I am currently recovering from a spinal fusion on January 7, 2014, anterior and posterior, C2 through T3 with bone grafts at 3 or 4 levels and hardware from top to bottom. I had previously had anterior cervical fusion of C5-6 & C6-7 back in 1999. I am a 51-year-old female who has worked in healthcare for over 30 years.
For the last few years I had been having upper back and arm/shoulder issues, bilaterally. Those would be treated by my primary care doc with steroids, muscle relaxants and pain meds and I would get better. Recently, I had had some very vague health issues and just felt like something wasn't right in my body. I had honestly not even considered spinal issues, even with occasional pain, weakness and numbness in either arm and/or fingers. One day, I was applying a new Pikepass sticker to the inside of my windshield using both arms and looking up to do it when both arms went completely numb and weak. I got out of the car and called my husband and tried to calm down. The numbness/weakness subsided, but I knew immediately it was a spinal issue. So I went to the ER and had an MRI.
There were several problems, a couple of ruptured discs, but the main issue was compression of the spinal cord, anteriorly and posteriorly, at the C3 level. This was a Friday evening and the neurosurgeon on call told them to give me an IV steroid injection, apply a collar and to call him Monday morning. Apparently he viewed my MRI that evening, because he called me at home and told me to be at his office first thing Monday.....moments later, he called me back and said after reconsidering that he wanted me to meet him at his office the next morning (Saturday). We met, went over my history and images and he told me I would need surgery, but there were several options and he wanted to consult with a colleague. I met with the colleague and it was decided to do the extensive surgery described above. He has emphasized all along that this was done to stop the progression of my problems, not necessarily to make them better. I do have high hopes for relief from the pain I am still having in my arms and upper back as I heal from surgery. I also hope to have good range of motion.
I have had a few issues with getting medications right to control my pain. Currently I am taking Lortab 10 to 20 mg every 4 hours (or longer if possible) and Robaxin every 6 hours. When I was released from the hospital, I was sent home with oxycodone 5-20 mg, Lortab 7.5-15 mg and was to alternate those every 4 hours along with the Robaxin. When I had needed refills, the doc wanted me to just stay on the oxydocone, but it was just too strong for me to take every 4 hours. I had problems trying to get them to give me Lortab after that as they had written a script for 100 tablets of the 5 mg oxycodone just a few days prior. I literally had to take the bottle of remaining oxycodone to the office for the to count and destroy before they would give me the Lortab. I realize the necessity for that type of action, but I tell you I was livid. I don't like to be suspect of doing anything illegal.
I had my 3 week post op visit yesterday. The surgeon says I can go back to work when I feel like it. I told him I was nowhere near ready to go back. He also isn't sure he likes the way one of the screws looks on my xray, so I will go back in 3 weeks to re-xray and talk about going back to work. He also told me I could start weaning myself off of my Aspen collar starting next week.....which I fear, as I am so uncomfortable without it right now. He assured me that although his nurse called in my Lortab at 10 mg every 4 hours, that I could take 15 or 20 mg if needed and getting a refill would not be a problem if they run out before the original dosage would normally run out. Most of the time, I can keep myself comfortable with 10 mg during the day. But in the evenings and at night, I have been taking 15-20 mg. Some of my discomfort seems to be muscular and I'm not sure the Robaxin is really doing that great of a job. I admit to taking a Flexeril (a PRN prescription I have used for a couple of years from my PCP), but I am careful not to take it close to a time when I have taken a Robaxin. The Flexeril just seems to work better. I will discuss that with the doc next time I have a chance.
I don't know what I expect from this forum, honestly. I just know this has been the worst experience of my life. I don't know if I will EVER feel like I will be ready to go back to work. I am still having issues with my arms and hands and fear they may be permanent. I am worried about what range of motion I will retain after I am healed completely. I did have good range of motion after my first surgery and am optimistic. The surgeon says it may be 40 degrees to either side.
My surgeon has never brought up any conversation regarding any disability I may have. But I know my husband and I discussed that possibility for the first time this evening. I feel like it would be a personal victory for myself to be able to return to work, but I also don't want to struggle and work for 15-20 years in pain until I can retire. I work in a physician's office and luckily don't have too many instances where I need to lift or move patients like I have in the past while working in hospitals.
A little more about myself. I am essentially healthy. I do have high blood pressure, slight asthma and severe osteo and degenerative arthritis. I had a lumbar laminectomy in 1994 and still have occasional issues with my lower back, but nothing I can't handle. I have been told I will need a right knee replacement at some point in my life, but to wait as long as possible. Within the last 3 years, I have made an effort to take better care of myself, eat nutritionally and exercise. I lost 40 pounds in the process and am so thankful that I did before having to go through my current issues.
I look forward to interacting with others here and hopefully getting some good advice and possibly even helping others who might be in a situation similar to mine.
(I had wanted to post my xrays to show the levels effected, but don't see a way to insert photos into a post.)
ETA: I should mention that 2 weeks before my final injury from using my arms in the car, I had slipped and fallen on ice outside of my house. I hit on my bottom, but I'm sure my neck made a whiplash type motion when I went down. At the time, all I had was a bruised pride and posterior. But my doc agrees that may have started the process.