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What is this? No mobility in legs, no control of urination, leg pain

Hi, I am new here. I trying to find any helpful information I can for my dad. My dad is a Vietnam veteran and was exposed to Agent Orange, White and Blue. I am not sure if any other their side effects are related to these issues or not, but just mentioning in case you do know if any of these are potentially related symptoms.

My dad has quite a few health complications over the last few years so I will try to keep this short as I can with necessary information. Well this supposedly started with my dad beginning with bladder cancer, the docs surgically went in and scraped away the cancer, then my dad went through chemo to be sure to get rid of it before it spreads. The docs said the cancer was gone, but not too long after my dad has excruciating pain in his back, he already had severe back pain from a car accident (fracture) and degenerative disc disease, but this was pain was even worse on top of that. The docs said the cancer had spread to his spine (is this even possible, to be the same cancer from the bladder, or just another, separate cancer?).

After finding that out, my dad went through radiation, then chemotherapy, they said the cancer was gone, but then soon came back again, so he did another radiation treatment and another complete course of chemo. For now the docs say they don't see any cancer. My dad is still in severe pain, and his overall health is getting worse, I am pretty sure it is because of the chemotherapy is really weakening him. My dad is much paler than normal, his hair is growing back much slower, his muscle mass throughout his whole body is decreasing and just look overall in not too good health from just looking at him. By now he should have recovered a fair bit, but he seems to be getting worse.

Well for the main part of me seeking help, my dad just a week ago, was just walking and all the sudden his legs gave out for a second, but he did not fall. Ever since then he his walking ability has gotten really worse every day. The next couple days, he started falling so we gave him a walker, The next days he couldn't even use the walker because his legs would give out so often. So we went to the hospital and all they did was give him a wheel chair. So he would use the wheelchair, The next day he would barely use his legs at all to keep him standing so we would have to help him just to give from bed to chair to wheelchair. The day after that, his legs would not work whatsoever. He still has feeling/sensory in his legs, but can't physically move them, so we believe it is a pinched nerve(s). Also along with the loss of mobility over the last few days, my dad has also been losing his ability to urinate and defecate. He can't control when he wants to pee, and barely feels it, sometimes he doesn't pee at all. And he can't feel if he has to poop, he won't poop himself, but he can't force it out, one time he sat on the toilet for 30 mins, he thought he didn't poop, but when he got up, he saw some in the toilet, so he could not feel it coming out at all. And now if he lays down or moves around too much, he needs to pee right away, urine doesn't always come out, but he gets the feeling like it will.

This all happened over the course of about a week so it was very fast, from mobile to now just about paralyzed. Just yesterday my dad had started complaining about constant pain in his right leg, we brought him to the hospital and they did surgery on his back to try and stop the pinching of the nerve. I heard they would put a couple bolts/screws to keep the spine parted so they don't contact (fuse?) and I am not sure what else, but I think they were going to cut away some tissue to relieve pressure on the nerve.
I still haven't heard any updates yet after the surgery, but still wanted to ask since I don't get told much.

We know about the dangers of the surgery, but my dad is really tired of hurting and so he wanted to try something to try and make things better. And I am not sure if this is spine related or not (might be a cause from the weakened health from chemo), but my dad has had a runny nose and coughing up a lot of mucus for at least 3 months now (probably pneumonia, bronchitis or something though?) . Also he has had swollen legs for months as well. I know chemo can cause swollen legs, but his legs are much darker skin color than normal and the skin is flaking. His legs might be from diabetes, but is it possible, related to the spine area, that a blood vain or something is being pinched causing poor circulation. We are just trying to find some help. The hospital is not really even trying to offer good help until things get really bad. We just don't want his legs to have to be amputated.

When we were at the hospital I think I heard them say something about L3 in his spine, so I did some research and saw about Sciatica, but it seems the common symptoms are not as severe as this. Does this type of problem have a specific name I can research on?
We are willing to try anything that might help, whether it be acupuncture, massaging the back, homeopathic natural herbs/medicine, mmj (Rick's oil), anything really.
Please I am trying to find any help to have my dad get in better health and be able to walk and function again to get his life back to a better state. If you have any helpful information, please let me know.

Thank you for taking the time to read and caring.



  • Sorry it's so long, just was trying to give all details, but I guess in real short, within the last week my dad was went from walking to nearly paralyzed. Each day losing mobility in his legs. At the same time losing control over his urinating and fecal movements. He still have sensory feeling in his legs, but can't physically move them. Last couple days his right leg has had constant pain. He just went through surgery last night. Still have yet to hear updates.

    Just asking if there is a specific name for this type of thing so I can do some research on it. And if there is anything we can do to help my dad recover very successfully, whether to boost his system so he actually improves health so he recovers fine or to repair any possible nerve or tissue damage he may have had.

    Willing to try anything to help, from acupuncture, massaging, decompression, homeopathic natural medicine/herbs, mmj (or Rick's oil) or anything really.
    Just really any kind of help.

    I feel like this particular hospital has let things slide so my dad's health has gotten worse as a result when they could have done more earlier to prevent things from getting bad as they get. Since I don't completely trust their quality of healthcare I am at least attempting to ask others for any possible help them might have to offer.

    I know I will find out some more tomorrow, but still would like to hear. Now that the surgery has been done, I am just worried on the recovery period and future of my dad's health, so any help on recovering would be very appreciated. We don't want him to die, because he is older and his body was already in a weak state and a lot of pain and with the surgery on top, we really are worried if he will recover from all of this so we really would like to know what we can do to really improve his recovery chances.

    Thanks again.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • if your dad can not control or eliminate his urine or feces, and can not feel it, it may be a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome, and it is considered a surgical emergency. He needs to be seen and evaluated right away, and you need to make sure that the doctors understand that he can not stand, nor can he eliminate or feel his bladder or bowels .
    I am including a link to the information regarding his condition.......
    The longer it continues, the more likely that the damage may become permanent.

  • Hi again, sorry for not posting back sooner. First off, thanks Sandi for your reply.
    Although I have not been told the exact name given for this condition, from research it seems to be Paraparesis incomplete injury. In the first post I mentioned L3 (lower), but I must have been wrong and it was T3 (upper), where operation was performed. But I think my dad does also have a problem in L3 as well, but must of not been the main issue relating to this loss of motor function.

    He had no control from the abdomen down losing all motor function in his legs, couldn't flex his abs, nor feel or control his urine or bowel movements. Urinating he can feel it just a few seconds before it going to come out, but he can't hold it or go at will. Bowel movements, he doesn't defecate on himself, but when he is put on the toilet, he won't feel it come out or any feeling of needing to have a BM nor can he force/push it to come out. So there must be some sort of control over his BM since he won't defecate on himself, but it must be different muscles he is not used to feeling so he might be sort of unsure how to control those certain muscle at will. But he still could feel/sense temperature and pressure through his whole body. Has always had full control of his arms.

    Well he got the surgery on the night of 5/13, the surgeons removed some tissue around the area, scraped some cancer off the upper spine and installed hardware fusing the whole (or nearly all) T section (upper spine just below the neck) of the spine.

    When he went in the hospital, my dad had no motor control at all of his legs. The day after the surgery he was able to wiggle his toes, next day able to wiggle his ankle, next able to flex his hips and calves. And the last couple of days he said during PT he has been able to sit up on the side of the bed from laying position by himself. He is making progress, but still a long ways to go. So far there has been no improvement with his problems of urinating and bowel movements.

    I believe the hospital is aware or the urination and BM problems, but I will make double sure they are aware of it tomorrow. I don't think they are doing anything to help that if there is anything they can do. Is there any type of PT exercise or different way to "trick" the body to perform BM at will (press a certain angle on the abdomen somewhere or wiping the buttocks)?

    So far I have only talked to the nurses, but will try to talk to the surgeons tomorrow to get more info.

    But if you can answer any of my questions I would greatly appreciate it.

    Since the surgery, my dad's right arm is involuntarily twitching quite a lot. Could that just be from shock/pain from the surgery or was something possibly messed up (pinched nerve) during surgery? Nurses were unsure.

    Also the nurse practitioner said the cancer in the spine was in multiple spots, they removed as much as they could from that area they said, but they only scrape away the cancer as it shows symptoms. So they did not remove more of the cancer. I was wondering what is the reason for not removing it all at the same time before new symptoms occur? Is there only so much spine you can scrape away at a time safely? Just wondering as it would seem better to remove it all while you are there instead of waiting until later and have to cut him back open and have him recover again, but by then he might be too old too recover from a surgery like that again.

    Do you have any idea how long it usually takes to max recover from something like this?
    Would full control be regained or partial? I know these questions most likely vary to each case.

    Are there any treatments that could help regain movement besides PT (mainstream meds, natural/homeopathic herbs to heal/fix nerve damage or reduce inflammation affecting the spine or just to improve the overall health/immune system to recover better/faster?

    Thanks for your time and help.
    I just really want my dad's health to get better. The surgeons said it was good that my dad came in when he did or he could of been permanently paralyzed. But still, damage has been done. I think this could have been prevented, we told the V.A. about this as soon as symptoms were showing and they really didn't do anything besides give him a wheelchair and told him to use a walker. They did scans (MRI, CT) on him, but didn't do anything else for him, all they said they could do is offer hospice and various household equipment to get around easier in a wheelchair and this was while he still had some movement in his legs. This is far from the first time we feel like the V.A. is giving good care and many health problems could have been treated better or prevented from getting worse. Just like him nose running and coughing up mucus for over 3 months and his legs being swollen and discolored for over 2 months, all they gave him was compression stockings and a nasal spray and didn't even say what exactly was wrong or really even looked into what is really causing the issues. Many other things, but maybe you can see why I don't trust the V.A. healthcare which why I am seeking any outside help and even homeopathic/natural/alternative treatments.

    Sorry for such long posts.
    Thanks again Sandi.
  • Please HelpPPlease Help Posts: 4
    edited 05/17/2014 - 7:41 PM
    Oh sorry, I just read that link you posted after typing all that out above. My dad went in to surgery I would say probably within 48 hours since COMPLETE motor loss of his legs. But 2-3 days before complete loss of function in his legs, he gradually (if you would say that, although to us going from walking to practically paralyzed within 3-4 days is rapid) was losing function of his legs and urination and bowel movements.
    The article said decompression of the nerves within 24-48 hours, or even better with 8 hours would yield the max potential of improvement of lost functions. Not sure if the within 48 hours period started when my dad lost complete control of his legs or the day symptoms started to show (his legs buckling out for a second, then sudden falling).

    The article states acute cauda equina syndrome (still not sure if this is what my dad may have or paraparesis) resulting in nerve damage is extremely rare. If the nerve is not damaged, does that mean max recovery should happen? If there is no nerve damage, but motor control is still not regained, then what is actually damaged?

    Hopefully my dad can fully recover from this and maybe even the upper back fusion might relieve some pain later on. Just hope we weren't too late in getting the surgery started.
  • I am glad that your dad was given surgery, sooner rather than later.
    To try to explain spinal cord injury, the level of the damage to the spinall cord proper ( in the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine) has different effects than damage done in the Cauda Equina ( lumbar region below the Conus Medullaris). Once a sci ( spinal cord injury occurs) , it effects everything below the level of the damage.......meaning that if someone has a sci that happens at C5- the level of damage is C5, but everything that the spinal cord innervates below will also show some signs of compromise.
    I am going to send you a link via pm to a sci forum. I really think that it might help you and your dad for a couple of reasons.
    Best wishes to your dad..........check your private messages.
  • Yesterday morning I got a phone call from my mother at 640 in the morning thinking she was calling to tell me she is can come home after radiation today she is crying telling me she is paralyzed from waist down, Have you got any other info back? It seems as though my mother is going through the same sort of thing. She had a tumor removed on her lungs on March 3rd, they also removed a few ribs, every man kind tests showed no other signs of cancer, they awaited to do radiation for aprx 2 months, don't ask me why which we are not happy about, they just found another aggressive tumor, they started radiation, started on tue of last week ( today is Tuesday 22 of July ) an Sunday night she was fine, in hospital for radiation treatments, Sunday night she got up from using the bathroom an she felt her lower half give way, she was helped onto the bed an told the nurse she can move or feel her lower part from chest down, nurse gives her an ice pack, she had to scream to get others in the room, long story short they went all night trying to figure what is wrong, they did an emergency surgery yesterday Monday, they removed a pretty good size tumor that wrapped around the spine, this is what shutdown the lower half.
  • Welcome to Spine Health.........
    Since they were able to remove the tumor, hopefully, she will make a good recovery. Thankfully, you were smart enough to get her to see the doctor sooner , rather than later.
    Recovery from sci is different for everyone. The goal of the surgery is to relieve the compression of the cord or spinal nerves in the cord, as quickly as possible. In the case of CES or any spinal cord injury, the sooner the compression is removed, the more likely that there will be improvement in symptoms as the best outcome, and at worst, no further damage done.
    With sci, it not only effects the level of the spine involved, but everything below it. Depending on whether or not it is an incomplete injury ( meaning that only part of the spinal cord nerves are involved) or a complete, meaning that the entire cord and nerves in the cord are compressed and for how long) determines the outcome, and residual damage.
    You can still have paralysis, even with an incomplete injury, and damage on one side of the body more than another.
    I am sending you both a private message that may be of great help to both of you in helping your family members in their recoveries.
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