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ACDF Surgery C6-C7 , now with weakened C5 also being done

edited 10/11/2015 - 3:27 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all. 31 year old female here. What a long, strange journey it has been. Over the last 10 years I have pretty much gone from every doctor from here to hell and back. Some just told me to get lost, it wasn't worth doing anything about... but over the last 2 years the pain has gotten unbearable. I'm a college grad, but since graduation 6 years ago I have not been able to find full or even part time employment because of my limitations. I have also been getting jerked around by insurance companies and doctors who look at me and say things like "I'm just a woman seeking attention and drugs" and they can't possibly understand what chronic, worsening pain could possibly feel like unless they too were in my shoes, feeling what I feel on a daily basis, not wanting to get out of bed some days because the pain is just too much to handle.

January 2015: After losing my Dad's insurance and not getting much of any care from the state Medi-Cal system, one doctor even yelling at me when I got frustrated with the mistreatment saying "What do you want! What do you want from me? I do everything for you. If you don't think it's good enough, find another doctor or get better insurance!" I went storming out of the office, ready to just end my life. No one seemed to give a damn about me. Say what you want about "Obamacare", but when that rolled around, my Grandma enrolled me in an outside PPO plan and pays for it with her own money since I am jobless. It's still not great, apparently whole hospitals and doctors can still decide not to accept it because it's not good enough to them, so I feel like I get screwed no matter what I do. Again frustration set in. 10 years of suffering.

Went to a doctor a few months ago who just recently decided to take insurance and recommended me for an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion of my herniated disc at C6-C7 and said my C5 was going the same way. He said he could offer me 90% improvement from where I'm at to where I can be. Chronic pain, stiffness, pain in neck, shoulder, now radiating arm pain and finger weakness in left side. Can't drive because of lack of movement in my arm and neck on left side, complete lock up. I wanted to just schedule the surgery ASAP, but the closest, most prominent hospital in my area was the only one he operated out of and they have informed me they just don't accept my insurance at all.

Last month in sheer desperation, I searched and searched all over and FINALLY found an orthopedic surgeon who took my insurance and worked out of a hospital about 15 miles away who was also on my policy. Scheduled an appointment and he also agreed, ACDF was the best possible choice for my condition. I also have arthritis, so he suggested taking a bit of hip bone out to put in with the graft so it would fuse better. The other doctor did not suggest this option. I've already gotten all the pre-op bloodwork and clearance from my GP and looks like I'll be scheduled to go in for surgery at some point before the month of October is up. Now the anxiety is setting in.

I am relieved that someone says they can do something to ease this chronic pain I have been experiencing since even before college. I would like to pursue a Master's Degree at some point but just felt physically unable to, I barely clawed my way through college as it was. I'm scared though because of the pain and all the things that could go wrong. I still live at home, but my Mom is not very reliable for in-home care and neither is my brother or Grandma, so I feel like me being down for so long is going to be difficult as I am just going to have to take care of myself .

Please, anyone with any insight into their experiences would be most appreciated. I've heard about the pain swallowing and not being able to sleep and I am trying to figure out the best ways to take care of myself should my family fall short in the caring department. I'm still waiting, come Monday or Tuesday of next week for the Dr. to call and schedule the surgery date. Everyone keeps asking "When's your surgery?" and I still don't have a concrete date. Waiting on insurance approval and for Ortho Surgeon to get all the pre-op materials from GP's office. I'm on hold. Waiting for things to happen, but dreading when they do. So worried about the pain and the after care and all the what ifs? I've had surgery before on my knee, but at least I could still crutch myself around, with the neck I'm feeling a bit more apprehensive about not being able to turn my head or sleep on my side, or even cook dinner for myself when Mom is down for the count.

I know I can make myself crazy reading every bit and piece about this on the internet, but I also just want to be informed about what I'm getting into. The pain is getting so bad, some nights I can't sleep at all. So I'm going to bite the bullet and do it, but still I am anxious as all get out. Surgery is surgery, it's no walk in the park. But 10 years of this, is too much. I want to go out and work and have a normal job and not be in pain all the time. I want to help out more around the house with my aged Grandma and Mom, but it's getting to the point where I'm so weak in my left (dominant) hand that I can't lift anything over more than a jug of milk without almost dropping it. I grabbed a coffee cup from a high cabinet and completely dropped it, sending glass everywhere. Grocery store shopping and laundry are nearly impossible.

What are your experiences with feeding, cooking, bathing, general activity at all? I've heard some people wear soft collars and some do hard collars, which aren't comfortable. I've also heard of a bone growth stimulating device, would that be recommended? I go back in to see him possible next week and will probably be in surgery before Halloween, he seems ready to get the ball rolling. I know he said bring a list of questions beforehand, but there are so many questions to ask, I'm getting worked up! Anything you can tell me would be great, especially if you've already had this done yourselves, account for anything you may not have asked the first time or you have to figure out as you went along to consider. This doctor seems to know what he is doing and I trust him, I do, but I had a friend who went in for brain surgery in July to correct her seizures and now she's in a coma and they want to pull the plug on her, so understandably that was a frazzling incident which set me off. Surgery is scary and makes you vulnerable. But I'm hoping, since my kneecap dislocated on me in the 8th grade, it took two surgeries to repair the damage and now I haven't had any relapses there. No pain, no gain?
If what does not kill us only makes us stronger, then I should be able to benchpress a damn bus by now!


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    Welcome to Spine-Health
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  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    There is a post titled..post op must haves...
    You can find it with the search on this site, upper right on page.
    You may find it very helpful!

    There are also very helpful article, videos, and other posts that may be informative to you.
    Just use search and type in your concerns.
    Some may lead you to questions that may come to mind to ask doctor.
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