Monday, December 14, 2009

I just need little a cheering up today

About 14 months ago I had an ACF - an Anterior Cervical Fusion. Left me with a nice 4 inch long scar on the front of my neck, and a plate in my neck.

I had fallen about 3 months before that - I was trying to relocate some beads from my bedroom, which was getting far too crowded and cluttered, to my actual, designated, fully furnished 900 square foot beading studio - which is just down a long hall from the bedroom, in the bonus room over my garage, and required me to step down 2 whole stairs, carpeted stairs, to get to the room. I just preferred to do all my beading in the bedroom, curled up in my comfy bed, with my TV, and all my remotes, and room for Bailey to sit on the bed and pout while I ignored him.

But I just had too much crap in the bedroom, so I decided to move some beads into the bead studio. And on my first trip, my socked-foot hit the top of the carpeted stair wrong, and my feet flew out from under me, and my ass hit that top step at about 900 miles an hour, and about 9000 pounds per square inch.

And since I was carrying about 8 gorgeous lampwork beads in my left hand, my only thought at the time was "Save the Beads!!!!" - so I threw down my right arm to catch myself, and felt my entire right arm jam up into my neck.

And I was sore for a few days.

And then the neck pain, and the numbness and tingling in my left arm set in.

I waited about 4-5 months, and finally saw my doctor, and had the MRI, which showed the massive disc herniation at C5/6. He told me I could have surgery, or opt for some epidural steroid injections, but I should realize (which I already did, since I have a medical background) that if the epidural steroid injections worked, they were just a short term fix, and meant that surgery was really the only way to fix the issue.

So I had a couple of the injections, they worked, and everyone conferred and told me I had to have the surgery.

Surgery is really no big deal to me (other than paying for it on a struggling beader's "salary"), and the surgeon reassured me with statistics such as "95% of my patients wake up from the surgery symptom- and pain-free, and remain that way."

So I had the surgery in October 2008.

Most folks miss 4 to 8 weeks of work following this procedure - I missed 3 days (4, if you include the day of the surgery). Because I had just bought the bead store, and had (and still have) no employees - so if I wasn't there, the store wasn't open, and that really has a negative effect on getting the bills paid...

And of course, I was one of the other 5% - the tingling and numbness in my arm resolved, but the neck pain, while it kind of changed, and was maybe a little more tolerable, never went away.

When I went for my 6 week post-op visit, I was still having significant pain (and was supposed to be in that 95% having zero pain) - and the surgeon told me that if I was still having pain in 6 weeks, I would need to start Physical Therapy.

And so I became what is known in medical parlance as "lost to follow-op" - meaning I just quit going back. I had suffered from chronic neck pain for at least 17 years by this point, and had been through at least 3 full courses of physical therapy for it, with absolutely NO improvement, and I just didn't feel like ponying up the cash, on my meager beading income, for what I felt like would be a lost cause.
And so my neck pain remained constant, and unchanged - Not as bad as it had been pre-op, but still a pain in the neck, quite literally.

Then about 12 weeks ago I developed what appeared to be a simple case of tendonitis in my right elbow. Tendonitis is usually a repetitive motion injury, and that didn't apply, but all the symptoms fit, so I returned to Orthopedist #1, and he agreed with my diagnosis, and gave me a cortisone injection into my elbow, and instead of making it better, it got worse. And worse.

So I went back to him 8 weeks later, and confessed about the lingering neck pain, and how it was actually quite a lot worse now, to the point where I get frequent headaches, and often can't even turn my head left, right, up, or down, and he ordered an MRI. (of my neck - not my elbow)

He called me today, and told me I have disc herniation at C6/7, with significant impingement on the nerve root, and need to see the neck surgeon again. (Ortho #1 does all ortho surgeries except the neck and back).

I asked him if we could try the epidural steroid injections again instead, and he said sure - and evidently the anesthesiologist who does them was standing there next to him, because they said if I could come to the office in an hour, they would go ahead a give me one.

So I show up, and the anesthesiologist (the pain management specialist) does a full exam, strongly feels that my elbow pain is still your basic garden variety tendonitis and completely unrelated to my herniated disc, but agrees that I need neck surgery - but he'll go ahead and do the epidural steroid injection, both on a therapeutic basis (meaning I'll hopefully get some relief) and on a diagnostic basis (meaning that if my neck pain and/or elbow pain resolve, then he knows they are coming from the disc herniation).

I get the shot, and within 30 minutes the elbow pain is gone.

But my neck pain is now 100% worse. But this is to be expected, from all the manipulating he did in there -

And, on an unrelated note, my best friend died last week from complication of a stroke she suffered 8 months ago.

So I'm sitting here on some pain medication, and having a little pity party - no balloons, but I am eating chocolate cookies (and diet coke!) for dinner, and posting 3 pictures that make me feel better.

Thanks for listening. Enjoy my pictures!


Carol Dean said...

Oh, sufferin' succotash! :( You deserve a giant, super gentle Hug! I am so sorry you are going through all of this (as someone with "slipped" C5/6) and that you have lost your dear friend. And the fact that the holidays are staring at you probably doesn't help one iota. I hope Bailey brings you some comfort.

Sweet Freedom said...

Thanks CD - I appreciate your support. My neck is about 95% better now, and unless I can talk the anesthesiologist into continuing to do the injections every 3 weeks (HA! - the max you can have is 3 per year), I'm looking at surgery around the first of next year. Then I'll be fused at 2 levels! Not great when so much of your work requires looking down!

But I did get some really fantastic news today - I decided I had nothing to lose, so I went to the bead shop's landlord, and pleaded my case to be allowed to bring Bailey to work with me everyday. (the lease has a FIRM no pets policy) - I offered to pay a security deposit, and take out insurance for dog-related injuries (as if Bailey would bite anyone), and to have pest control come treat the building every month) - I was really begging.

And 2 hours later they came in and told me it was OK, and I didn't have to do any of those things I had offered - so then I spent about 10 minutes doing some happy-crying!

And Mr. Bailey will start coming to work with me tomorrow!

PussDaddy said...

Oh my gosh, you have certainly been through a lot. I am so sorry to hear it. Maybe you went back to work too fast. You are braver than I am, any kind of surgery or medical procedure just terrifies me, even just getting an IV. I sure hope that they will fix this and all your pain will end. Also, I want to say that I think Bailey is one of the cutest things I have ever seen. He is really adorable. I am glad they are letting you bring him to work. I am also so sorry to hear about your best friend. Sometimes it seems like when it rains, it pours, almost literally. I sure hope things get better for you. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.


Sweet Freedom said...

Thanks for your kindwords, PD - I am still a little weepy about the prospect of taking Bailey to work everyday - it is just so much fair to him! His entire life he has been home alone on week days for 10 to 14 hours, and I would often be too tired to play with him once I finally got home, and I see a real resurgence in our relationship, starting tomorrow.

He's pouting tonight, because I just gave him a bath, and won't let him go roll around the back yard.

Thanks again - hope you find time to stop by again!