Someone sent me a private message asking about my surgery and recovery. As I was replying I realized sharing my story may help others so here is most of what I wrote.
I had my surgery 1 year ago Oct 7th, The most difficult time I had was in the hospital because of the pain and expectations of the nurses. My stay was 5 days. I slept in a recliner at the hospital and in an overstuffed chair in my livingroom for 3 months. Laying down was the worst especially with the hard collar! However, with the help of meds, my recovery went very well. I followed some advise I found on spine health, purchasing a number of items from a surgery list, most of which I didn't use or need at all. I took too many things to the hospital, but better safe than sorry. While in the hospital I was not concerned with personal hygiene due to the pain, so I didn't use many of the toiletries I brought along. Once I was home, it was easier to clean up. The things that helped the most were comfortable lounge wear with button down shirts. A comfortable chair to sleep in, snack trays, the grabber thing I got in the hospital (I used it for everything, even turning the light on and off) and drinking lots and lots of water. My family was a big help too - I couldn't do most things for 4 weeks. I was able to eat solids the 3rd day after surgery, never had to eat only soft foods because I had no problem swallowing. That was a surprise. I had a lump in my throat but it didn't prevent me from enjoying food. I mainly stayed in this chair with blankets and pillows supporting and surrounding me. I showered with the collar on, didn't need help in or after the shower until I had to take the collar off to change the pads. The incision on the back of my neck was not healing properly in one spot so I needed to go to a wound clinic and my husband had to change a special dressing for me every day for about 3 weeks. Then it healed fine. I started driving 6 weeks after surgery with a soft collar, and when I was willing to stop all the medications (they made me loopy). I was on oxycodone, valium, baclofen, and neurontin. The oxy I took for only 3 weeks. I needed more of the muscle relaxer and nerve pain meds than anything else. After my 6 week visit to the neuro-surgeon I was sent to physical therapy twice a week for 8 weeks. The PT helped a lot to improve range of motion and it especially helped if and when I did some of the exercises at home. The best part was when I would get a shoulder and neck massage. it really loosened things up before the stretching. There was a time I had pain in the joints of my hands and elbows and the NS thought it might be Arthritis and wanted me to see an RA specialist, but I didn't believe it, so I never went and after a couple of months that pain stopped. I do get a little pain in my hands sometimes, but it always goes away. All in all, I am very happy I had the surgery. I have 90% range of motion which is surprising to me after hearing that many are left with a minimum amount of ROM - I can even look up at the sky!. I am now working full-time sitting at a computer most of the day. Some days I have trouble keying with my left hand, but I have learned to compensate for it. I can't bend over often either or lift anything. I have some nerve damage in my left hand and arm, and lost a lot of muscle mass in both. I still have trouble with a lot of things, buttoning clothes, holding items, trying to pick up things, closing my necklaces, cutting meat, turning pages of a book or magazine. But I know if I didn't have this surgery I probably would not be able to use my hand at all. I couple of months ago, I started to have some tingling in my arm again, and I am not 100% pain free. If I lift something that is too heavy, carry packages the wrong way, or spend a lot of time turning my head to the left, I have pain, but I usually don't take any meds for it. Often, it goes away on its own after a day or two. My NS said I recovered well and quickly so I am very fortunate. After reading many writings of others who had surgery and the problems they had with recovery, I was scared. But mine really went very smoothly. My NS told me before the surgery my chances of being fully recovered were 40%-60%, and I can happily say it is more like 20%-80% so I do not complain. As a matter of fact, I joke that my neck is bionic, or it was rebuilt or tell people to call me metal neck. I hope my story will help those facing surgery or those in recovery. If you have any questions please feel free to write back or contact me privately. Best wishes to all!