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firefighting after 3 level acdf

firemama06ffiremama06 Posts: 2
edited 05/08/2015 - 1:17 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all
I am a 32 y/o female who has been a volunteer firefighter/paramedic for 9 years. This is my passion. I am facing a 3 level acdf (c4-7). I have been dealing with arm/neck pain for 3 yrs after a MVA as well as numbness and weakness for the past year. I have not been online since Sept.2014. I am wondering if I will ever be able to go interior again....or act as a paramedic. My surgeon hates my neck and really doesn't want to do the surgery, because he says I am too young!!! I just want to enjoy my life and family time again, hopefully get back online as a paid firefighter again.
I would love to hear from anyone who is active outdoors and has faced a similar surgery.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I am so sorry you are having to face this but you are not facing it alone. You will have lots of support here. I think my issues are similar to yours. I am facing ACDF C4/5, 5/6, 6/7 with removal (corpectomy) of C4. Ugh! I'm sure my Dr hates my neck too. My surgery is to be June 9 so I will keep you posted. In the meantime, I am sending healing thoughts and prayers your way. {{{HUGS}}}
  • Surgery is scheduled for June 25th. We have decided to only fuse c4-5 and Waite to see how the other two do.I am looking for advice on what helps with post op. Anything would be greatly appreciated.
  • Get a second opinion!

    My neck fusion in 04 C5/6/7 was an immediate fix for the numbing arms. I really loved it. The lost of motion was minimal but ten years later the adjoining levels are doing the same things to my arms. And thumbs etc. you will likely chase the C levels as well. My lumbar surgery was supposed to be two level L4/5/S1 but at preop he said he was only doing the lower. I've regretted it ever since and four years later I'm about to go again.
    Second opinion.....
  • Hi there! I had c6/7 fused 9 weeks ago and started a daily thread "C6/7 ACDF My pre and post surgery recovery" in the surgery recovery forum. A heap of awesome people have jumped onboard and we openly share everything about our recovery from bedroom antics to trying to get through the day without pain sometimes!!! It may answer some questions you have and we think it is pretty good therapy for us to journal our recovery and share "issues".

    Welcome to read it of course!!!

    Take care and good luck...Rich
    C6/7 ACDF 18th April 2015 after 8 years of mucking around pretending it was something else...
  • Hi Firemama,
    I am so glad that I had my single level fusion. Unlike many people I had mine done 2 months after my c7 disc exploded in my neck. I had a ACDF C6-7 and woke up with all om my left arm pain gone. I have a tiny bit of numbness in my left thumb and first two finger tips but that is even improving. My strength is coming back in my arm. I am wearing a bone stimulator to hopefully speed up the fusion process. I too have bulging discs at c5, 4 and 3 that he left alone. If it is that single level that your Doc feels is causing most of the problem I think you will feel great progress after surgery. Post op advice- ask doc to put water proof dressing on after surgery so you can shower, first few days eating will be rough soups, smoothies milk shakes. By day three I was eating normal foods but in really small pieces. You will likely have lifting precautions get help with heavy things. I cannot lift greater than 15 pounds still 5 weeks post. Wishing you a successful surgery and great weekend.
  • Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I am a pretty active 49 year old. I am a PT and I work in a nursing home so lifting is required. I also still play pretty competitive softball. My Doc said I could get back to it in 3 months post surgery. I hope he is right.
  • …and if I were to wake up from some sort of 2 month-sleep today and someone had told me that I'd been in the hospital for 2 days and had the surgery, I would have told them they're lying because I'm totally recovered (and almost 100% fused). I'm a pretty active person - summited Mera Peak (Nepal) in 2012, always out hiking, work out on treadmill or stationary bike 1.5 hours a day x 5 days/week, running around…and I'm 58 years old. I think your weight and physical condition pre-surgery matters immensely. You're young, strong, healthy (how else could you be a firefighter) - if you've got a good surgeon, you should be totally fine. I couldn't tolerate any sort of morphine drip in the hospital, so I was just given Norco pills. I was off ALL pain meds - even Tylenol - after 1 week. And that's with a Mobi C-disc, two artificial bone graft spacers, one anterior plate, six screws and a PEEK cage holding it all together. Now, my bone quality is generally lousy, so the orthopod (the great Brian Grossman of SCOI in LA) told hubby that it was like "pushing screws into chewing gum." But lo and behold, with the Biomet bone growth stimulator I started wearing after one month (I insisted, not the doc), the sermorelin I'm on (pituitary secretagogue, went on it 1.5 months prior to the surgery), and the shape I'm in (5'7, weigh 120), my body just said, "oh well" and kept on going. Surgeon couldn't believe it the other day - I'm almost 100% fused. I felt a bit weird after the surgery because for about 2 weeks, I had some level 3-4 pain in my arms where there previously had been none (just numbness). But we did a CT scan and everything was fine - just postop pain. It goes away after a while and you just forget you ever had anything done.

    One thing I would advise - get liquid vitamins because you won't be able to swallow anything like a big pill for a while - almost two months for me. Also, for the scar - get Biocorneum + SPF 30 - amazing scar gel. Pricy but so worth it. Buy from plastic surgeon (or online but beware of fakes on Amazon and such.) I didn't rent a recliner like many say you should, and I was fine with that. I piled a bunch of pillows (latex - great for no pressure) on my bed and slept more or less upright for 6 weeks. I had to wear a stiff plastic (Aspen) collar for 6 weeks as well. Doc told me to take it off at night, but I slept with it on and basically only removed it for showering. The worst thing that ever happened to me was that I sort of blacked out in the shower the first time I went to wash my hair - I was in there for too long, it got steamy and I nearly passed out. Hubby was there to catch me though. The worst thing about the surgery in general is that you can't do anything by yourself for a while - very frustrating. Not blow dry your hair, not lift anything significant - it's a bummer for us active people. But honestly - liposuction of 50 cc from my waist was worse - I was in throbbing pain for days. Just get the surgery done - you'll do FINE. :-)
  • It's alway great to hear a successful and encouraging surgery story. Thank you for sharing yours.
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