I am a 48YO active, fit male who just had C4-6 ACDF surgery 72 hours ago. It was an urgent, quick decision because the NS said my spinal cord was badly compressed and needed immediate decompression. I learned my diagnosis on 7/15/16 and had the surgery on 7/28/16 after consultation with one NS who instilled a high degree of confidence in me without being cocky about it.
I was home from the hospital after an overnight stay and no complications. Swallowing difficult (soft foods only right now) but that was as predicted. I had prepared myself for worse pain but it is quite bearable and I did not (and do not plan to) fill the Rx for narcotics that I was given. Tylenol is working just fine as needed right now. Being upright and moving is far more comfortable than laying down and trying to find a workable sleeping position for the time being. I did not have much pain pre-op, but degenerating balance and fine motor skills issues, which seem resolved. I am literally feeling stronger/better with each hour. Basically, my restrictions in the short term are not to do anything stupid movement-wise, no driving, and to wear the brace unless I am showering or sleeping. Yesterday I walked 5 miles (broken up into 3 walks) and plan on doing the same again today. I plan on working from home within a day or two.
One week ago I was a mental basket case reading some of the fearful outcomes I read on these message boards and elsewhere online. I have two pieces of advice for anyone contemplating a similar surgery:
1) Be very aware that ANY online message board or forum for ANY medical condition is UNDER-REPRESENTED in terms of people who have good outcomes. By that I mean take everything you read with a grain of salt--the people who have good outcomes generally don't sit around posting on health forums. They are out enjoying life and recovering from successful procedures. There are PLENTY of good, positive outcomes that you don't read about because they never get written.
2) When reading about people's personal experiences with surgeries, try to find descriptions of people whose lifestyle most closely matches yours. In retrospect, I am finding that my own post-op experiences more closely match the ones I read about from other fit, active males in middle age. Most of the others only served to scare/worry me--they were not relevant to what I was going through, and had no bearing on mentally preparing me for surgery.
Hope this helps--best of luck--use your research time online wisely and smartly! Preparation is good, but too much Dr. Google can lead to unneeded stress.