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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

Hi, I posted this on the back board & was gently nudged over here because this is where the wealth of spinal cord & ACDF surgery seems to be!

thanks to copy/paste, I'm reposting here & hoping for more information before my surgery next week - I'd like to get any necessary shopping done this weekend if possible, and while I've looked at the ACDF post surg list here as well as general post spine surg lists on other boards, I still have a few questions.

Any help & insight would be greatly appreciated, and feel free to skim my loooong post - I know I'm wordy :)

I've been lurking on the board for a while, but decided it was time to introduce myself & ask a few questions!

Please forgive my wordiness, I'm detailed to begin with, I don't want to bore my friends who are still living their normal lives (and most have no idea what I'm talking about when I say ACDF unless I explain it lol), and I've been on medical leave since 11/1/11 when I had my accident, so I type a LOT! Feel free to skim, I won't hold it against you!

I'll start with questions for those of you who don't want to read my novella of a back story

1.) Which grabber should I buy? Is the $10 grabber at walgreens just as good as the $30 grabber found elsewhere, or should I spring for the expensive one/will the hospital or ins company give me one?

2.) How long did it take you after ACDF to start feeling human again? If your ACDF was multiple levels, how long were you in the hospital, and did you have spinal cord compression?

3.) How long did it take you to determine whether the surgery successfully relieved the spinal cord compression issues or if the problems the compression caused were permanent? (both of my hands and the left arm from the elbow down go numb)

4.) Was there anything you wished someone had told you before your surgery that you discovered post op?

5.) If you experienced swallowing issues, how long did they last, and were your issues with thin liquids, solids, or both?

6.) What items were most useful for you post op, or what did you wish you had during your recovery?

So back story - I slipped on a wet stair case 10/31/11, landed flat on my tush & blew up my back - all of the lumbar facets are shot as well as both SI joints. I went through the usual conservative treatments - Caudal ESI, SI injections, facet injections, blocks, 5 level bi lateral RFA, PT, pain mgmt, etc etc etc.

I was finally referred to a neurosurgeon to discuss fusing my lumbar & SI joints, and saw him 10 weeks later, on May 25(he is one of the only fellowship trained complex spine neurosurgeons in the area, and is amazing). When his PA started my initial evaluation, she became concerned as soon as she tapped my knees - they were hyper reflexive, so she checked a few other things & became more convinced that there was a spinal cord issue. I was sent for a RUSH MRI, and booked for a follow up with the neurosurgeon the following day (I knew something was wrong when they got me in that quickly!).

The PA's suspicions were right - my cervical spine is shot, C4-C7 are completely collapsed & compressing the spinal cord, the most serious is C6-7, which is pushing about half way through the cord, and my neck is now straight rather than curved. I'm grateful she caught it, otherwise there was a very strong chance I would have been paralyzed from the neck down during intubation for the lumbar fusion! Having the ACDF was a no brainer - 1.) I really want my lumbar fixed & can't without it, and 2.) the ACDF poses a 5% risk, vs the 100% chance I'll be paralyzed at some point in the future without it thanks to the cord compression.

I'm having 3 level ACDF with plates, screws, bone marrow aspirate and cadaver bone as wedges to get the curve back next Wednesday (July 11, 2012). Because of the cord compression, they won't be able to intubate me, and I'll have something called Awake Fiber Optic Technique, and will be awake for a portion of the surgery so that I can tell them if they are causing any spinal cord/nerves issues/tingles (or something like that lol). Once they've passed that point, they'll knock me out completely & complete the surgery.

I've been told that I'll spend at least the first night after surgery in ICU, followed by at least 3 days on a neuro/spine ward, will be in a hard collar for 6 weeks (then weaned off), will start PT around week 8, and once I'm all healed, we'll do the lumbar fusion - L4-S1 for sure, possibly L2-S2, depending on what he finds & additional testing prior to that surgery, and then (cuz that isn't enough?!), we'll look at fusing at least the right SI joint, possibly both (I'm thorough - this is one time half assing something would have been nice! )

My future MIL is flying in on Sunday to take care of me (and her son) after the surgery - luckily she's a lovely woman, and I adore her so I'm happy to have her coming down! She's also going to come down for the lumbar fusion, and understands that this is going to be a long road - she was fused from T5-S2 in a 360 procedure 4 years ago (nasty scoliosis), and it has been wonderful to have her to talk to about what I'm going through since she has been there & understands!

Before the accident, I was extremely active - I worked 40+ hours per week doing something I love, practiced yoga 5+ days per week, walked our 2 dogs 3-5miles most days, did ballet isometric exercises 3x/wk, cooked elaborate meals most nights, went out with friends - I talked & walked fast because I was always doing something! I still talk fast, but now I walk slowly with a cane and a limp (SI joint + numbness in feet + leg drop), am not allowed to walk the dogs, do yoga or ballet, can't work or make anything that requires more than 10minutes at a time in the kitchen, can barely go grocery shopping, even with the use of an electric cart, my house is a mess, and I've gained 60lbs My NS has given me clearance to diet after the ACDF (he wants the weight off before the lumbar surgery, too!), but I'm not sure how I'm going to do it without the benefit of exercise - I'm only cleared for aqua therapy, and even that is limited to walking in the water lol

My boyfriend has been amazing throughout this whole ordeal - he's taken over the majority of the grocery shopping and cooking (he's getting better at it!), he works full time, takes care of me and our family of animals (2 dogs, 1 cat), and has been an absolute rock - our house may not be as clean as it was when I was "normal", and our dinners might not be as fancy, but I realize how lucky I am to have him, and am grateful for his unwavering love, support and sense of humor every day!

That's my story in a really big nutshell - I'll try to be less wordy next time

Thank you again for reading and responding!

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