Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer! Time for baseball, beaches, and complicated spinal surgery

     How’s your summer going? Pretty good? Glad to hear it. Mine has been ... interesting: the past six weeks or so have been spent getting ready for, enduring, then recovering from spinal surgery. Not something that typically goes into the newspaper. But I found the process ....interesting, to say the least, and hope you do, too. I’ll relate the story this week in three parts. If I’m wrong, well, there’s always next week.

      It couldn’t be a normal ailment — no cancer, no heart disease, no failing kidneys. Oh no, no, not for me. Odd duck that I am, it had to have something obscure: stenosis, which sounds like zeneosis, the imaginary disease I cooked up to entertain my boys when they were small and we’d visit their zayde at Skokie Valley Hospital. I had fun imagining ever-more terrifying Hot Zone symptoms, and threatened to to march them up to the Zeneotic Ward to see for themselves if they didn’t behave.
      Stenosis is real, however, a narrowing of the spinal vertebra. I learned I had it in 2015, getting a CT scan after I slipped on ice while walking the dog. The doc suggested I “keep an eye on it,” and, like any sane man, that meant I ignored it completely.
     But six months ago my hands started to go numb. Not that numb; I still could type. So no big whoop, we’re all numb nowadays, more or less. I employed the same ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-away strategy that worked so well when the interior light on the Honda Odyssey started flashing during hard right turns. Eventually, the problem fixed itself. Truly, a miracle.   
You can't really see it on this screen grab of the MRI
but it shows the collapsing discs pushing against
the spinal cord, and that pesky bone spur, spearing
itself where it doesn't belong.

     But this didn’t go away. It got worse. My feet started getting numb too, then my calves. Unlike Republicans with climate change, I connected the dots and saw where this was heading. Plus my wife told me to go to the doctor, and I’ve learned to listen to her.
     My physician ordered an MRI. (Practical tip: Pay an extra $10 and they’ll give you a DVD of the image you can tote to future consultations.) Later, his office called to say the stenosis was severe and compounded by a bone spur. He suggested I see a surgeon at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.

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  1. When I read the "in English" version of the procedure I thought "DEAR god!" Not the kind of news I ever want to get. Then: "I was hoping for a treatment involving whale song." I'd say you've recovered completely. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  2. It recalls tender memories of growing up, Dad teaching each of us kids how to ice skate. It started with "press your chin against your chest", "wha" then having his palm shove you into a snow bank. "God damn it! I said keep your chin against your chest, now get up." "Press your chin against your chest as hard as you can." "Damn it, don't try to land on your hands, you'll break your arm!" "Again, better but remember to drop what you're holding and throw your arms out and land flat on you're back to break the fall." Yes, that paternal love leaves precious memories or scars to last a life time. A few years ago the sidewalk was iced over, in the dark it wasn't apparent. Slipped and instinct took over, landed flat on my back with no damage.

  3. I think the consensus of medical opinion is that the human body is pretty adept at healing itself...up to a point. But the Honda! Who knew? Early AI, I guess.


    1. Temperamental door-jam switch on the Honda. Probably the sliding side door.

    2. Replacing Click & Clack, are you?

      Your diagnosis makes sense; I still prefer my hypothesis of the self repairing car.


    3. I worked as a mechanic for 40 years. Whenever symptoms inexplicably disappeared, we just called it magic.

  4. I have cervical arthritis with disc compression. You have just motivated me to keep doing the thrice-daily neck stretches that my (overpriced) physical therapist taught me.

  5. Surgery, like war, should always be the last resort. I lost a friend who underwent a simple shoulder surgery and never made it home. Your procedure sounds so uncomfortable it triggered my gag reflex just reading about it. Glad you're recovering.

  6. I wish you the best of luck and a speedy recovery. Health scares and surgeries are scary stuff. MAGA 2020 Supporter.

  7. About twenty years ago, my wife's older brother had spinal surgery. Not at the Bone Joint, though. His was at the Cleveland Clinic. He was 59. He came out of the operating room a quadriplegic.

    Stuff happens.

    Fortunately, he regained full use of his limbs within ten days. All the best.

  8. Wow -- I'm sorry you've had to go through that! It sounds terrifying. I've had a couple of friends with spinal stenosis, so I'd heard of it, but their symptoms weren't as dramatic as yours and neither had surgery.
    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.


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