save a bit but I’m not all that excited about going that route.  There’s something to be said for enjoying a hot meal at the end of the day and a hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning!

As for what I would do when Loonie comes along and I carry a bigger pack and more weight, I haven’t figured that out either.  There’s a lot of details to sift through and much depends on the direction I take with respect to surgery.  No sense in getting all worked up…at least not yet…and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  The next couple of months should be interesting!

More to come…



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