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New here, scared...a little help please?

Hi, my name is Candace. I've had neck problems for over 20 years because of a car wreck that gave me a severe case of whiplash.

Last year I was rear-ended again which reinjured my neck. I suffered for months in pain before I finally broke down and went to the ER thinking they would give me steroids and pain meds and send me on my way. The pain seared from my neck and down my left arm making it feel like it was on fire and my pinky and ring finger were completely numb. I was in complete agony. They sent me for ex-rays, a CT scan and an MRI. To my surprise, the MRI showed multiple levels of damage and it was decided that I would have a posterior laminectomy at C7-T1. The surgery went well and when I awoke, I was thrilled to find the searing pain gone although my fingers were still numb and my hand was still weak.

At the time I did not have insurance, so I didn't do any physical therapy and only had one post-op visit with the neurologist and that was to remove the staples. I recovered pretty well and soon went back to work but the numbness and weakness persisted and my neck remained achy.

A week ago I was carrying a load of laundry, didn't see one of my daughter's toys on the floor and I tripped landing with the brunt of the impact on my chin which caused me to hyperextend my neck. The pain was instantaneous and massive. This time I was only able to stand it a day or two before I was back in the ER, begging for some kind of relief and terrified that I had somehow "broken" the surgery.

They ran the same tests again (ex-rays, CT scan, and MRI with and without contrast) and immediately checked me into the hospital. The attending physician said I have the c-spine of an 80 yr old woman (I'm 45) and immediately got neurology involved. It ended up being the same neuro as before and this time he wants to do an anterior fusion of three levels that would include donor marrow and hardware. The neurologist was getting ready to go on a three week vacation so since I have insurance now, he set me up with a pain management doc, a Miami J collar that I'm to wear at all times and an appointment to see him when he gets back into town.

After I got out of the hospital, I went to the pain management doc who suggested three left transforaminal epidural steroid injections at c4-5, c5-6, and c6-7 at 5k a pop. The injections gave me a very small amount of pain relief and for now he is managing my pain with percoset, zanaflex and lyrics. Of course he wants to do another round of injections, this time going in at the back of my neck. The neck pain and the shooting pain down both of my arms is so bad that I'm willing to try anything...especially since the neuro won't be back for a couple of weeks.

Since I didn't have insurance the last time around, I got very minimal care and really knew next to nothing about my test results and the extent of my injuries.

Thankfully this time, I've got insurance and was able to get the MRI results and copies of all the doctors reports which I have to be honest...they sound pretty terrifying.

If you don't mind, I am going to share the MRI report in the hopes that I can get a little advice and maybe some piece of mind. Here goes, OK?

The c1-2 relationship is within normal limits.

At c2-3, mild disc space narrowing is noted with broad-based posterior disc osteophyte complex greater to the left than to the right. This produces moderate encroachment of the left c2-3 foramen. No pathological enhancement.

At c3-4, there is broad-bases annular bulge with disc osteophyte complex formation bilaterally resulting in moderate to severe bilateral foraminal stenosis without evidence of herniation. No evidence of pathological enhancement.

At c4-5, the disc space is relatively well preserved but there is moderate left posterolateral disc osteophyte complex formation producing moderate to severe left foraminal stenosis at c4-5. No evidence of acute herniation. The left side of the spinal cord appears to be flattened at this level though the CSF space can still be seen anterior to the cord.

At c5-6 there is marked disc space narrowing and anterior osteophyte formation as well as endplate degenerative changes. Broad-based disc osteophyte complex formation is present slightly greater to the right than to the left. The right foraminal stenosis is severe and the left foraminal stenosis is moderate to severe. There is indentation of the spinal cord secondary to central disc osteophyte complex. The cervical cord appears slightly flattened.

At c6-7, the disc space is moderately narrowed with moderate broad-based disc osteophyte complex formation producing cord flattening and bilateral foraminal stenosis. No evidence of pathological enhancement.

At c7-t1, there is focal left posterolateral annular bulge and high signal in the posterior annulus raising the possibility of acute annular tear. The focal disc protrusion produces left c7-t1 foraminal stenosis and some displacement of the cervical cord to the right of midline. No evidence of pathological enhancement.

The t1-2 level is unremarkable.

There do appear to be postoperative changes in the left posterior spinal soft tissues. The lamina and spinous processes remain intact.

1. Severe multilevel cervical degenerative disc disease with a very similar pattern compared to July 2012.
2. There are areas of cervical cord flattening at c5-6 and c6-7.
3. Multilevel foraminal stenosis with specific levels described above.
4. Left posterolateral disc profusion at c7-t1 with possible acute annual tear.
5. No marrow abnormality detected except for the endplate degenerative changes at c5-6.

So that's the whole report. What concerns me the most is impression #1. If it's a very similar pattern to my last MRI, it makes me wonder why the neuro didnt perform the fusion last year that he wants to do now. It worries me and makes me think I should find a different neurologist. The other scary part if this MRI is the evidence of the spinal cord flattening. what does that even mean? I'm terrified that I'm going to move the wrong way and end up paralyzed.

I'm sorry if I'm being a drama queen but I am very frightened. I'm divorced and take care of my aging and ailing mother. If something were to happen to me, I don't know how we would make it.

If you made it this far, thank you so very much for reading. I apologize that my very first post is so long. If you have any advice or words of encouragement, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Thanks again,
Candace :-)


  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    First off, you don't sound like a drama queen, a lot of us with spine issues enter this arena with the same thoughts. It is definitely overwhelming and hopefully you don't have to go at this "adventure" or "journey" alone.
    What I have also learned here and since you do have insurance is to get at minimum one if not two or more other opinions from reputable surgeons. Not only your insurance company back you up on that usually your Dr's will agree too. It will definitely put your mind at ease and give you added confidence you are making the right decision.
    I am fused from C4 thru C7 and in the very near future I will be adding on to that fusion. From the time before my first fusion to now I have learned so much and a lot of it to good information I have received here from members both past and present.
    Do your homework, lots of research, and ask a lot of questions Candace. I'm sure others here will respond to this post too.
    Keep us all posted here and try to be patient, it will all work out in the end.
    Take care,
  • Hi Candace,

    You certainly have been through a lot. Like "Secondtimesacharm" mentioned, I wouldn't worry about risk of being paralyzed. I am fused from C3 thru C7 and am still having problems. Before my first cervical fusion, I had flattening of the cord around the C5 and C6 areas. This caused similar symptoms that you are now experiencing.

    Hang in there, lots of luck and welcome to Spine-Health! :-)

  • canwin67ccanwin67 Posts: 8
    edited 05/19/2013 - 1:44 AM
    Ranger, Sandra and Charlie...thanks so much for responding to my post and more importantly for the offers of your support. You have no idea what it means to me! Like I said, I am single and don't really have anyone to help me. I moved my sick mother in with me a couple of years ago and I also have a ten year old daughter who lives with me 100% of the time. I'm not complaining because I love them both with everything I have...it's just kind of scary because we have no one we could turn if something were to happen to me and I don't know what would become of them.

    Take tonight for example...it was a very, very bad pain night. My neck was spasming and the nerve pain was radiating into both shoulders and shooting down into each arm. It felt like my upper body was on fire. My doctor prescribed percoset for the pain and it works fairly well but it makes me itchy and rashy. Benadryl controls it some but not enough to make me comfortable. Unfortunately I'm struck with the percoset because they tried me on a variety of medications when i was on the hospital and this is the one that had the least side effects.

    So anyway...I was feeling just miserable tonight but everyone still needed to eat. Mom just got out of the hospital from having a heart attack so there was no way I was going to let her cook dinner. The pantry and fridge are pretty bare right now because I am not allowed to drive so there wasnt anything easy or microwavable that my daughter could fix. That left me to figure out something for dinner and my pain level was at a 7...suffice it to say, it wasn't an easy or fun night. And it makes me feel so bad that I'm not able to take better care of them. After dinner I put a movie on for my daughter to watch and we laid down on my bed and snuggled while she watched it. Of course I dozed off and on because the meds make me tired not to mention I am only averaging 2-3 he's of sleep at night due to the pain.

    When the movie was over my daughter stayed in bed with me and we just talked. I found out tonight that she is really worried and scared that something bad will happen if I have another surgery. She started to cry which made me cry. Do you know what she told me? "Mom, you are such a good mommy and such a sweet person...you don't deserve to be having all of this pain". Oh man...that really hit me straight in the heart. She's such a sweet girl and I feel terrible that I can't be a better mom for her. So yeah, it was a rough day and I really needed to hear what you guys had to say.

    Thanks from the bottom of heard,

  • canwin67ccanwin67 Posts: 8
    edited 05/19/2013 - 1:46 AM
    I meant Roger, Shandra and Charlie!
  • Lol! it's the auto correct on my tablet. let's try this one last time:

    Ranger, Shandra and Charlie! LOL
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    My heart goes out to you ladies, we have to be aware of the effect this pain we have has on family and caregivers. I know what it does to me when I see my wife and children encounter pain and discomfort, it just rips me up inside. If I could I would take their pain in a heartbeat. We do anything for them.
    There are a lot of good people here Candace to offer you support, stay in touch and be safe.
  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 05/19/2013 - 8:07 AM
    Hi there, Candace:

    I would definitely encourage you to seek another opinion, especially since you have the time to do so.
    Now that you have insurance, it will hopefully give you some breathing room to get at least one more opinion, if for nothing else, to ease your concerns as to whether your current surgeon is on the right path or not.

    Before I have my 2-level ACDF, I saw three surgeons - mostly because each gave different recommendations - from the extreme to the middle option to the least. Sure, the ultimate decision was on me because of that, but now, 6 months after surgery, I am glad I chose the orthopedic/spine surgeon I did.

    With a possibility of more surgery, at least get another opinion so you can reduce some of that stress - wondering if you made the right decision - from your life.

    Good luck to you! People on here are really nice and really helpful.

    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
  • Shandra, I can't even imagine having a little one and dealing with the kind of pain you are going through. Your little girl sounds amazing though...very loving and caring...you're right when you call her your mini-me...she sounds just like her mama!

    Ranger, thank you for your kind words of support. I'm glad you have a family by your side during this tough ordeal. I think a lot of times we are tougher on ourselves than we should be. I'm sure your family is just so glad to have you. Best of luck with the upcoming fusion!

    Francine, thanks for your words of support as well! Getting a second opinion is a great idea. I do have to say that I'm worried about making my decision between the two... I guess it just boils down to your comfort level with the surgeon. That and getting as much education as I can. I'm working on all of that now. How did you ultimately decide between the three surgeons?

  • Hey canwin67, all I would like to say is stay positive and be careful as well. You will get well soon, follow the instructions of your doctor seriously. Hope you update your imporving condition very soon.
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