Daily Archives: November 11, 2021

Under The Knife

or Adventures in ACDF.

Our faithful readers may have noticed that for the last month or so my blogs have been short, spotty and even non-existent.

Well, there’s a reason for that.

About six weeks ago, I went to bed one night feeling fine, no problems that I knew of, and then woke up the next morning with a stiff, sore neck. And during the rest of the day, in fact the next 24 hours or so, I pretty much became, I guess you could say, severely handicapped. And I have the newly-issued blue handicapped placard to show for it

I have difficulty walking. My legs are weak and rubbery and I have no sense of balance so I have to have some sort of support when I’m when I’m walking. And, unfortunately my legs weren’t the only problem actually.

The upper part of my body is worse. I’ve lost pretty much all feeling in my hands. I have no grip strength, and my arms won’t go up any higher than my shoulders. And this goes back to why the blogs have been so spotty, because I really can’t really type anymore. I’ve gone from being a fairly accurate, fast touch-typist, to falling back on hunt and peck, which has degenerated into hit or miss with emphasis on the ‘miss’.

I cannot feel if the keys have been pressed, I have to watch each key press, so each blog every night has been pretty much as far as stuff that I comment or say, been pretty much an exercise in futility.

To help write this I’ve been using an Android app called Otter, which is a very good, and free, Speech To Text converter. It allows me to dictate my thoughts and export them as text files via email, which I then paste into the blog.

At this point, I’m using a walking stick, called that because I refuse to call it a cane yet.

Walking Stick

It’s one of a set that Jan and I took to Europe back in 2019. And so that gives me enough support to kind of weeble-wobble along, as Jan calls it, from place to place as I do now.

I also purchased one of those rollators, I.e. wheeled walkers, that you can sit in when you need to. I bought that specifically for when we went to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit last month. And it worked great.

RollatorAnd I had planned to use it at the Nutcracker Christmas Market today, as well. But Jan and Brandi cajoled, I.e., threatened me into not going, and just resting up for tomorrow. More about that in a minute.

But I will use it for our second Van Gogh exhibit on the 21st of this month, if necessary.

Now to the cause of all this.

So after two sets of X-Rays, and MRI’s on my cervical and lumbar areas, it shows severe deterioration at the C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 areas of my neck, as well as the L4-5 and L5-S1 areas in my lower back.

In other words, it seems my spine has started to come apart at the top and the bottom.

Now according to the radiologist report, some of the damage may be ‘congenital’, which to me means ‘from birth’. So it took 73 years to show up?

But when I ask my neurosurgeon about that, he said it really just means ‘a long time ago’.

Now it’s true that in my ‘wild and crazy’ youth, in my ‘PJ’ era, (Pre-Jan. Somehow, ‘BJ’, Before Jan, just doesn’t work here.) I got, well, let’s just say, majorly banged up a couple of times. And when I explained those circumstances to my doctor, he agreed that they might be a contributing factor.

But that’s all under the bridge now.

However, the most important thing he said was that, due to the fast progression of the symptoms, I was at risk of becoming a paraplegic, or even a quadriplegic, if something wasn’t done pretty quickly.

Not words you want to hear, believe me. So I was happy to hear that my Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) was being scheduled for the following Friday, November 5th.

Breaking it down, Anterior means they get to your spine by going in through your neck under your chin. Cervical means in the neck area. Discectomy means removing a disc, and Fusion means fusing the vertebrae back together afterwards.

Now, in hindsight, and reading about the symptoms caused by disc deterioration, it seems that I’ve actually been experiencing some indications of the coming problem. But in my case, never having been 73 before, I attributed them to the fact that this was what being 73 was supposed to feel like.

My symptoms are caused by the deteriorating discs, the pads separating the vertebrae segments, coming apart and bulging against the spinal cord that runs down the center of the spine. In addition there may also be bone spurs involved, small bone growths also pressing against the spinal cord.


So the procedure will consist of cutting a hole in my neck, probably on the left side, to avoid the esophagus, and then scraping out the bad discs on the 3 levels, C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7, and removing any bone spurs they find.

After the missing discs are replaced with plastic carriers containing a slice of cadaver bone, I will be bolted back together, using a titanium strap and screws.

Titnium Plate

Titanium, because it is inert to the body, and doesn’t show up on airport scanners, though some people have said this was not so for them.

So instead of “I see dead people”, I guess it’s going to be, “I am dead people”.

The titanium strap is actually only there to hold everything together until the cadaver bone and my vertebrae grow together and fuse into one solid piece. To facilitate this, I will use a bone growth stimulator on my neck for 30 minutes several times a day for a couple of weeks or so..

And I will have to wear one of those hard plastic cervical collars for two weeks afterwards, which means I won’t be able to drive during that time. So Jan will take over driving duties for a while.

As I said, under the circumstances, I was happy to hear that my surgery was scheduled for the following Friday, the 5th of November. But that was not to be.

At the Pre-Op conference on the Thursday before, it was suddenly discovered that . . . Oops, my surgery not been scheduled at all. And that there were no openings until the following Friday, the 12th. In other words, tomorrow.

Major finger pointing between the doctor’s office and the hospital going on.

I’m not a happy camper, believe me. Especially since my symptoms have been progressively worsening during the ‘lost’ week. And the longer things go on, the more possible it is that some of the nerve damage might be permanent.

So tomorrow’s the big day, and I was supposed to be at the hospital at 6am, but I just got a call a few minutes ago, pushing it back to 5:30am.

Well, I wanted it as soon as possible so I guess I can’t complain.

What’s funny is that though Jan is allowed to visit me during visiting hours, she’s not even allowed to wait ANYWHERE in the hospital during the operation, except the parking lot. So she’ll come home and wait for me to call when I’m out of recovery and in my room, I’ll call her to come up. And even though I had to have a CoVid test to be operated on, Jan doesn’t need one to visit me.

Though this is nominally a one-day outpatient operation, my neurosurgeon wants to keep me overnight to monitor changes in my nerve symptoms. So though my 3 hour procedure should be over before noon tomorrow, I won’t get released until sometime Saturday.

Finally, I can’t say enough about my beautiful wife and how supportive she’s been in all this. I know it’s probably trite, but she has been my rock. I don’t know how I could have gotten through this as well as I have without her help.

Sweetie, I love you so much!

Depending on how I feel I’ll try to post an update tomorrow, otherwise I’ve got a revisit to a past favorite scheduled to post.