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C6/7 ACDF - My Pre and Post Surgery Journey........follow link to Part 2

RichardARRichardA Posts: 149
edited 08/31/2015 - 11:45 PM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello everyone,

My name is Richard (Rich), I am 51 years old and about to head into surgery for a C6/7 ACDF. It's taken me 8 years of neurosurgeon visits, heavens knows how much I've spent on physio for neck and shoulder pain, and dry needling sessions etc etc. You know how it goes.

Before my current situation I managed to prolapse C5/6 and C6/7 about 5 years ago which put me off work for a month - but the NS wasn't convinced I needed surgery. Since that episode, I took up taekwondo, got my black belt, and spent so much time going to PT and GP visits in doing so I often wondered if I was just working my body too hard!

So I was working out with my free weights in my home gym end of January and I was doing some barbell rows...nothing heavy (about half my body weight) when I felt something "pull" in my armpit. It didn't hurt but it felt like I had stretched a muscle big time. I finished (stupidly.....doggedly) my weight session and figured it was just going to have a bit of muscular soreness afterwards. Thursday morning was an "ouch" moment and I booked in to see the physio as my neck muscles and shoulder muscles had seized up so badly I could hardly walk properly....needless to see the physio killed me. I was in so much pain and he was really going for it to loosen the muscles up...made a grown man cry !!

Later Thursday I booked in to see my GP and he requested an MRI the next Tuesday and gave me some ibuprofen and Lyrica until then. By Friday night I knew I had done a disc or two 9didnt know which exactly but figured it was c6/7 as my tricep, elbow, forearm and index and thumb were on fire. I was doubled over with the pain, but thought it would subside. My wife suggested I go to the hospital but I'm a really dumb person sometimes and thought it would go away. By 3 am Saturday morning I went upstairs, woke her up and told her to take me to ER, about 20 minutes drive away. Will never forget the road trip - I actually felt as if my left arm had been broken at the elbow it was that intense and couldn't straighten it at all.

ER doc took 5 minutes t figure out the issue and sent me for CT...yep....bulged C2/3, C3/4 and c4/5. Prolapsed C5/6 and major herniation at C6/7 with cord contact....and the MRI just made it that much clearer the next Tuesday.

My first NS (the one I had been seeing for years off and on) suggested a posterior cervical foraminotomy.......friends told me to get a second opinion. Second NS told me I had bone growing into my spinal canal, and whilst the first NS's advice would alleviate the nerve root compression at C6/7, it would not stop bone growing further into my spinal canal and would one day touch it and cause all sorts of problems. The time for single level ACDF surgery had come....and now I'm three days away from it......

Link to Part 2

C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...


  • RichardARRichardA Posts: 149
    edited 04/15/2015 - 12:21 AM
    Must admit I am feeling anxious, nervous but also pleased that I am getting this done. I got very very fit with Taekwondo after being 15 kgs (30 lbs) overweight....I will never get unfit again after knowing what it is like to be fit. It's worth every second of pain, sore muscles and fatigue!

    This week (surgery is on Saturday 18 April) I have been distracted at work but also getting hammered by everyone to get stuff done because they know I'm out of action for 2 to 4 weeks. I really only get to think about it at night after dinner...maybe a blessing in disguise? Made a list of things to do, buy etc and gone and done all that over the last few weeks in preparation. Bought button up shirts, zip up jumpers, slip on joggers for walking, and that kind of stuff....so now just the waiting. Will be going in Friday night so assume I'm up for the procedure first thing Saturday morning....getting a little impatient because I know I'm prepared for recovery and want to get into it!!
    Talk again soon.
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

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    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 554
    edited 04/15/2015 - 1:44 AM
    I wish you a successful surgery & hope your recovery goes smoothly. I had ACDF on C4/5 and then posterior fusion 9 months later. Anterior surgery is much easier to recover from. Just follow the doctors do's & dont's. Keep us updated after your surgery.
  • I admire your courage in the face of uncertainty. It is the only way to counter those feelings of what if, but and/or maybe....Know this; You will do fine, unless the ground beneath your Surgeon falls out. I promise :) Keep up with the good outlook as it is your best weapon to counter what lies ahead....

    I sense that you are worried about falling out of shape again due to the nature of the procedure you are about to have..... Listen, you can always get back in shape (as you have been there; done that), but please don't rush into it. Please don't make that your #1 objective after surgery or you will find that the Surgeon's Scalpel will never be done with you....

    I know exactly how you feel, Richard. I was in excellent shape before the car accident I was in pulled my life out from under me. I had a 4 level posterior instrumented fusion (C5-T2). C7 was shattered, T1 was dislocated and C5+C6 were fractured. I have nerve damage (left arm and hand are still weak even 15 months later). I am now skinny and frail (15 lbs less than what I was) and it has everything to do with that blend of moderation.... Everything must be done in moderation or you risk starting all over again. Skinny or a touch overweight, you need to put this first!

    So please heed this warning -- DO NOT OVERDO IT after your procedure. There will be ups and downs throughout your recovery process, so take the good with the bad and the bad with the good and don't lose sight of the focus you will need to get to where you need to be. Your Surgeon will give you some sort of ridiculous time frame as to when you will be fine, but you need to listen to your body, even if and/or when that time frame passes.... Don't put your trust in that time frame, put your trust in yourself. And remember, everyone's road to recovery is different.

    Best of luck with your surgery, my Friend. Please keep us posted!










    Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: At The Hospital (One to Two Days):

    Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: After Discharge (Three to Six Days):

    One to Four Weeks After Spine Fusion Surgery:

    Doug Hell
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Thankyou Motor1 and Doug - you are the reason why this forum is so therapeutic in its own right. I heed your warnings and advice with gratitude. My focus on fitness is not to overdo it but have a goal to look forward to over the next 12 months or so - I ever since I found fitness I found having a goal kept me thinking and acting straight when things could easily have gone pear-shaped.

    My wife explained to me that I need my neck in good shape for at least 40 more years so I needed to "take a long term view" - which I will do.

    I would like to share with people as I travel - and journalling it is therapeutic for me as well. Besides I have promised to share my feelings, wins and challenges with other lovely people like BlessedMom74 and I never shirk my promises!! Onwards and upwards!

    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • TWynnBTTWynnB Posts: 265
    edited 04/15/2015 - 4:02 PM
    The doc said you'll be out of action 2-4 weeks. Don't expect that. I'd expect absolute minimum of 6 weeks, and possibly more like 12, depending on how you do.

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • Thankyou TWynnB for your advice - I get the feeling the NS advice is generally on the optimistic side after reading so many posts already....so I agree with you and will just listen to my body and be cautious in what I do and try for the first time. Will not muck this up!
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • BlessedMom74BBlessedMom74 Posts: 322
    edited 04/16/2015 - 6:14 AM
    You have been on my mind all week. My other Surgery Buddy (Readyforchange) went in on For her ACDF on Monday. She's doing pretty well, a lot of muscle spasms, which I have heard other people complain of post op, so make sure you request some muscle relaxers for when you get discharged.
    Again, I appreciate you taking the time to journal your post op for me. I have two kids and a Husband I have to get back to caring for so I am looking forward to seeing what the true picture of recovery is and not what the doctor says. You're awesome and I appreciate you. I will continue to keep you in my prayers and send you good healing energy. You're going to do great!
  • BlessedMom74BBlessedMom74 Posts: 322
    edited 04/16/2015 - 6:16 AM
    For posting all those links. That will be very helpful for me as I go in for surgery in less than 2 weeks. I will check them all out.
  • I will be following you and sending prayers and positive thoughts as you travel this journey. I am a very fit 56 yo female. I love my job and work 5/6 days/ week. I go to the gym regularly. I have arm and hand numbness C-4-7 according to what I have read. I see the NS Aprill 22. I have had the MRI and the tech told me I have herniations and subluxations so I am preparing to be told that surgery is in my near future. I have a friend that had the same surgery and she says she woke up in RR and no more numbness and no more pain. She had to wear an soft collar ( not a hard one as some have had- I don't know if theis is according to procedure or NS preference.) Anyway, she was back at work in 6 weeks although she says she couuld have been back in 3. My goal is to take litle or no pain pills and be back to work ASAP. Sounds like we are similarly motivated. Please keep in touch. You will be in my prayers.
  • Good luck with your surgery! You'll find this a great place in you recovery journey.
  • Hi all,
    Thankyou for all the posts and the warm wishes - it's great therapy knowing you have a few people in your corner!
    Spent this last few days "madly" rushing through work tasks (for other people, not me!), including a job promotion interview, a massive construction tender due in today (and the subject of frantic phone calls and emails early this morning) and somehow finding the time to pack and breathe inbetween last minute work meetings and the like. Will be looking forward to a rest tonight in a hospital bed! LOL.
    Will see you on the other side!
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • ReadyforchangeRReadyforchange Posts: 90
    edited 04/18/2015 - 5:44 AM
    Welcome to the other side! I am 5 days post op and doing fine. Had a crying jag yesterday but feeling better today. I can't wait to hear how you are doing! Eating ice chips I'd guess.
  • RichardARRichardA Posts: 149
    edited 04/19/2015 - 5:32 PM
    Hello all,
    Well I got into Melbourne Private Hospital about 5pm Friday night (17th April) and they got me settled in to my room. I had some pre-op stuff to do like get a chest X-ray, have some blood taken and the like. The I had the "risk doctor" come in who told me everything about the risks, up to and including death! It was quite funny really - I ended up telling them it must be really hard for them to do this, but I'm still getting the surgery done! I think they relaxed a bit after that - they must give the job to the newbie interns or something - poor things!. I didn't need any meds and I was supposedly the first case Saturday morning...
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Hi everyone...my journey continues. Got bumped for the first surgery of the day so had to wait around. Was told to shower and change into my little white gown then eventually headed down to Level 7 for anaesthetic. Lovely people down there...had abut three different needles in my right arm and didn't feel any of them! Had to wait for about 45 minutes lying on the bed. My anaesthetist Julie told me to have two Lyrica in the morning about an hour before surgery as it was a great little pain mgt trick and makes you all relaxed too...she was right! But the room was so freezing cold I asked for a blanket over my sheet and the nurse brought me a beautiful oven warmed blanket! Ended up falling asleep in the anaesthetic room! Then eventually went in, got pulled to the operating table, had an oxygen mask over my face. Tool two deep breaths and just oxygen, then third breath thought "ooh they put a little something in that one"...last thing I remember for the next two hours whilst they operated. Yep it was a 2 hour procedure, just for C6/7! When I woke up in recovery I found I had wet the bed whilst I was under but the nurses cleaned me up so all good. Will talk about the next 24 hours in a little while - I just got home from the hospital and still really wasted.
    Talk soon.
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 554
    I am glad your surgery went well & you are back home & on the road to recovery. Make sure you follow your discharge instructions & take it easy.
  • Good Morning Richard,

    Happy to hear you are now on the other side. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Richard,
    Wishing you continued speedy healing.
  • The surgery went very well, although it took 2 hours apparently. First thing I noticed was a very sore throat (oh, and I accidentally wet the bed while I was under lol, so they changed me in recovery!) A little bit of numbness still I my left hand but noticeably less, and no pain through my elbow or forearm or tricep. The NS said the disc had "really banged up hard against the nerve and must have hurt a lot" so glad I had the surgery!

    I was in hospital Saturday night and Sunday night after surgery Saturday morning. I spent all afternoon Saturday and Saturday night in the high care unit where every half hour they checked my blood pressure, asked for my full name, date of birth and where I was, and asked me for the day, month and year! After 4 hours they pulled it back to every hour and then after another 4 hours pulled it back to every 2 hours.....but that went on right throughout Saturday night so I got precious little sleep! They were a bit concerned because my heart rate dropped under 40 beats per minute and continued to stay around 50 beats per minute - I eventually found this out and told them I was a Taekwondo black belt and had to train insanely hard for it and my resting heart rate was around 50 when I got it a year ago. So my heart as a muscle was probably very strong. Believe it or not that put their mind at rest.

    I stayed on oxygen for 24 hours to avoid a dehydration "headache" - so if they offer it take it! I was also on major painkillers as I didn't feel any pain whatsoever Saturday (other than sore throat) - they just kept on filling me up with Oxycontone painkillers and Panadol. On Sunday I started to feel muscular pain creeping up my scapular and the back of my neck and a little nauseous from all the pills they were pumping into me - as soon as I told the nurse she gave me Valium and it was oh just wonderful!!!......so I asked for it to be included in my take home meds which they did.

    So now at the moment I am home - no pain to speak of at all at the moment (except I have just woken up - its 0630 Tuesday morning and my throat hurts like hell just to swallow). My meds have been scheduled for breakfast and dinner so nice and easy to remember. I took it very very easy on Monday at home - didn't even open the fridge door! Slept in my bed propped up on pillows that had me lying back at about 45 degrees and had no dramas at all sleeping.
    Am taking lots and lots of water - unfortunately I have not done number two's since Saturday morning and normally I'm every day without fail - hopefully today! Im taking laxatives and Metamucil....fingers crossed. Sorry if that was too much info!
    My NS has put me in an Aspen collar for 6 weeks! My physio has said nothing except walking for 6 weeks - not even spin bike or swimming! Funny about the collar though - I thought I would hate the restrictiveness of it but at the moment I love it. It gives me a sense of security. The first time they took it off to take the drain out of my incision I felt really vulnerable even though I knew I was in good nurse's hands! See how that goes over time.

    So at the moment very glad I had the surgery, Have no pain and am settled at home...and thinking of everyone about to undergo this and hoping it will be a good experience like I had - I actually enjoyed Sunday night as it was peaceful in the hospital, only a few nurse visits during the night and it was surprisingly easy to shower (changed collars).

    Tell you how today goes tomorrow morning,

    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 554
    Glad to hear you are home & doing good! I also had a really bad sore throat. My doctor sent me home with that throat spray(cloraseptic?) I used it very often. Try to get your bowels moving! I found taking laxatives gave me horrible cramps, so I had my husband talk to our pharmacist & he recommended taking colace. I still take it today. It really helps with all the pain meds I'm on. It's just a softener.
    Continue to take it easy & good luck with your recovery!
  • It sounds like you are doing wonderfuly!
  • Hi all and thank you for your warm posts! It is now Tuesday and I have been home 2 days so far. I finally had a bowel movement today (thank God for that!). The doctor has prescribed me Coloxyl which seems to work okay, although I took Metamucil as well and I know that always worked for me.

    Spent 45 minutes walking today - I had a goal to make it to a certain roundabaout in out street which was about 1 mile away. My wife came with me. Well I made it and back home again in 45 minutes so yay for me! mind you, got home, had some lunch (cream of chicken soup and some icecream) and then was out like a light for the next 3 hours! Still pretty weak I'm guessing.

    No real pain to speak of at all so far - I am almost worried that something big is around the corner as I read on this forum all the time about such. Still waiting for it I guess. Across my traps were aching today after my walk but nothing I would call needing attention. Will keep on waiting. Throat still incredibly tender - I actually have to really concentrate when I swallow as if I'm psyching myself up for it because It is that tender still.

    I will get there - I am getting there! I hope these posts are helping those about to go in for surgery that it is okay and a good outcome is possible (3 days out from surgery anyway!).

    Thankyou all for your kind words so far.

    Love Rich
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Woo Hoo! A walk! Good for you. What an inspiration you are. Please keep us posted.Have a great day!

  • Hi everyone. Did 50 minutes of walking today, 10% up from yesterday, and my daily goal. My neck started having muscular pain today....about 4/10 but like a ring around my whole neck emanating from my collar bones. Decided not to focus on the pain itself but what I could do for myself that was positive...so went for my walk. Did wonders. For 50 minutes I looked at the sky, watched people walking and said hello to them, and watched birds flying around....and my neck pain went into the background.

    Got home and am a little tired, but had a nice smoothie with crushed ice, banana, strawberries, protein powder, sliced peaches and milk, and ready for my pills and probably a sleep this afternoon.

    The pain is easy to focus on if you want, doing something good for yourself in the presence of it is a bit harder. But once done, be proud of yourself and pat yourself on the back. If I could have a danced a little jig today for getting up off my butt and hitting the street for 50 minutes instead of hitting the "if you're in trouble" pills (like Endone etc) I would have. Nobody else is going to do it for me!

    Stay positive! And I will catch up with everyone tomorrow.

    Love Rich

    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Like reading the newspaper but better. Thanks so much Richard. You are giving us such a gift!
  • I am following you closely. I went to NS yesterday. Now scheduled for ACDF 45,56,67 w/ removal of 4 because it is pressing on my spinal cord and a cage for stability ( I guess I'm an overachiever- haha) Anyway your spending recovery is giving me hope. Hope you are doing well today.
  • Hi all,

    Just thought I would give you a quick update on my progress so far - as you may be aware if reading previous posts I got home Monday 20th April from having C6/7 surgery so am calling that day 1 of week 1. My focus has been on getting better and how I am doing that, along with how I am feeling day to day in the hope that it will assist others understand what the other side of surgery looks and feels like!

    So how am I? Well as you know on Tuesday I managed a 45 minute walk which was good I thought, with lots of sleeping in the afternoon. Wednesday I managed a 50 minute walk with no issues, Thursday I managed a 56 minute walk and today (Friday) I got my full 60 minute walk in....and I marked the spot I got to at 30 minutes with the aim of going just a bit further each day past that spot. The further I go the faster I am walking which means the recovery progress is going well.

    The biggest issue I am finding is my bloody throat - first thing in the morning it is dry and feels like razor blades have been stuffed down there! A glass of water (with some Metamucil for regularity!) and it feels back to its normal state of soreness, which I must say has just started to improve today by about 20% (here's hoping!).

    I've had a few muscle spasms up the back of the neck but nothing that has me heading for the pharmacy on my kitchen bench. My prescribed med profile is 2 paracetamol, 1 meloxicam, 1 lyrica and 1 oxycodone - that is my brekkie and dinner requirement. Lunch is just 2 paracetamol and that's it. It seems to be working fine for me but will run out by Monday next week for the oxycodone and my doc visit is on Tuesday - see how I go as that is the pain smashing one on a slow release basis.

    I'm happy, I'm getting bored around the house already - but I am taking it so easy its not funny - I am not allowed to do anything at all around the house - not even put my dishes in the dishwasher! I love my wife - she worries more for me thatn I do for me as she knows I will keep testing my boundaries. But I have promised walking only for the first 6 weeks as my only form of exercise, then 6 weeks of spin bike plus walking, then 6 weeks of swimming/spin biking on alternate days. I like having goals - they keep me focussed.

    I don't expect to always feel this good - based on what I have read on these forums there will be up and down days (thanks Doug for the reminder - needed it). I guess it is not what the down day is though but how I deal with it that will define that day's outcome...for me anyway.

    Love everybody on this forum - you keep me sane and keep me wanting to make myself better. I hope by writing how I feel and what I am up to it is helping those about to go in for surgery, and it helps me evaluate myself along the way.

    Take care of yourselves until tomorrow!

    Love Rich
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Thanks Richard, coffee in hand I hoped to read you progress today. I will be having my surg June 9 then I too will be on the other side. This place helps me to fear less the worst possible scenario and hope for the best. I imagine your mental state has a lot to do with your recovery even to the point of your fear level before undergoing anesthesia. Just my humble opinion..could be completely wrong.
  • RichardARRichardA Posts: 149
    edited 04/24/2015 - 11:28 AM
    Hey good luck with your surgery in June - I will be thinking of you and looking forward to hearing how you recover and be there to offer support as required!
    I found surgery pre-op stuff unremarkable in every facet - even the post surgery recovery room stuff there was a sense of normality going on - I heard the nurses talking about weight loss and the latest diet fad and whether it was good or not, who hasd tried it etc etc...and as I woke up they spent a couple of minutes tending to me then went back to their conversation again...so all just very very normal stuff. I just weny with the flow.
    The night before pre-op they had me do all sorts of things over a couple f hours, as follows:
    They wanted me to go get a chest Xray, so I went and got one with them.
    They wanted some of my precious blood, so I let them take some.
    Then somebody else wanted my blood pressure and heart rate, so I let them do that.
    Then a young and good looking NS came in (female!) and told me all about the risks, so I let them say their bit while I snuck in perves at two very nice legs! Sorry, Im a red blooded male and I saw the tubes of blood the night before to prove it!
    Then Gill, my nurse for my stay came in, sat on the bed and we just chatted about stuff and she was fantastic.
    Then I read for a bit, got bored, went to bed and listened to the bloke next to me snore the whole damn night!
    Pretty boring pre-op night.

    Pre surgery was the same - I ended up falling sleep in the surgery "waiting room" (the anaesthetic room) because they took so long getting organised. All they wanted there was 3 needles in my arm and didn't feel any of them.
    Then I took 3 breaths of oxygen and the third one I went out like a light.

    So its all a bit ho hum in my view - I just went with the flow.

    But then again I always just had my mind attuned to being home and what I was going to do every day to help myself recover...if that's a mental state ivym then I definitely had a mental state.... about getting better....

    Talk to you and everybody else later on tonight!

    Love Rich
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Hi Rich,
    Scheduled for same surgery in about 2 weeks. My disc herniated about 7 weeks ago and I already scheduled the surgery. Either you have a super high pain threshold or maybe I am a big baby. :)
    No neck pain at all full range of motion in neck just C7 radiculopathy that is so painful. I am taking dilaudid and valium really trying to cut back , throwing back a few motrin too. But I cannot live with this arm pain. I will be driving in my car and just be crying because of how much it hurts. I also cannot keep taking these narcotics. They started me on oxycodone and soma which did nothing for my pain for 2 weeks. Now I take 2 mg dilaudid and 5 mg valium about 4 times a day.
    After reading your post I am concerned about your very sore neck and that you actually saw blood. I think I have a narrow esophagus so that is one thing that I want my Doc to check out wither see an ENT DOC prior to surgery . It seems like it is really effecting what you can eat. Only really soft things? My surgeon did tell me that I may have some hoarseness and some swelling in the throat. Do you have any of those symptoms?
    I was so constipated in the beginning. I used a bottle of magnesium citrate and that did the trick. Now I use 1 senna pill and 1 tab colace and if necessary use Miralax . Darn pain meds block you up.
    I have been using a lot of ice on my arm when I have flare ups and that seems to help some too as well as letting the steaming hot water run down my arm and upper back in the shower. Thanks so much for posting and I was so impressed by the distance that you are walking already. Keep up the great work.
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