Hello all! I'm so glad to have found this website and forum. I'm relatively new to the whole world of spinal issues, but it certainly does take over your whole life! So, here's my story...
I'm a 34 year old mom, separated, work for an insurance company (office job), and have a farily calm and boring life.
One day I was going back to work from lunch. There were two cars in the left lane, and me in the right. Up ahead of us in the left lane, a van was stopped, so the car in front of the one next to me swerved into my lane to avoid it. Then the SUV next to me did the same, totally forgetting I was there. I had to slam on the breaks and swerve to the right to avoid being hit. Everything went in slow motion, and I was able to hit the horn, swerve, and slam the break all at the same time. I'm still amazed that our cars didn't touch and I didn't hit the high curb either (the road was being re-paved, so the curb was extra high). I drove away pretty freaked out, but unblemished, non-the less. The other driver stopped at the next light and apologized to me. I told him he scared the poo out of me, but said, "No worries...it happens to the best of us." I drove off thinking I had narrowly escaped a huge pain in the neck. HA! What I was left with was exactly that!!
Funny thing is, when I woke up with a stiff neck the next day, I never thought it had to do with the near miss. I totally put it out of my mind. I thought I had slept wrong, as that happens to me from time to time. It wasn't even an especially bad stiff neck. It worsened over time, and included this strange pulling feeling through my whole left arm and a slight on and off again numbing of my left hand. After two weeks, I finally went to the doctor, who thought I either damaged ligaments in my shoulder, or had a bad muscle sprain. It wasn't until the day of my appointment that the light bulb went off above my head...the almost accident!!! That's the cause of this!!! The doctor said to give it two more weeks, gave me a muscle relaxer, and scheduled me for physical therapy 3 times a week. He said if there was no improvement, we'd look into the "scary tests."
So, I took the muscle relaxer for a few days, but they make me tired and loopy and don't help with the pain or strange sensations at all, which made me decide to put them aside. I started taking Motrin regularly, and started the physical therapy. Things started to gradually get better, and I was very pleased. I figured the PT was the solution, and I didn't need the drugs at all. I had a follow up scheduled for two weeks later, which marked one month from the incident.
The day of my follow up appt, I woke up before my alarm clock went off. I felt kind of funny, but laid there a little while planning out my work day. When I tried to get out of bed, I was hit with the most agonizing pain in my neck, shoulder, and arm. I got up, thinking I had again slept wrong, but it was baaaaaad. I ran downstairs and woke up my sister, who is a massage therapist. We share a house...she has the lower level, we have the upper level. She said I had muscle spasms all over the place, and I was incredibly tight.
Since I had my follow up appt later that day, I considered myself very lucky that I had a chance to tell my Doctor what was going on. The pain never let up the entire day, and I explained everything to him. He stuck to his sprained muscle theory, told me to take twice the reccomended dosage of Extra Strength Tylenol, and to continue my muscle relaxers. He said there would be definite signs if it was damage to my ligaments, so he didn't think it was worth doing any of the "scary tests." I left very bewildered, because I knew something more was going on.
I had to go home and finish packing for a vacation that I had planned months previously and couldn't cancel. Our flight out was at 1:15 the next day. Everyone in the family came over to help me out because I could barely move, and my dad gave me some Darvocet he had left over from his recent surgery. I took one, which didn't help at all, but I was scared to take more...I'm not too keen on taking stuff other people have been prescribed, especially since I wasn't sure if it would interact with the muscle relaxer, which I started taking again on Tuesday, hoping it would help.
Wednesday morning it was worse. I was totally freaking out, so I called my other sister to come take me to prompt care. They open early, and I knew I'd get in. I never would have gotten to see my own doctor in time to catch my flight. THIS doctor took me much more seriously. He immediately gave me a shot of Toradol (sp?), took x-rays of my neck, worte me a prescription for Tylenol with Codeine, gave me a steroid packet to take for 6 days, and told me to keep taking the muscle relaxers. The x-ray showed that my neck had no natural curve as it is supposed to, but instead was stick straight. He also said I needed an MRI, and said he'd have it scheduled for the day after we got back from Florida.
The first morning in Florida, I was worse than ever. I took the girls (my daughter and her best friend) down to breakfast and almost passed out. I had to leave them down there alone and go back to bed. The only relief I could get was from laying flat on my back. I took my drugs, then slept away a big part of the day. I felt so badly about the first day of our exciting vacation being so lame for the girls, and I worried that every day was going to be the same or worse, so I finally sent an SOS out to my family to see if anyone could fly down to help me. My big sister was able to get a flight for Friday. Driving was extremely painful for me, so she was able to take us everywhere while I reclined with my memory foam pillow to survive the car rides. She totally saved our vacation. I was able to walk around the amusement parks, and the beach was fantastic, because I just laid there in my most comfortable position, and took about a billion pictures.
As the week went on, I basically stayed about the same. I was out of the prescription Tylenol by Sunday. I felt like I was losing my cool...I was only sleeping an hour or two at a stretch, and had been in non-stop pain for a week. I've never been so relieved to get home.
Wednesday morning, I had my MRI and was told it would be two days for the results. Meanwhile, I called my regular doctor to tell him what had gone down with the prompt care doctor, and to get another prescription since I ran out in Floriday, but he was already gone for the day. A few hours later, I got a call back from prompt care telling me they already got my MRI results back. It showed a completely herniated disc in my C5 C6 area (terms all new to me), and a bulging in the one below that. She said they were referring me to a neurosurgeon, as the doctor thought it was too far gone for a more conservative approach. I asked her what all that meant, and she said it was most likely I'd have to have surgery soon. They said they would take care of making my appointment for me, and that I should expect a call from the neurosurgeon with my day and time. They called me even later and said I had an appointment on the following Wednesday. The prompt care office took much better care of my than my own primary care physician's office did.
I called my regular doctor back and the nurse said I would get a call in the morning, but I never did, as he is out on Thursdays. I called them again, on Thursday hoping to speak with the nurse about getting a prescription, and again never received a call back until the very end of the day telling me that the doctor was booked solid for the rest of the week and on vacation the next week and I could try to make an appointment for Monday with his back up. I was very frustrated, because I thought that since they knew what was causing all the pain, he would know how to give me some relief, but he was unavailable to do so. I gave up, and just stayed in the most comfortable position I could get into, which no longer brought me much relief.
By Friday morning, I was totally overwhelmed. I woke up every hour, was in horrible pain, had nonstop numbness in my thumb, forefinger, and upper arm. I was supposed to be going back to work from my vacation, so I called prompt care as soon as they opened, begging for a prescription, explaining that my regular doctor was unavailable. I didn't think I could survive until Wednesday. I was told to go to the ER. When I got there, they started an IV with two medications, which didn't do anything at all. After an hour or so, a resident neurosurgeon came in and ordered a CT scan to look for bone fragments. The results of that test were good, so he started doing reflex tests and strength tests on me. While I was able to resist him perfectly on my right side, I wasn't able to at all on my left side. I was giving it my all, and he bent my thumb down like it was made out of silly putty. He called the NS, who had already reviewed all of my tests and gave me three options. #1. Be admitted to the hospital immediately, and be sedated until he could find a break in his already full weekend schedule to get to me as soon as possible. #2. Go home for the weekend, and go to the NS's office first thing Monday morning. #3. Wait for my already scheduled Wednesday appointment.
Since I had already been out for over a week, I had too many work issues to tie up, not to mention my daughter to get situated, so I went with option #2.
I saw the NS first thing on Monday morning. He showed me my MRI and explained that my herniation at C5/C6 was very bad, and that he could perform an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion the following morning. I was all for it. I've never experienced pain of this level...not even when I was in labor with my daughter. And nothing touched it. I'm not big on taking pills, and I had been taking them for weeks, with no benefit. I felt like I was going nuts. I told him he could cut me open right there and then if he wanted.
The surgery went very well. The NS and his assistant both said numerous times that my herniation was really bad. They made me feel totally validated, as I've always been kind of a wimp when it comes to pain. They confirmed that I was in excrutiating pain that would have had either one of them down and out. I didn't realize it until they said it that I REALLY needed to hear that.
I still have the numbness in my bicep, thumb, and index finger, but they said that is normal and may take some time. I'm completely fine with that. I'd trade numbness forever for never having that pain again.
I'm changing my primary care physician as soon as I can. This doctor did not take me seriously, put me off, and was unavailable during my darkest hour (ah the drama), but hey, it's true!! He even said "well, you can't be in that much pain, you're smiling," when he came into the exam room for my follow up. I smile at everyone, the dirty bast**d! Even when I'm in pain! Unless I'm sobbing, but even then, I'll manage a pathetic smile hello!
I'm now 5 days post-op. I'm also 5 days nicotine free. I read that fusion is more difficult for smokers, and this pain was nothing I want to play with, so I decided to quit. I quit a few years ago with the help of this awesome website (www.whyquit.com), which promotes quitting cold turkey. It gave me a lot of knowledge...things I never knew about smoking and quitting that helped me quit successfully. I made a huge mistake and smoked one night while I was out with the girls...was back to my pack a day within a month. That was a year ago...so I was really ready to quit again anyway.
I'm taking Tramadol, but I think I'm going to start taking less and less over the next few days. I tried to go med-free two days ago, and that was a big mistake. I wasn't ready at all.
So...that's my novel.
I hope I didn't put anyone to sleep. I have a lot of questions about recovery, so I'll be posting more, but I promise none of them will be this long!