Since I have turned fort-years-old, I have had to deal with one serious health issue after another. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes, prostate cancer, inguinal hernia, and now herniated discs in the lumbar and cervical areas of my spine. Although the hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease), diabetes, prostate cancer, were life altering, and had the potential to kill me if not taken care of, nothing prepared me or could have prepared me for the fight I am going through now with my spine. Cervical stenosis is affecting my ability to walk properly and is adversely affecting my motor control. I have always feared being forced to live and be dependent on other people to take care of and assist me with the basic things in life. Having to have someone feed me, wash and dress me, help me on and off the toilette and wipe my butt after.) I have always said that I would rather die than live this way, as the norm. This fight has become a fight for my life: a fight for the quality of life that makes my life worth living. My fight to remain self-reliant: This is the battle I am fighting with Cervical Stenosis With Myelopathy.
My walk has always been characterized as being very self-assured, perhaps a little cocky. I have always loved to walk and run for the pure pleasure of being able to do it. I would walk ten kilometers along the St. Lawrence River and then turn around and walk the ten kilometers back home, because it relaxed me. I have earned a living in the moving industry for most of my adult life. It is impossible to move furniture and not experience temporary back pain, muscle aches, torn ligaments and joint hyperextended injuries. Having said that, if anyone would have told me that I would not be able to walk properly, or carry a ten pound bag of potatoes, I would have called them a liar. Well they would have been right, because this is where I find myself these days and this is my journey, thus far.
Something Is Wrong
I remember one day about five months ago someone saying to me that I was walking funny; not limping, but almost ready to trip myself. I had not noticed anything, or felt anything was wrong with my walk. Although concerned, I kind of laughed it off, until a couple of days later when I almost tripped myself. It was then that I realized that my left foot was landing directly in front of my right foot when I finished my step. This caused my right toe to come very close to hitting my left heel. My attempts to correct my step set off another chain of involuntary actions.
Within weeks of the miss-stepping, new symptoms began to show up. I began to develop a slight limp, a little ache in my left hip and across the lower back. I thought that I had hurt myself working, or working out, so I put on some A535-Rub and tried to exercise it away. Within days, the limp was pronounced. It was time to see my family doctor. At this point I had no numbness anywhere and I am not in serious pain.
My Family Doctor:
I have had my family doctor for over 25 years. Together along with specialists we have diagnosed, treated and fought hyperthyroidism, diabetes, prostate cancer, and everything in between. I trust his opinion, so it was with a sense of confidence in his diagnostic abilities that I began the journey to discovery what exactly was wrong with me this time around. He like I thought that I probably hurt myself working or working out. I was ordered to get a MRI of the lumbar area of the spine, told me to ease back on the heavy stuff and lose some weight. I had a bit of a belly and he said that the extra weight probably was not helping. I thanked him for his help booked another appointment for three months from then and limped away.
I was back at my family doctor’s office within a month not having had the MRI: Getting an appointment can take up to three months in Quebec. I was now walking with a spastic gait, no control of my left foot and my toes on the left foot would not bend when I required them to. I had numbness to my total left side. Taking a shower was to experience shock until my skin got used to the water touching it. This happened no matter how hot nor cold the water was. My left hand trembled when it got tired and I could no longer count on it to hold even the lightest of things. I was beginning to experience what is referred to as poor rectal tone. My family doctor now knew that something was very wrong and asked me if my family had a history of Parkinson’s Disease. I didn’t think so, but the question scared me, more than being diagnosed with cancer. Now that the problem became a neurology issue I was ordered to take given a referral to a neurologist.
Emotionally everything was getting worse and I was getting nervous. I am only going to work and back and I am walking with a cane. I am feeling less confident and I am avoiding going out at times when I might meet someone I might know. I am starting to feel vulnerable. It is time for me to do research on my computer. It was time to Google all of my symptoms and the could be Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis and see what popped up on the screen. After much reading, I decided that the symptoms of the spinal problem Myelomalacia, best described what was happening to me. I was wrong.
Family doctor ordered MRI of Lumbar Spine done June 7th, 2017 and CT Head done June 9th, 2017. Finally, just before I was due to see the neurologist, I got the call to have the MRI of my lower back done and the CT scan of my head. The MRI of my lower back showed that I had a small bit of arthritis in the left hip and a bit of compression in the L4 and L5 discs. The CT head showed that there was nothing wrong with my brain.
Neurologist Appointment: July 04, 2017. My neurologist only had to see me walk a short distance to her office to know that the problem was not in my lower spine. She looked very worried and ordered a MRI of my Thoracic and Cervical spine, STAT.
Neurologist ordered MRI of Thoracic and Cervical spine done on July 5th, 2017.
July 6th, 2017, I get a call from the neurologist. The results of the Thoracic and Cervical MRI are confusing her. There is evidence of compression, but not enough in her opinion to be causing my symptoms…she would like me to have a head MRI-gado (MRI with Gadolinium-based contrast agents).
Neurologist ordered head MRI-gado done on July 10th, 2017
While the testing was being done, my neurologist:
- called me twice on my cellphone to keep me abreast of what she is doing and what she wants me to do;
- told me that the brain MRI revealed all was okay;
- informed me that there was some compression of the C3 and C4 discs in the cervical spine;
- said she did not see enough damage to be causing my symptoms.
- referred my case to a spinal surgeon.
Appointment for spinal surgeon July 17th, 2017
After three MRIs and an CT scan, every doctor was concerned about the compression in the cervical area of my spine. The spinal surgeon watched very carefully as I walk from the waiting room to his office, a distance of maybe 100 feet. He closed the door flicked on his computer and brought up the images of my cervical spine.
Spine Surgeons Words
“I do not even need to look at the images of your spine to know what is wrong with you, after seeing you walk.” “You have a narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical region caused by a bulging disc. “The compression of the spinal cord, (cervical spinal stenosis) is the cause for your rapidly increasing mobility issues.” “I will give you 2 options.” “Option one, have the surgery I will offer you, or option two, do not take the operation, and be paralyzed.”
At this point he zooms in on the area around the discs that are compressed and shows me exactly where the blockage of spinal fluid is happening. Pointing at the line he says, “See that white line?” “That white is spinal fluid.” “See that gap where there is no white?” “That is where there is no spinal fluid.” “This is happening, because your C3 and C4 are compressed.” “This blockage of spinal fluid is the cause of your involuntary nerve action, muscle weakness and spastic gait.”
“Your symptoms are getting worse rapidly and in a brief time without the operation you will be paralyzed, and risk the possibility of death when and if, your symptoms begin to interfere with the functioning of your respiratory system.”
Mr. Davis, I just want to advise you against building your hopes up that this procedure will be a quick return you to your former self. The progress will be slow and you should see improvement, but there is no guarantee. This procedure is preventative, not curative.
It was not a hard decision to make, because I was not willing to be crippled by my symptoms without a fight, and I mercifully, not given the slightest of hope of recovering without the operation.
Preparation for Operation Began Immediately
My doctor went through all the pros and cons of the operation, using the imaging from the cervical spine MRI to show me not only what was wrong, but what he intended to do. He also named the surgical procedure for the first time. I was to have a surgical procedure called, Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion. I signed the paper work giving him permission to operate and all other appropriate paper work and was sent to get more x-rays of my cervical spine. It was the middle of July, my surgeon was scheduled to go on vacation for three weeks the first week of August, and wanted me operated on before September.
July 17th,2017, The surgeon tells me that if he cannot fit me into his schedule before the end of August he will have a colleague do the operation, but he will try his best to do it himself. I am told to go home, not to do anything strenuous and wait for the call to do my pre-operation testing.
Pre-operation testing done on July 27th.
- receiving of information booklet; contact numbers and things that one should know about operation and follow-up, etc.)
- blood test;
- height and weight measurements;
- blood pressure test;
- heart Echogram
- explanation of why the surgery is needed;
- detailed explanation of procedure I am to have;
- pros and cons of the operation;
- how long the operation will take;
- recovery time in the hospital;
- cervical collar fitting.
- receiving of cervical collar to bring on day of operation.
Mr. Davis is a 61- year-old gentleman that has been suffering with left arm numbness and loss of fine motor control of his left hand. In addition, he has problems with gait and equilibrium. This has been rapidly progressive over 3 months. He suffers with diabetes and graves disease. He currently takes omeprazole, synthroid, atorvastatin, coversyl, and pregabalin. He has NKDA. (No Known Drug Allergies)
He is hyrreflexic and has slowing in both hands. I identified weakness in his left FA and FF. His gait was unsteady. His MRI revealed a C3-C4 disc herniation resulting in myelopathy. Due to the rapid onset of his symptoms, I’ve advised for early surgical decompression. I have conveyed the risks of single level Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion(ACDF), which include a rare chance of esophageal perforation or paralyses, 1% chance of infection, 25% 10- year risk of adjacent level degeneration, 2% chance of RLN palsy, 5% chance of dysphagia.
Operation done on July 28th, 2017 at approximately 8:30 in the morning. Out of operating room by 12:30 pm. Out of recovery room and in room on floor by 2:30 pm. First puree food at 6:30 pm. Released from hospital on July 29, 2017.
I am at home now recovering. For pain I had to take only Tylenol. I do go to work, but do very little. It will take six weeks for the bones to fuse, but I will have to take it easy for three to six months, avoiding heavy lifting. I can now take a shower without my nerves going crazy. I still have a limp, but my walking is more normal. Rectal tone is back to normal. Muscle strength is coming back slowly and I can type with both hands again with ease of motion. I know that I have a long way to go, and that this could be where I will remain, but I will remain self-reliant, and this was my priority. I still feel that this has been success story the extent of which still remains to be seen.
It does not matter what happens from here. I will always be thankful to those who took care of me. The secretaries, PBAs, technicians nurses, doctors and all the staff in between whose official job titles and job descriptions I do not know made this journey as easy for me as possible. Throughout this entire process they were wonderful. From beginning to end I was treated with professionalism, honesty and compassion. This allowed me to relax, keep my dignity and feel like I was indeed part of the team that was deciding my future. I will be forever grateful for being allowed to keep my dignity throughout this very difficult process. My sincere and deepest thanks to all that were involved with my care!