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Scared about upcoming surgery

I am having surgery the first week of March to replace C3- C7. I have been having trouble, pain, for years and recently lost use of my right arm for almost four months while pregnant with my son. We waited for 6 months so I could breastfeed as long as possible, but doctors have deemed March as the longest that I should wait as my spinal cord is being compressed quite a bit now. I have regained about 75% use of my arm, but numbness, pain remains.

My question is, how long did it take to recover? I know everyone is different. I'm getting told everything from a few months to maybe even a year. I'm worried to tell the truth. I have a 2 year old son and a 6 month old and a soldier husband who is in and out of our lives due to his job in the military.

Thanks for your time.



  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
    edited 01/18/2013 - 11:34 AM
    First I must say that everyone's experience is different and there can be an enormous difference in the time it takes people to get back to doing their normal activities. You are young and that will be in your favour.

    To try to encourage you, I am in my 50s and had a 2 level (C3/4/5) ACDF done about 10 weeks ago. I am doing very well in my recovery, although I still seem to have my symptoms and have been told that there is still time for them to go. I was told in advance that the surgery was being done to get the compression off my cord and may not help with the symptoms. My surgeon said he expects 70% of his patients to get some sort of relief but that it could take 6 to 12 months to know how much relief I would get.

    I am able to do light activities without problem and even picked up my 14 month (small) grandson this week. It did cause a bit of a flare of pain in my neck, but it was worth it! I have a friend from church who comes and does things like floor washing and vacuuming for me. You will need help initially, especially with such young children.

    Good luck and please do stay around and ask questions and let us know how you get on. :-)
  • KarenDKKarenD Posts: 742
    edited 01/17/2013 - 1:33 PM
    I had my ACDF C3-7 in May of 2011. Like Jellyhall said, each person's recovery is unique. I was weak after the surgery but each day the first week I could see a difference. Then the next week I could tell the difference from the first. The end of the third week I went to a wedding shower (that was a bit tough). My doctor's instructions were - need to have someone with you the first 10 days. No being in a car for 10 days except for the ride home from the hospital for 10 days. No driving for 5=6 weeks.No lifting more than 10 pounds for first 6 weeks. No lifting more than 20 for the next six weeks. You might have difficulty cooking for a while due to fatigue, weight of pots and pans,

    As with Jellyhall, my surgeon told me that the purpose of the surgery is to take the pressure off the spine and nerves. The pain and other symptoms may or may not be relieved.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • I've been trying to figure out how I'm going to do all this with my two babies needing my undivided attention as well, i guess this well just happen as it happens. I'm very thankful that I have family coming in to help me each week for 6 weeks so I'm not alone. After that, I'm not sure what will happen. I'm pretty hard headed, so maybe that willl contribute to a faster recovery time. :)

    I think my nerves are going to get the best of me way before anything else though. I"m already to the point where I'm having trouble sleeping at night because I keep thinking about everything that could go wrong. Argh.
  • Cath111CCath111 Posts: 3,702
    edited 01/18/2013 - 4:30 AM
    Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I had a 3-level ACDF in Oct 2008 and just wanted to tell you a couple of thing the others don't mention (they are very correct though).

    First, I know this won't help right now, but almost always the anticipation is worse than the surgery itself. I remember the night I spent in the hospital after the surgery - I kept waking up thinking "OMG, I have to have spine surgery" then realized it was over and I was into recovery. If you read some posts, probably mostly in the Surgery section, you'll find most have felt this way.

    Second, many of us woke up with all of our symptoms gone in the arms. Not always, as there may be nerves that have damage and need time to heal, but I can say all my symptoms were gone when i woke up and hubby said I was clapping my hands giggling saying how I could feel my arms and hands.

    I'd say the first few weeks are the worst and then you start feeling more like yourself. Try and measure your recovery in weeks, not days, or you'll get frustrated. I was fairly self-sufficient after a couple of weeks and that's when it gets dangerous: You have a tendency to not pay attention to the BLT restrictions, especially when you have a little one or two. You have to maintain those restrictions, but be smart about them.

    Also, know that most people that have had a successful surgery are off living life and don't post here anymore because they no longer need the support offered here.

    So with those things in mind, as well as what the others have said, try not to freak out too much...you'll just get there, go to sleep and then before you know it will wake up and it's done. However, don't be fooled by how good you might feel the first couple of days pain-wise - the interior meds don't wear off for a couple of days, then you'll know what your pain will really be like. My first couple of days home my hubby asked me to try and just act like I just had major surgery, that's how good I felt. By day three, I was in the normal pain that comes with surgery, but not unmanageable.

    Take care and do a bunch of fun things before surgery. FYI: as I said my surgery was three levels in October and I was back to golfing in April. It's all doable and you'll be fine. Try not to worry too much, you'll most likely be very happy you had this done and may even wonder why you didn't have it done earlier. You should have some good times with your kids by summer.

  • Hello ArmyWife (I was Army Husband as it was my wife that was in the Army) My feeling is that you are going to need help with the kids.I say this because something so minor as getting a stuck window open will really set you back.Taking care of your children as you did before the surgery will not be postive towards you healing.I hope you do not smoke (no smoking is almost a given today).Do not worry about the scar and do not forget about using either ice or a heating pad.My saviour was ice.Do your best to get two maybe three days out of them for your to stay in the hospital.I just feel you are going to over do it if you do not have help with the kids.Good Luck,Daniel
  • I'm coming to terms with the surgery looming over my head. I have completed my pre-op labs, hubby thankfully has leave and will not be off on an adventure :) and have family coming in to help with the babies.
  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 02/18/2013 - 5:46 AM
    I have no experience with cervical issues, but I do have experience being a young mom of two children. I am fortunate that my husband is an accountant and was home every night. However, I have no family in the area. I have a difficult time asking for help, but I was so forunate to have good friends. One of which even set up a schedule so someone brought dinner twice a week. I had my surgeries in the summer, and I even had friends who were on vacation, but premade frozen casseroles for me. I know sometimes its easier to have family help that friends. I highly reccomend asking your family to occasionally cook a "double serving" of meals so half can be frozen for later.

    Most importantly, be sure you have SOMEONE over EVERYDAY. I truly believe social/emotional health plays a huge part in healing. As much as we love our children, they can't communicate with us on an adult level, and its so wonderful to have someone to chat with etc everyday. Plus they can help you with that stuck window, dirty bottles, etc.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • armymedic's wifeaarmymedic's wife Posts: 18
    edited 02/18/2013 - 5:35 PM
    We actually live about 13 hours from our nearest family members as we move every other year with the military. Thankfully, our families really have our backks on this and are flying in. Ive also been preparing freezers meals that just need to be popped in the crockpot in the morning. :)

    I have 2 more weeks to go, I've noticed that ive been cleaning like a mad woman in my good moments... anyone else do this?

  • It is like the nesting instinct that you get before having a baby.
    Something big is about to happen, and you want to be ready for it!

    Make sure that you arrange or plan to do some of the things you enjoy in the next two weeks.
    Can you get babysitters in and go out for a meal with your husband. If not, at least plan some of your favourite meals. Get your hair cut, dentist visit, eyes tested (you will be doing lots of reading during your recovery). Get out with friends for a social time and anything that makes you laugh will be great.

    Have you thought about what you will do during your recovery? Do you enjoy reading? What are the books you would love to read, films to watch, craft things you would love to do - perhaps with your children? Just some ideas. I'm sure that you will have many of your own. :-)

    Those prepared meals in the freezer are going to prove very useful. Great that your family are coming to support you.
    You are doing to be fine and once you are recovered, you should be able to enjoy being a mum and wife again. :-)
  • on some good videos because you won't be allowed to do very much at all for the first few months. I had a three level and was only allowed to walk, no bending no lifting! Buy a pick up for things you happen to drop on the floor . :)
    I was terrified going into surgery, i was up all night the night before sitting in a hot bath because my pain was so bad but by the end of the next day my pain was completely gone. First time in six years that i had been without pain and it was fantastic. Just keep your eye on the prize. lol.
  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
    edited 02/20/2013 - 7:42 AM
    That is great to hear how much your surgery helped you. :-)
  • Like everyone is saying - different healing rates for everyone.

    I think the biggest thing is to listen to your surgeon. When s/he tells you don't lift things heavier than a gallon of milk for 6 weeks (or whatever it is), LISTEN! You want your surgery to be successful the first time out and the more you do to cooperate and 'surrender' to the healing process, the better off you will be long term.

    I had surgery (C3/4 and C4/5) -was home in three days, and was pretty functional right from the start. I lost my voice, but I was fortunate to never have had a sore throat or any pain whatsoever (which I know is bizarre and unusual) - so I was never on pain meds beyond the day of surgery. (I attribute some or much of it to listening to "guided imagery" audio selections about "preparing for surgery" and "healing from surgery" - something I had never listened to before. But, I cannot account for how I could possibly not have felt any pain or needed any meds otherwise.)

    I wore a hard collar and for the first 6 weeks - no driving and no bending over. I would squat down and that was fine. I was never in a lot of pain like so many on here, but I did and still do have tingling in my left fingers - that may or may not go away. Time will tell. But, my neck is apparently a lot more stable.

    Ask your surgeon if you will be able to lift your hands above your head for a while - in relation to clothing. I bought a few button down shirts from Soft Surroundings which were perfect and fabulous.

    Swallowing was a challenge for a few weeks. Applesauce -- or anything smooth for when you have to take any pills.

    I kept a journal on here each day, then each week as I was preparing for it. I discussed a lot of things I did to prepare, if it interests you.

    Is there a local market that does delivery? If so, go online and set up an account. That was a lifesaver for me since I am single and I didn't want to "burden" anyone unnecessarily. I saved those moments for when I needed to visit my surgeon for follow-up appointments.

    In the beginning - soft foods - applesauce, puddings, fruit juice bars, mashed potatoes, soups/broths - anything smooth that will slide down your throat. The applesauce was especially helpful when taking any pills because swallowing was definitely a challenge.

    If you are taking pain meds - you will probably become constipated - have something on hand for that. They gave me some things while in the hospital, but because I hate taking medications, I didn't use anything the first week I got home. BIG MISTAKE! I wasn't even on pain meds at home - but from what they gave me at the hospital, make sure you have something like Senokot and Ducolax when you get home and take them as directed from the beginning to get your system back on track.

    Throat lozenges - I found those helpful when my throat would get dry and because swallowing was challenging in the beginning, it was easier than drinking water.

    While in the hospital - bring your cell phone and ear buds and make sure you have music you enjoy and that will calm and relax you. I listened to the guided imagery audio - and it really helped when I would awaken at 2 and 3am in the hospital - and even at home.

    Pillows - initially -- sleeping in bed was IMPOSSIBLE for me. So, i slept in the recliner and switched between my recliner and the sofa, propped up on the sofa, though. I gradually moved the back cushion of the sofa to my bed and slept sitting up for a few months. I actually slept comfortably, I have to admit. I did try to sleep laying down about a month into my healing and woke up to serious burning in both of my arms. I just got up and positioned the cushion again against my headboard and all was well. I have been sleeping laying down since about 6 weeks or so. Again, everyone is different.

    Sorry this is so long, but hopefully helpful.

    Good luck to you!

    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
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