I wanted to tell my story about a spinal fusion surgery that I had done by the Neuro Spine Center in Appleton Wisconsin by Dr. Ulrich. It is no exaggeration to say that this procedure, and the work done by the Neuro Spine Center to diagnose, treat (conservatively at first, with all options being exhausted before the surgery option was considered) and provide follow up care for my injury/back pain has given me my life back.
I am 46 years old, and for the past 10 years had been experiencing sciatia to the point where I was no longer able to walk more than 50 yards without crouching down to stretch out my back. I had visited a chiropractor who tried very hard to help but was unable to. The reason he was unable to was that his x-rays showed that my back was broken between 2 of the vertebrae in my lower back (L3-4?).
Traction and stretching caused some relief, but the pain was getting progressively worse. Getting surgery for my back pain was the LAST thing I would have considered at that point. I was afraid to death that surgery on my back could lead to worse pain at least, and paralysis at worse. I had read some of the negative comments on the web about fusion, and never seriosly considered the procedure. I was resign to putting up with the pain for the rest of my life.
As fate would have it, I ran into my son's teacher at the YMCA where she and her husband were going to walk. They told us that the walking was part of his recovery from back surgery, and that the surgery had changed his life for the better (he was 62 at the time).
He and I met to talk about the surgery. While he glowed, I cried. His pain was gone, and Iwas scared to head down the same path. He referred me to the Neuro Spine Center where he had been treated.
At my first visit to the Center, I thought that they would push me towards surgery right away; my back was broken, and surgery is where the money is right? To my surprise, they tried everything over the next 6 moths to avoid surgery, and treat me with stretching, and eventually with cortisone shots in my back (they sucked, but provided great relief for a few months at a time).
It was my decision a year later to discuss the fusion surgery with them. Dr. Ulrich explained the risk and rewards of the surgery very clearly. My naive first question (with tears in my eyes) was "what are the chance of being paralyzed by the surgery?" By showing me the back's structure and explaining the surgery, i understood that with my surgery at least, there was no risk like that.
I had the surgery (anterior and posterior) in March 2008. A day after the surgery I wondered if i had made a good decision. Even with very strong drugs, the pain was very bad. They insisted that I walk every day starting the day after the surgery, and it was torture. I cursed the surgery long before I praised it. I spent most of the next 4 weeks on the couch healing, except for the mandatory walking everyday...which started becoming easier after the first 2 weeks.
Fast forward a year later to today. I am completely pain free and just had my one year check up. I am back to playing basketball and tennis as well as ever (which might not be too good, but at least I'm doing it without pain!). There has been absolutely no loss of flexibility or range of motion. As a matter of fact, in a month, my friend who had the back surgery just before me are going to hike the Grand Canyon in 4 weeks. A miracle.
It was expensive (great insurance helped a ton) and it was quite painful for the first month afterward. I now never even think about having had the surgery except when I see the small scar on my stomach (I can't see the one on my back). I was scared to pieces to have it done.
Do your research as every surgery is different, and every surgeon has different techniques to do the surgery.
I know this sounds like a commercial, but Dr. Ulrich and the Neuro Spine Center are miracle workers. I have not been compensated in any way for his review.
Get past the fear...do the research on your surgeon and the procedure. Clearly I cannot speak for anyone but me (as I have read some of the negative reviews and results from this same surgery done by other doctors). In my case, mine was the best possible result, performed by a world leader in the procedure at an organization that was extremely upfront, professional and caring. i cannot thank them enough...