I had a followup MRI (the new advanced "3T") completed in October. It showed increased pressure against my spinal cord at C5/6 and C6/7 to the point that discoloration (actual signal disruption) could be observed. The NS, the one I had seen in March, informed me that I was "one bad cough or wrong sneeze from severing my spinal cord" and that the time for surgery was now!!! This was a little un-nerving since I had been playing racquetball 2 days before and playing touch football with my nephews the previous weekend. I told the NS I wanted to get a second opinion.
I went to see a second neurosurgeon, another top-rated NS having completed over 1,500 of these operations (I'll call him NS2) and he was also amazed at the contradiction between the pictures and my lack of pain or symptoms. However, he expressed the same problem, the same suregery, and the same need for immediate action. The one thing that was a complete 180 from the first NS was the post-op program. The first neurosurgeon, the one I saw in March, had told me I would be looking at wearing a hard collar for 4-6 weeks, a soft collar for another 2-3 weeks, no driving for 2 months and no flying for 6 months. Now N2 is telling me that he would not have me wearing a collar, and that if I felt up to it (which he knew I wouldn't due to the pain I would be experiencing). Now although I liked what NS2 was saying, I didn't want to take the preferred route but wanted the best one. After intense research on many sires such as this one, I discovered there are actually 2 distinct "schools of thought" on this one and it just depended on which one the particular NS prescribed to. There is plenty of discussion boards disuccing this. I decided to go with NS2 and surgery was scheduled for November 13th.
Surgery was pretty much as planned. I did elect to stay a second night in the hospital (thank goodness for good health insurance) and I think this helped facilitate my good recovery. They kept me pretty well drugged in the hospital with morphine etc but discovered that my body does not process dilaudid (10 times stronger than morphine) so that was not providing any relief. The next 2 weeks at home was pretty much what everyone else has described: sleepless nights, meds every 4 hours, terrible neck, shoulder, and arm pains, bladder fluctuations, and so on. There was plenty of Icey-Hot being used on the arms and across the shoulders. I stayed in the guest room so I would not keep my wife awake and she would not wake me up if I was fortunate enough to doze off. In week 3, I started taking an Ambien to help me get some quality sleep. I think this started to play a major role as well. I figured it couldn't be any worse than the Percocet/Soma I was taking in the middle of the night when I was unable to sleep and experiencing the pain. During my first post-op appointment (week 3), the NS said the wound was healing fine and there was really no restrictions he was placing on my activities.....that I would know my thresholds. I drove home from the appointment as I was not under any meds at the time. Pretty much had all ROM in my neck.
At week 4 I was working (via remote access) from my dining room table. 2-3 hours at a time but I was still able to manage 40 hours or so within the 5 days. I was climbing up and down the ladder and unloading boxes and totes out of the attic to retrieve the Christmas decorations. Still taking meds occasionally, usually to address minor pains from possibly over doing a little the previous day. Pain now was primarily in my biceps and triceps from time to time.
At week 5 I am driving into work (desk job) and working a full week. But I did make it habit to get up and walk the facility frequently. Also walking 1-2 miles in the neighborhood. I resumed my normal amount of driving.
On week 6, I am on a 6-hour flight to the northeast for the holidays. No problem with the flight but I noticed as I spent time in the cold sightseeing (9 degrees and wind chill of -10) that I was frequently experiencing severe headaches. Never had migraines but if this is what they are like, I have empathy for those that do. Once I returned to a warmer climate, this went away immediately.
Week 7 to the present has been pretty much my pre-surgery routine (no racquetball until May though per NS2). Flying and driving at will. Hiking 5-7 miles when I want to. Using light weights to regain muscle mass in my arms.
Next week, I have my 2nd post-op visit with operating NS. Strangely enough, he (at least his staff) has informed me that I do not need to have a x-ray (or MRI) completed yet. However, my personal physician has offered to order one for me. I will be returning to the 16 hour flights and my travels through Asia in mid February and want to confirm that things are aligned and "fusing" as desired. It should be an interesting meeting with the NS2.
I'm sorry this has been so long but I think that it is important to provide as much information so that others can see similarities to what they may be experiencing. From what I have read on these sites, I am damn lucky. Lucky to have discovered the problem to begin with (my personal doctor probably saved my life, if nothing else saved me from being paralyzed in the next 6-12 months). Lucky that I have had very little complications. The only symptoms I have had the last 3-4 weeks is a numbness/tingling in my neck between the incision site and my chin (may take up to a year to completely go away) and a numbness/tingling in my left hand (fingertips and thumb). I do carry a percocet in my pocket every day, but more days than not, I do not end up needing it.
So the best advice I can give is:
- STAY POSITIVE
- FIND A TRUST A GOOD DOCTOR
- GET A SECOND OPINION
- GET PLENTY OF REST
AND AGAIN STAY POSITIVE !!!
The thing I like about your story thus far is the second avenue of post-op treatment. I am coming to believe that your NS has the right approach. The not wearing the hard collar for the first 4-6 weeks. I think there are some cases where a patient may be warranted in wearing it though. In my case my NS chose not to operate on the 3rd junction of C6-7 which was suspect but was not causing me pre-op symptoms. So by still having one bad disc he needed to protect it by the Miami J collar.
It is very nice to hear a good outcome!!!
I think you should create your own topic so maybe more people will read your story. I am afraid it may get lost in here. Maybe make the topic something like... A second way to recover from ACDF.
Save yourself some typing and copy this over and past it.
I have done just that. It is listed as
"Recovering from ACDF - I'm one of the LUCKY ONES".
I don't know all the protocol for a site like this so if this is improper I am apologizing in advance.
Best Wishes................ Bill
**edited by moderator**
E-Mail addresses are not allowed but I have seen where some are left alone. I hope yours is. You have insight and an inspirational story.
As to how I am doing, I have gone backwards with my recovery. The stress of losing the one I love and would to this day die for is to much for my body to handle. My neck now spasms so terribly that even vicoden and flexeril does not touch it. I go only a few hours of sleep before I wake up with pain in my neck/shoulder blades. I tried to go to work with my sis on her desk job and that was very rough. I cannot do repetative tasks and find it unbearable to have my arms or elboes raised onto a desktop for very long. I am going to have to find a job and a boss that can and will tolerate these restrictions.
This is a very hard ordeal to deal with and I know there must be others who lose what was left in thier life because of the added stress this surgery puts on a relationship.
Thank you all again,
I want to wish you the best of luck. You have been such a great help to me and I'm sure to alot of others with your blogs. It helps us all to get through these rough times just knowing that we aren't alone and the pain is not all "in our heads" as some doctors make us think.
I seem to have leveled off and am not getting worse or better. I cannot go into work to help at a desk job yet and cannot do very much around the house before I have to take a pain pill(still on vicodine). I am applying for help with the state since I am now out of a job, lost insurance and lost my wife whome was supporting me.
Deb I really do feel bad for you. I am hoopefull that with rehab that I can return to work someday. It will be different work than I am used to though. It has to be. I do not know what limitations my Neurosurgeon is going to put me on when I go see him in 2 1/2 weeks.
Good luck Deb!,
Hang in there Deb. Keep me posted on how things are going for you. I am in the USA and we can't seem to get rid of the snow!
Today I tried to go pain killer free. I have done well and have noticed that I am no better with them than I am without them. So I will only take them when I really hurt. I allways am hurting and am dealing with it now that I know it will not be going away.
bye for now,
thanks,im here only just, went to musco doc,oh he says i have 2nd an 3rd injury,thoracic but not sure how much , i will have more test on all ,and carpal tunnel from having the pinched nerve for such a long time,will find out soon what they gonna do,me, lots more crying, i love snow,your brave being in the damn cold,it would kill if i dont do it first,anyway talk again soon ,
I went to see my Neuro-Surgeon for the last time last wed(march 4th) and he is lost to as why I am hurting like I am. He took my first X-Rays after surgery which was back on Oct. 31 2008. They showed that my bones are not healing all the way. He said they should, and the should have already. He said I will be on pain meds for "Long term". He also said he wants me to have another MRI in 2-3 months and another CT scan in 6 months to see if whatever it is that is causing me constant pain shows up. He also told me that he wants me to push for disability. He will fully support my appeal unlike when he wrote his first report 3 months ago and he said I was healing slow, but healing. So I have filed my appeal with advise from a law firm also. I just want to get some help. I am still not able to work and nobody will help me get rehab. I have no money and nowhere to live so my mom and sis are shacking me up. That is where I have gone wrong, the state says because they have money to live on that so do I. I should have just went out on the street when my wife left me jobless and homeless. This makes no sense to me.
I hope you all are doing ok.
Good luck as allways,