Friday, September 23, 2011

ACDF with plating (Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion)

Well I am going to do it!

I made the decision, with a little help, to have my lower neck fused in 2 places. They are going to put in a carbon fiber and titanium cage and put some material in there that will cause my 2 levels to fuse together. It will take about 6 months-1year for that to happen.

It's been a hell of a process. Agonizing to say the least.

I think my journey started when I was 18 and fell off a ski lift at Dodge Ridge. Not incredibly high off the ground, but enough to knock the wind out of my sails, I fell after the lift restarted 100 ft from the dismount area. I never went to the doctors but was unable to move my neck for 3 days after that.

Then 2 years later, traveling approx 40 mph as a passenger in a car, I used my arms to brace myself with the dash board when a car hit us head on. This was before the seat belt law. After that I was unable to use my arms for a couple of days. Not fun trying to pull up your pants after going to the bathroom.

Then last but not least, last year my dog took me for a walk basically. My arm was practically yanked out of my socket and I was thrown to the ground. This started 18 months of doctors, MRI, physical therapy and massage appts.

The conclusion: 2 herniated discs at C5-6 and C6-7, with the start of new herniation at C3-4 on last MRI. No Spinal fluid surrounding the space at C 6-7 (this means my spinal column is not protected here) and bone spurs at both levels also. Nerves are being pinched and trapped in the foramina causing my hands and fingers to have numbness and tingling. Over time I seem  to have more pain everywhere and can't help but wonder if it doesn't have something to do with my central nervous system being compromised.

In the beginning I resisted safe activities. I still skied, but very cautiously. If I could help it I didn't let anyone come up behind me. If I could hear them coming I would stop and wait for them to pass and then go on my way.  I mountain biked once, but a miscalculation with the front brake had me over the handle bars and back in the MRI machine. Road biking: challenging in the postion it put me in: Arms extended forward with head tilted back. Freestyle swimming out, too much neck turning. Hiking my only vice left, but after a foot surgery in June, that is limited also.

After 2 surgeries in May and June of this year, I am more accepting of my limited activity level. I could go on this way. Just hiking when I can and the recumbent bike at the gym.

However with increasing symptoms I went back to the neurosurgeon again. The VERDICT: I have to have a fusion eventually. It's just a matter of when. How long can I live with these symptoms? How long can I go on with my life this way?

My husband who just happened to remember I had an appt that day and was free to sit in said, "JUST DO IT".  Get on with your life! Do it!

I was stunned. I figured I would wait until next year, after Roanne. My son's gf has been living with us for a couple of months now. She is under the care of hospice for colon cancer. Recently, Greg had his first routine colonoscopy since he turned 50 last year and we couldn't even handle the stress of his colonoscopy! How were we going to handle a big surgery like this?

How could I do this? How could I take away this time from her and do something selfish for myself? How could I put this kind of stress on my already stressed out family?

I did what anyone would do in my position, I called Dr Laura (radio personality who has a strong moral compass) and then I called my mom and dad.

They all said "DO IT".  Even my best friend Sue who is the most giving person in the world said DO IT.

So I called his office and said LET'S DO IT! I asked for October 10th and am still waiting to hear back if that's the day.

Roanne is doing miraculously well. The steroids and laxatives are keeping her out of too much pain. She is not even here most days when I get home from work. She is either with her friends or family. And that is exactly as it should be. Her parents moved to a better neighborhood recently. Although still small, so Roanne doesn't have her own room, she is spending more time with her family.

So in the mean time I am stressed more ways to sunday. I never imagined that I would really have to do it. My brain knew on some level, but another part of it is still trying to comprehend that at 47 I need to get my neck fused. As a nurse, knowing and seeing all that I do, I am freaked out. I don't want to be a quadriplegic, I don't want to wear a neck brace for 6 weeks! How am I going to sleep? what if it doesn't fuse right, what if I am worse off? look at my foot it's worse than it was before. Oh my god I hope I know what I am doing!

And then I calm myself down and I think about all the things I will be able to do again. After I am fused, the first step will be to become a gym rat. To build muscles all over my core, arms, back and neck. Strong supportive muscles. This I will be able to do without my spinal column and nerves being pinched all  over the place. This I will be able to do with 2 strong vertebrae that won't give or sway when I do too much. This will work. I have a plan. I just hope it's God's plan too.

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