March 2, 2011

post op 2011.....

On Thursday I was admitted to the Gold Coast hospital for surgery to my cervical spine. I am pleased to say that everything went well and the operation was a success. I was extremely blessed to have my best friend by my side, every step of the way, and she gave me the strength and the courage to face what was a rather dark and frightening experience. I am in a bit of pain at present and probably will be for another two weeks but there is light at the end of what has been a very long & dark tunnel and I cannot even imagine what my life will be like minus the debilitating neck pain and headaches that have plagued me for almost 14 years. Nobody really knows why this particular disc at C5 had degenerated so badly - anyone who saw my scans just assumed I had been in a car crash or that I had sustained the injury during a horse riding fall -however this was not the case. 

In fact, according to the neurosurgeon who performed the operation, genetics are entirely to blame for degenerative disc disease and unfortunately, that is what I have acquired.  I have disc degeneration in all of my discs, including the lumber, however the disc at C5 had collapsed so badly that it was causing me excruciating pain and it was also affecting my right arm and my spacial functioning, resulting in Vertigo like symptoms. 

The discs in the neck are about as wide as a soda straw and the lower back discs about as wide as your finger. When these wear out and start collapsing, which is a general aging or an abuse process, obviously the space gets flatter or shorter. Many times, this is not a problem for a lot of people, but some have difficulties with the collapse because during this process, some disc material and even bony spurs form around the small window just above the disc in the spinal canal. This is where the nerve roots exit the spine to perform their functions in our legs or arms and becomes obstructed, causing disability in some of the extremities, i.e., pain or weakness. This particular disc (C5) had lost three and a half cm in disc height and the nerve root was so severely impacted that I had lost most of the feeling in my right arm. Four days post op and I am thrilled to say that the feeling has returned to normal and I am three and a half cm taller! Yes, they placed a small cage in my neck which  is used as a disc replacement spacer. The cage is 7cm in height so after the loss of disc height, I have gained an extra three and a half cm. Hilarious. 

To insert the cage, the surgeon cut my throat and pushed my larynx and my vocal cords aside to reach the area at the back of my neck. This entry point is much less dangerous than going in through the neck, however I did have to stay in the ICU in case my airway became compromised...... Here is some information on the cage that now sits inside my neck. 

"The cage is about as big as the end of your finger from the last joint to the tip. It is hollow and has holes in the sides, thus the name "cage." It is like a bird cage with a flat bottom and rounded top and has threads on the outside for fixation. The cage is used primarily in the lumbar spine as a disc replacement spacer and is used in pairs - inserted one on the right side of the disc space and the other on the left to give good lateral support. This setup is similar to building blocks or standing stools - you want the pressure supported equally toward the outside of the disc space for balance and distribution of weight so as not to break or collapse.

Traditionally, in the neck, a wedge of bone from the hip is surgically placed in this disc space in the front of the neck. This has also been done in the lower back through the belly or the backside. The problem has been that in the past, the bony disc replacement has tended to collapse because of the amount of pressure placed on this substitute replacement, the same as the disc.
Therefore, the cage was invented or devised through many trials of shapes, sizes, and materials to the present stage with the FDA-approved titanium cage that can be inserted in the disc space from the front or back of the lower body that is filled with some bone chips and allowed in the support. This distracts the vertebral bodies and allows the nerve roots more room to exit and relieve the pain for a painful collapsing disc space. Sometimes this disc replacement must be accompanied by a screw and rod construct for extra support, depending on the patient's weaknesses in that spine area."
After the surgery I was informed that I needed to have the rod and the screw for extra support. 
Anyway, the worst of it is behind me now and I made it through the operation. Now I can rest and focus all of my energy on recovery and a life free of neck pain. Yahoooo! 
Thanks to everyone for your messages of love and support while I was in hospital and thanks to my  mummy for being here as a continual source of support. Although words cannot do her justice,  I want to give all of my heartfelt thanks to Katherine Knox for .......well......for EVERYTHING. She was my support and my salvation, my strength and my saviour and I could not have done it without her by my side. 
If you are bored, check out Jaiden's Tumblr page and click follow. My boy sure knows how to take a photo.

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