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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Hi Saucer,

I just got your email. You are right our stories are similar. Please excuse the long reply but I remember when I was going through what you are now I would have liked to have known someone who had been there. I only discovered healthboards after my 2008 operation.

I was fused in one go from the back (posterior) in 2008. I have a congentially narrow spinal canal, and like you had a laminectomy in 2000 because they found a bump, which turned out to be clogged a tangled veins, that they had to get rid off because it was dangerous to everything. 11 months later they found my spine had destablised from the laminectomy so they kept an eye on it and in 2007 they found that there was more to the story, a bulging disc at C6 that was flattening my chord. Hence what my diligent doctors agreed was going to be a little fusion turned into a big one.

In answer to your questions, no I don't drive but this is not because of my surgery its because I also was born with spasticity so I have been trying to learn to drive but not with great success, because of the spasticity. My spinal reconstuctive surgeon would LOVE IT if I could get my licence.

I am doing well since the operation! My doctor says my walking is better now than before the operation. I can see this objectively too because there are things I can do now like walk on a treadmill unaided that I could never do before the surgery. For me I don't think there is anything I do worse than before the operation, I am really lucky in this - as you know every one is different :-).

Recovery was pretty darn hard work, and scary, but my surgeon made it clear to me that to know that I've got the best results that I could get I needed to work 6 -8 hours a day on myself doing exercises and rehab. I had to take six months off work and it made me poor but it gave me the time to commit to myself. I think its normal to expect after a spinal fusion, particularly when you are wrapped up in a brace and also if you have bone taken from your hip, that its going to be a challenge and painful to get yourself walking again, my problems on this front were exacerbated by the spasticity, but even if you didnt have it I think you need to consider taking some good time off from your employer. The pain from the bone graft is much greater than from neck in my experience.

I am not sure what sort of pain you are experiencing but I was unaware of any pain before the operation because I had got so used to it. My doctors before the operation said that the operation would release all the muscle tension in my neck as a result of the energy I was expending on having to hold my head up. I thought what are they talking about??? Once the brace came off I knew, as my head and neck felt much lighter - I wasnt having to do all the work. I still have minor tingling and sometimes arm pain but its intermittent and I find that if I exercise - even go for walk it usually diminishes.

Being fused from C2 gives you 50% rotation - I can still cross roads and function normally, though I tend to turn my whole torso these days, its just easier. I cant see my toes though and I have to bend from the waist to acheive this!

I can imagine how concerned you are balancing all the pros and cons, the risks there are so many things to think about. I went through months of it - trying to find the right surgeon wondering how it was going to go. My surgeon was concerned too that I might have fused naturally at C2 -C3 because of the destabilisation - they decided to put my in traction for 4 days beforehand to see if they could straighten the spine that way, it did to some extent and took time off the operation. I dont know if this is an option or appropriate for you. My surgery lasted ten hours.

In the end, and before I had the operation, I was glad I made the decision to do it, because I was so exhausted by the worrying and I knew that if I didnt make a decision to take the control I could at the time, I was leaving myself to the inevitability of being in a wheelchair. I remember my surgeon the night before the surgery said to me "Gooseberry trust me I have seen this time and time again, and in ten years you will be in a wheelchair if we dont try and intervene".

I can tell you from the moment I woke up a couple of days after the operation (they kept me sedated) and I knew I could wriggle my fingers and toes I was soooo releived - it was done.

I can tell you once I got to rehab (i had rehab as an inpatient and outpatient for six months) I was scared but still releived I had made the decision and it was done. I did exactely as my doctor said and committed to hours of exercise a day, and to this day I still try and walk and move my neck every day to keep myself from stiffening. By the way after your brace comes off this includes moving your neck because it helps prevent stiffness etc. I find things like pretend boxing helps loosen up my stiff shoulders.

And now? I work four days a week because through all the time off I learnt to live off less money. I do fatigue more easily but I am still glad I had the operation sooner rather than later, because it allowed me to get on with my life, and once I had found a surgeon I felt confident with who had done the procedure before and provided me with proof of his experience I thought the recovery, which was in the end extremely hard work, would be better done at a younger age than at an older age.

The surgery will be a life changing experience - hopefully and I pray for the better.

I wish you all the health fortune in the world.

Take care GB.:angel:

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