Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Pain in the Neck

Very literally.

So, what happened after my last post? I had a whole series started to tell my story about doing a play. I still do. However, I got sidelined. Once again, my body decided that something needed to break down (and this is a hobby that I simply must give up). This time, it was trouble with my neck, shoulder, arm, and right hand. Painful and limiting in what I could effectively do. Including typing effectively.

So I go to the doctor (being one of the Americans that actually has insurance) to find out what the deal is. A gazillion x-rays, an MRI, and four consultations later, it was determined that I had cervical stenosis that was pressuring all the nerves that come out in vertebrae C4 through C7 (the mid to lower part of the neck), aggravated by scoliosis, arthritis, and bone spurs. Oh, lucky me. All of them said that it would take surgery to deal with it. All of them except the insurance company, of course. They were sure that simple physical therapy could fix the problem, and would be far more cost effective. Right.

So, I go to physical therapy, where from the get-go I am informed that it will be a waste of time and that I'll need surgery. Does this impress the insurance company? Naturally not. Therefore, I had the privilege of enduring 4 weeks of therapy without the hope that it would really help. It wasn't so bad, on its own. The people at the facility are very nice, patient, and thorough. That doesn't mean that it didn't hurt. All I really got out of it was improved muscle tone in the weaker side of my neck, which would set me up better for therapy after the surgery. Reports are filed. What's next?

What's next is the process of getting the insurance company (two, actually; I have secondary coverage as well) to authorize what is surely going to be an expensive procedure: Major surgery, at least a night's stay in the hospital, perhaps two, recovery, and yet more physical therapy afterward.  After much exchanging of test results, letters, recommendations, and perhaps a little bribery, they finally agree to it. Thus is it finally scheduled for August 1. In the meantime, I wait with the same symptoms, mainlining ibuprofen, and cursing under my breath.

At last, the day arrives. Into the hospital I go, I get prepped, and off we go. The thing about anesthesia, for those of you who haven't gone through it, is that it knocks you out, and it seems like only seconds later that you're waking up in the recovery room. It's weird. Two hours had passed. The doctor goes and talks with my wife and tells her all about it (which likely grossed her out). Strangely, even though they're headed for the back of the neck to remove the offending soft tissue, do the bone fusions and put in a metal plate, they enter via the front of the neck. I have this nifty five inch scar to prove it.

An already too-long tale made shorter, everything went as planned. Of course, for a month after the surgery, I had to wear one of those neck collar support things to hold my head still while things healed. "Spiffy," said I, "I'll catch up with some reading and writing." Ha. It held my head at just beyond the angle where I could comfortably see a book, and I couldn't see the keyboard. Really aggravating for someone who has so much writing to do and is a bookaholic planning to read 150 books this year. This was the hardest part of all, mollified only by the neat pain pills they gave me.

Yesterday, I went to a post-op doctor visit, and was finally told that I could take the collar off (except in the car, in case of sudden jolts or an accident. Incidentally, now my frigging car won't start). So here I am, right back at the keyboard, trying to get my head around catching up. Where is a manic phase when you really need one?

It still hurts around the area of the fusion, but the pain running down my right side is gone, and my right hand is working again. So, I shall now cease shutting up, and get on with it. However, guess where I get to go tomorrow?

Back to physical therapy. Oh, the joy of it all.

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