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.

ACDF

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. 

  

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28 Responses to Under The Knife

  1. Joan says:

    You will be in my prayers Greg,

  2. Mike R says:

    Best of luck to you! Greg !!!!! Hang in there and keep on smiling!!

  3. Greg

     

    We are pulling for you and your “ROCK”. your hospital is a pain, i have been able to have my rock in the room with me.

    Good Luck

    George

  4. Claudia Coleman says:

    I will be thinking of you and Jan tomorrow. I sensed that something was amiss when you didn’t write any current entries. Please keep us posted. Praying for a successful procedure and a speedy recovery!
    Love,
    Claudia

  5. Norm says:

    Prayers.

  6. Mark W says:

    Greg, praying for your speedy recovery.

  7. Judie Ashford says:

    My very best wishes that you come through this as well as can be expected. There is so much rigmarole to do with these curative processes. But persevere, you must.

    I just lost my husband of 36 years to Multiple Myeloma after fifteen years of procedures and infusions. It has been a terrible blow, but we were always grateful for every moment we had together.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  8. Linda Sand says:

    I wondered, too. All will be well. Just keep saying All will be well. And believe it. I do.

  9. Doug says:

    Your condition sounds similar to ankylosing spondylitis.

  10. Rob says:

    Good luck tomorrow Greg, I’ll say a prayer.

    Odd about telling Jan she can’t wait in the hospital…

  11. Jeff says:

    🙏🏻  🙏🏻  🙏🏻

  12. William A Volstad says:

    Best of luck to you. It sounds like significant surgery. I certainly hope all goes well.

  13. Orlyn Hink says:

    Best of luck hope everything turns out fine

  14. Arrowhead Gramma says:

    My thoughts and prayers will be with you tomorrow. Praying for a successful surgery and full recovery. Take care.

  15. Lois says:

    Praying for you!  Had a feeling something was up but I don’t think god is done with you yet!

  16. Peri says:

    My thoughts and prayers for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

  17. Nancy W. Lee says:

    Greg, it goes without saying that I will be praying for a successful surgery.  So much all at once, WOW! But hang in there! There are a whole lot of people praying for you and Jan.  I just wish there was more I could do to help you recover. Good luck, and God bless!

  18. Robert L says:

    Hope everything goes well.

  19. Nancy says:

    Sending prayers your way that everything turns out well and you begin the healing process.

  20. David Cross says:

    Greg, I had C-4, C-5 and C-6 fused in July 2014. It went well enough but I never got back 100% of function. Still have balance issues and have difficulty looking up to see stars, etc. but am able to walk, etc. Good luck.

  21. Coy Lou Phelps says:

    Prayers for you, Jan & your medical staff for successful surgery and speedy healing.

  22. Tom Cheshire says:

    Good luck Gregg and will say Healing prayers for you.

  23. Rosalind Clifton says:

    Greg. I hope that your healing goes well for you and you surprised people by making an amazing recovery as I have the past year with a couple of things that happened to me. you and Jan are in my thoughts and prayers for a great recovery.

  24. Bonnie says:

    I just now read your note. I pray that everything went fine with your surgery! I was shocked to read your news – to put it mildly!!
    Jan, please let me know how you both are!

  25. Bob Plaskon says:

    Greg, I just know all will work out for you. The body may not be what it use to be, however your mind is as sharp as ever. Having met you thru Nick and following you blog for years, I must say you are one of the smartest “all around” guys I know. Good luck to you with the surgery.  Bob

  26. Leonard Coffelt says:

    My wife has experience with deteriorating disks. She has had 5 back operations, and only the last one was supposed to have been as an in & out patient, but even then she spent four days in the hospital. It is amazing, the technological advancement being made for these types of back operations. Not one of hers involved the advancements you have described. Sounds like they can accomplish as much with one operation, as they used to do in 4 or 5 operations. Wish you the best. Our prayers are with you, and Jan.

  27. Linda in NE says:

    I hope your surgery went well today. May you have the best & fullest recovery.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Oh dear Greg…will be praying you will be helped and get much better.  Your issues are more than my hubby’s but you share some of the same symptoms.  We are fighting still to get my hubby better…though much of the pain was gone with the neck surgery and he has regained enough function in the bad arm/hand to be able to drive but it is weaker than the other side.  He had the surgery about 6 yrs ago now…and we are not sure why, but a couple years ago it was discovered he has hydrocephalus too…which seems to be causing some problems.  I note however that you have similar problems walking etc.  We had one of those carts for about 2 yrs, but had to get a wheelchair as a weld broke in the seat area of that cart…they make better walking aids than as a wheelchair.  He has a cane but right now is trying to use a walker you pick up and move as you walk (he has not been able to control the brakes well enough in the one with wheels).  Keep us posted.  I hope Jan will do that until you can here!!  Prayers…hang in there Buddy!!  And may your strength hold up well too, Jan…I so understand!! I hope Greg will get whatever therapy he needs…my Hubby has just started that some years after this latest problem…it seems to be helping with his strength and somewhat his balance.

    Elizabeth

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