I had spinal surgery during the morning of April 4, 2019. I spent three nights at UAMS, a teaching hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, about thirty-five minutes or so from my driveway when traffic is favorable (which is seldom). Now, I am back home and on the mend.
My surgeon fused several thoracic discs that were pinching off my spinal cord at a critical location. Surgeons will not usually operate in this spinal “no man’s land” unless the spinal cord is being compromised, which mine was. I underwent a laminectomy on some lumbar discs about six years ago, so I knew some of what to expect. The situation was a bit more dire this time round, considered a medical necessity, so that I received my opinion on a Thursday and then went under the knife exactly one week later.
The discs were fused using screws and rods and bone grafts, I think. If you’ll refer to the illustration below, the discs that were operated on were T7 – T9.
My neurosurgeon said that prior to the surgery, my spinal cord was compressed into a triangle shape. After the pressure was reduced by the surgery, the cord went back to its natural, tubular shape. I could immediately feel a difference in my legs and feet, which had been gradually losing feeling and mobility for the last five or six months. The surgeon told me that, at the rate my abilities were declining, I would have been in a wheelchair before much longer. The potential downside of the operation I just had was that I could also end up in a wheelchair. So, I really didn’t have anything to lose.
In hindsight, I should have complained more about my back earlier than I did. I began having occasional “flare ups” more than two years ago, but the pain was localized to my back around the level of my lower rear ribcage. Aleve and diclofenac seemed to do the trick of alleviating most of the pain, so I assumed it was nothing too serious. Then, sometime before Christmas 2018, I began having trouble walking at times, and my left leg would suddenly collapse under me without warning. I had a sharp, burning pain from my right hip down to the big toe of my right foot. Then parts of my legs and lower torso began losing sensation. I experienced intermittent issues with bathroom control, but nothing that had occurred at work so far.
When my family doctor heard about the bathroom issues, I could see his ears literally perk up. He got me in to see the doctor who operated on my lumbar discs immediately. That surgeon looked over the MRIs and X-rays and said I needed surgery. Unfortunately, this surgeon no longer operates on thoracic discs. He referred me to another neurosurgeon, who then had a death in the family that forced him to leave the country temporarily. This landed me with the surgeon who ultimately did the procedure.
I can already tell that I have more feeling in my legs. They seem stronger as well. The right leg doesn’t even hurt the way it did before.
However, I’m still in a great deal of pain. I just had surgery. I’m using a walker to get around the house. While I seem to be moving okay, it’s difficult to get going at times. I’m also taking pain pills and muscle relaxers. I need those at the moment as well, but I’m hoping my dependence upon them ends sooner rather than later. They make me feely fuzzy-headed and unfocused.
I’m going to miss at least six to eight weeks of work, during which time I’m not supposed to lift anything weighing more than five pounds. As a diabetic, I also have to be vigilant about infection setting in. Getting well is my #1 job at the moment. I intend to follow my doctor’s instructions and eventually, Lord willing, get my full release.
I know I haven’t written much about this before. I probably won’t again. I just wanted to give you a glimpse into a few of the things happening backstage over the course of the next few weeks. If you’re inclined to pray, I’m not too proud to ask you to include me in your prayers as well.