Saturday, November 03, 2012
In which Kwachy gets a new bionic neck!
I was born with the good fortune to look like my handsome, blond, blue eyed father. However, I also inherited his sway back, pigeon toes and bad hips. He was an active guy, did a lot of yard work and played tennis a couple of times a week into his 70's, but for as long as I can remember, my dad walked like someone who hurt .... a lot .... and finally he didn't walk much at all anymore ... and eventually he couldn't walk from his apartment to his car and his last vacation was taken in a wheelchair.
When I was in my twenties I had my first really bad fall and back injury. I had a few more over the years, and sometime during my pregnancy with my son I ended up with a really bad hip. It ached and burned and tingled constantly, the skin on my leg was numb around it and I could barely walk the length of a mall ... but standing still was even worse. It didn't go away after my son was born like several doctors said it would, and over the intervening 26 years it slowly got worse. Then, about eight years ago I developed a constant muscle twitch in my right arm and spasms in my hand. I eventually gave up working as a surgery tech because I involuntarily jerked an instrument right out of the surgeon's hand as I was trying to pass it to him and I couldn't stand for hours at a time.
Ev and I used to go places like walks in the woods and festivals and street fairs and the DuQuoin State Fair, but I got where I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't walk more than a few minutes without being in excruciating pain. Hell's bells, I couldn't even walk the whole length of the ramp from the casino entrance to the slot machines without stopping to sit and rest. I was really not much fun on a date. We moved into this house and I toughed my way through some floor refinishing and a little gardening and the occasional house cleaning (omg, sweeping the kitchen floor hurt so bad I can't even TELL you). I was pretty sure I needed hip replacements, but instead of doing anything drastic like that (or, you know, going to a doctor at all about any of it) I just stopped going anywhere and sat down at my desk and thought that maybe I would die young because I sure couldn't imagine living another 40 or so years like that. Ev went on backpacking trips with her brother and I lived online.
About a year ago Ev asked me to please do something pro-active about my health, so I asked my doctor for an order for a series of spine and hip x-rays and then carried it around with me until the order expired. About three months ago Ev more fervently requested that I do something besides end up in a mobility scooter, which she was totally not in favor of, so I asked for another order and actually had the x-rays done. Then came the MRI's and the CT scans and the consult with the neurosurgeon who told me not to ride roller coasters or get in a fender bender or I'd be a quadraplegic. Turns out I had three bad discs in my neck, my spinal cord was squashed flat against the bone, there was no cerebrospinal fluid around it in places and the next thing you know I was scheduled for a four level cervical spine decompression, fusion and plating. I understand that a four level fusion isn't exactly commonplace. In fact, it's mighty rare.
To say that I was a little nervous about surgery would be way under-reporting. Terrified comes closer. Panic stricken may approach the truth. I finally broke down and accepted a prescription for anti-depressants. I stopped smoking cold turkey one month before surgery so my fusion wouldn't fail. The morning of surgery I woke up unable to breathe and my throat felt like someone had their hands around it choking me to death. I think that may have been anxiety. I would have backed out but Ev was there.
They told me I would spend a couple of nights ... or maybe a week ... in the hospital. They told me I would spend several months in a cervical collar, then several months in physical therapy and that I would lose most of the ability to tilt my head upward, some ability to tilt it downward and some side to side turning. I envisioned living the rest of my life as stiff and inflexible as if my head were a cherry on a toothpick. He could not guarantee that any of this would help the pain in my hips, but he said that it was too dangerous to anesthetize me face down to work on my low back with my cervical spine that compromised and my spinal cord that compressed. So I got a miraculously pain relieving pre-operative steroid injection in my low back instead (a week or so before the tainted meningitis injection scare, I might add).
I had surgery on October 2nd. They told Ev my surgery was trickier than they thought it would be and they didn't have much space to work with and I'd probably be pretty miserable and stay in the hospital about three days. I went home the next day, completely pain free. I returned to work two and a half weeks later. I have lost exactly ZERO flexibility in my neck. I only wear the cervical collar to sleep and at the office to keep people aware that I have some lifting restrictions and they shouldn't knock me on my ass. I feel like several million bucks. The list of things I no longer have a problem with is ridiculously long and goes from the top of my head literally to my toes, which no longer have Reynaud's phenomenon. My arm no longer twitches, my hand no longer has spasms, my kidney function has improved, I never have a headache, neck ache, mid-back or low back ache, I can walk all over the place without pain and I am a happier, nicer person than I've been in years. I have energy I didn't know existed. Ev even likes me again, and lemme tell ya, she was getting pretty damn tired of my moody, disengaged, "everything hurts all the time and I'm depressed" negativity and I do not blame her. I would have probably killed me two years ago if I were her, but she's not much of a giver-upper. And boy, am I grateful for THAT!
Oh, and kids shut your eyes for this part:
The killer sex? It is SO back on the table!
Next week I get x-rays of my hardware,which is going to look pretty similar to this (from the innerwebz):
PS: In addition to having the best, most patient partner in the world, a HUGE thank you goes to my surgeon, Kyle Colle, DO - Brain and Neurospine Center, Cape Girardeau, MO. And the anesthesiologist who was so handsome I couldn't stop coming up out of a drug-induced sleep to tell Ev about it and then passing back out ... repeatedly. Also a huge thanks to the pre-op nurse, Rodney, who showed my HIS ACDF scar and proved that he could still move HIS neck right before they put me under. And the nurses and staff at Southeast Hospital in Cape Girardeau. And my mother and my father and the baby Jesus. And the Academy.