“‘Dances with Pills’ is a poem that speaks to me,” by Karl Gustav Kroeppler, an artist living with Trigeminal Neuralgia

Karl Gustav Kroeppler is an artist and professor.

Karl Gustav Kroeppler is an artist and professor.

Sometimes a poem reflects a deep feeling one has experienced. That is what is comes across in this moving essay by artist Kari Gustav Kroeppler on “Dances with Pills,” a poem by Jen Karetnick, published in the Fall 2013 Intima.

I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia in 2008. In November 2015, the lightning bolt-like sensations that normally dropped me to the ground in excruciating pain, became intractable. Simply put, they would not stop. Over the course of a week, I was transported by ambulance to the emergency room on four separate occasions. It seemed neurologists and neurosurgeons were throwing medications at me in order to control my episodes. Hydroxyzine pamoate, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin, hydrocodone, gabapentin, carbamazepine…too many to remember. I was even snorting lidocaine, hoping it would find its way to the trigeminal nerve in order to numb it.

I was finally approved for microvascular decompression. A craniotomy was performed and the procedure ensued. The compression of the nerve by a cluster of veins was relieved by moving them safely away from the nerve. The trigeminal nerve was then wrapped with Teflon to shield from compression. Unfortunately, my symptoms returned a few months later and a relationship with an oncologist was established. A cyber knife procedure was my next hope to eliminate my symptoms forever.

The procedure was performed in May of 2017 and once again it was unsuccessful in treating my symptoms. A positive note; the oncologist was successful in establishing a small cocktail of medication that would limit my symptoms in order to live a relatively normal life, at least for ten years. At that point, my body may develop an immunity to the medication and a new cocktail will need to be discovered.

So true, then, these lines from Ms. Karetnick’s poem:

“You deceptive disks of false modesty… idle workers of mysterious ways … What nervy tantrums do you prevent? Or what false promises, fat senselessness?”

Karl Gustav Kroeppler received his MFA in Drawing and Painting and BA in Studio Art from the Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Art at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona Kroeppler is an adjunct professor at Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design. His artwork Intractable 2appears in the Spring 2019 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine. Here he reflects on Jen Karetnick’s poem: “Dances with Pills.”

© 2019 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine