Good Afternoon All,
I've been'a lurker and reader hereabouts almost since the day of my ACDF surgery now just shy of two months ago. Indeed, not only have I read (seemingly) every post under every topic heading on "this" board, but possibly every posting on every board everywhere - in addition to literally dozens of scholarly papers and abstracts, studies, broad analyses and discussions of all things "cervical fusion." The result of reading this enormous body of experiences and academic knowledge has been to simply instill in me, fear and in equal measure, extreme depression and anxiety about choosing surgery in the first place and, what impact that choice may have upon my future.
First however, my story (and my apologies in advance for the length). I was involved in a car accident in March of this year (rear-ended "hard" while stopped at'a light), and my second in four years (!). The impact either herniated two discs for the first time or else pushed them over the edge, and caused one (that between my C5/C6 vertebrae) to rest on'a nerve. Moreover, existing bone spurs on those vertebrae were pushed into my spine, causing slight deformity. The pain from the aforementioned was initially "insane" - bar none, the worst I've ever experienced in my life. After the usual, minor anti-inflammatories and pain meds did little-to-nothing to quench the proverbial fire, I was subsequently prescribed Meloxicam (by my orothopedic surgeon) and the worst of the constant pain subsided. However, in attempting a return to my usual six-day/week weight-lifting routine, I noticed that my right arm (bicep and wrist) were experiencing profound weakness - as though an achor were attached to the arm and resisting my efforts to pull upward. In relaying these symptoms to the doctor (and in comparing to the MRI/x-ray I had already had done), he immediately attributed both to my compressed nerve and spine and was emphatic about the only "permanent" fix: surgery.
In discussing that option, at experiencing the aforementioned pain and weakness; at being informed (by the surgeon) that these symptoms would not resolve over time, and indeed may get worse, "and" at being told that the "cure" (removal of the offending disc and fusion of my C5/6) was (in the experience of the surgeon), a routine, outpatient procedure that would have no long-term impact on my health, physical abilities (including and most importantly for me, my weight-lifting routine), agreeing to the operation seemed the prudent and proper thing to do. Now, two months later, I'm wondering if I unknowingly but willingly butchered myself.
Now to be fair, the operation was and has been relatively painless. Two months out and I can say that I've never experienced acute (sharp) pain at any time, and indeed, I've never needed to take'a single "anything" for pain right from my discharge at the hospital. That said, where the surgeon perversely (!) told me pre-op that again, the operation would be out-patient, and that with'a Wednesday operation, I should be back in the office the following Monday (serious!), I instead stayed overnight at the hospital, and subsequently took'a month off from work to rest. I attempted once to return at the two week mark and, noooosir. Attempting to do engage my "spend 90 percent of your day looking down at paperwork" daily routine (even in my soft cervical collar) was'a distinct no-go. I have since returned to work and, with generous accomodation from my employer, been more or less getting by.
But, I digress...and here is the root of my deep sorrow, depression and anxiety (and so the point of my posting)...
At returning home post-op, and able to spend hours and hours (and hours) reading about all things cervical fusion, to my horror, I discovered that mine in fact (and indeed, any fusion surgery) are not "simple and routine," and they most certainly are not one-time fixes or clean-ups of other injuries. I now know there's every possibility that adjacent segment degneration (and later, adjacent segment disease) will occur - whether at two years or twenty - and that simply by LIVING, I'm potentially causing new strain, damage and even my own future spinal injury. Where at signing up for surgery, I anticipated a quiet few months of recovery and rest, followed by a return to the gym and my former, very athletic and still young life, I've instead read stories here of folks herniating the next disc in the chain by attempting such herculian efforts as lifting "heavy" laundry baskets, or sleeping incorrectly - and subsequently needing their second and fourth fusions!! While my heart goes out to those here in constant and chronic pain (I've spent more days crying for myself and others in the last two months, than I honestly have in perhaps the whole of my 33 years), the thought of joining the ranks of those in chronic pain, medicating myself just to get through the day when all of three months ago I was utterly pain-free and strong...well, you can see why I'm borderline over-the-edge with despression and fear.
So, that novella all babbled, how do you all handle it...the fear and anxiety about the future? While I obviously know that nobody can answer this question but, has this one injury and C5/6 fusion surgery really doomed me to'a lifetime of degeneration, pain and disease? Am I going to still be prowling this board in two, three years, talking about how the right mix of oxy and percocet are only sort of making my day liveable?!
I suppose I just need some of what the board (and we all) are here for...support and reassurance.
Thanks for reading.