Some brief background. I have undergone about 12 spinal surgeries over past decade involving fusions and repair of broken vertebra, etc. I have severe osteoporosis which causes frequent fractures. Having said that: A previously fused T1-T3 section of spine collapsed and it was necessary for my surgeon to go back in on April 12 and repair the fusion. To allow for more stability he extended the fusion to include C4-T4. This operation has now left me with fusion from C4 thru S1, as well as fusion of my SI joints. Symptoms before this last fusion included pain at the site of the collapse (between my scapula) occasional loss of bowel control and inability to feel the need to urinate and lower back pain. I was told that extending and fixing the existing fusion would most likely relieve me of the pain between the shoulder blades and hopefully give me back better bowel/bladder sensation. Neither happened.
Upon waking from surgery on April 12 I immediately noticed that I had lost complete use of my left arm/hand. It was as if I had a stroke. Although I could get a little movement from the shoulder, I could do little else. When I touched my arm/hand it felt totally numb - as if filled with novacane. Right away I mentioned this to my surgeon (and to anybody else who would listen). I was told that most likely I had been positioned on the surgical table in a way which put pressure on a nerve and that my arm had "fallen asleep" but would wake up just like a foot would that had fallen asleep after being in one position too long. I continued to complain and the doc took one plain film xray and did not notice anything wrong. I was sent home with instructions to attempt to use the arm/hand and it would get better. Ten days later and not only had my arm/hand not woken up, now I was having severe pain on the right side of my neck-upper back and new numbness and tingling in the thumb and index finger of my RIGHT hand. Called the surgeon and went back to Hopkins where a CT scan showed a metal screw directly IN the nerve that controls the left arm/hand. Apparently, as my surgeon put it: It is like putting a nail in the wall to hang a picture....you can't see what's on the other side of the wall, you just put the nail in hoping that there isn't an electrical wire running along the same path!!" I was brought back to surgery and the screw was removed. When I awoke I could tell that things were better. My question to anybody who has had a similar experience with injured nerves: Will I EVER get all the feeling and use of my left hand and fingers again? How long will it take to recover? I always thought that the longer a nerve was left injured (with the screw in it) the worse the chances for a complete recovery. Meaning...if he had done the CT when I first complained about this he could have gone in immediately and remedied the situation and perhaps the recovery would be better. He tells me (the surgeon) that it isn't true - the amount of time that a nerve is under "assault" has nothing to do with the permanence of the injury or the symptoms. Also, am I expecting too much to think that the doc should have been able to avoid this mistake? What would you do if you were in my position.....keep waiting to see if it gets better? Go to therapy? Call a lawyer? Opinions welcome. Thanks!