Location: Middletown, PA
Diagnosis: Cervical Radiculopathy, Herniated Cervical Disc C5-6 and C6-7, Herniated Lumbar Disc L4-5
Procedure Date: June 14, 2011
Pre-Surgery Life Style/Condition: I was in a car accident on December 28, 2010. On my way to work early one morning, a pickup truck crossed into my lane coming from the opposite direction. It struck my front driver side bumper and continued to drive through my driver side door and the entire length of my Chevy Avalanche. I always wear my seatbelt tight and low across my hip bones. I saw it coming in slow motion but could not do anything to get out of the way. I just held on to the steering wheel.
The local fire department cut me out of the vehicle and placed me on a back board with a cervical/spine collar in place. A nice woman called my husband and daughter.
I did not have any internal injuries to any of my organs. I attribute that to my seatbelt! My neck and lower back along with my left knee and left shoulder really hurt! I had many tests done at the emergency room. With a prescription for painkillers, I was released with a cervical collar and orders to see my primary care physician and to use lots of ice packs.
For the next 6 months, I would go to various doctors and physical therapists to determine what could be done for me. My MRI’s indicated herniated discs and various other things. The last two fingers on my right hand were numb. Pain radiated down the back of my buttocks and into my thighs from the lower back injuries and down through my shoulders into my upper arms from my neck injuries. The pain I was in was tremendous even though they all kept telling me that there was nothing they could do for me. I was told that everyone my “age” has herniated and bulging discs. I could only get some relief when I lay on my back with my knees up and my head and neck supported by pillows.
I understand and can really appreciate the “Conservative Approach” in medicine. I said yes when they wanted me to start physical therapy. Aqua-therapy felt wonderful as long as I was floating. It relieved some of the pressure I felt on my lower back. As soon as they would raise the pool, the intensity of the gravity and weight was unbearable. I went through other therapies with ice packs and it did nothing to alleviate any of the pain.
My family got me a walker that I could use to support my weight while I tried to walk to the bathroom and back to bed. They also got a raised toilette seat to aid in getting on and off the toilette. I could not do anything without the aid of my family. My daughter Victoria took care of me all day long. I could not raise my arms high enough to even put my own hair up in a pony tail. I had very little rotation movement in my neck. My son, Robert would relieve her when he got home from his college classes each day and my husband would take his turn taking care of me when he got home each day from work. They helped me shower and they helped me dress. They helped me move my muscles as best they could so that I would not have issues with circulation and clots. I felt like my life as I knew it was over.
No more could I rock wall climb, kick box, or dance with my new husband. No more going to the gym numerous times a week and no more working out with my daughter. She is a professional firefighter and an EMT. The Air Force PT test was something I could do in my sleep as I had worked for years working with the CAP cadet program and trained right along with them. I had only been married for a little over a year when this accident happened and had lost the ability to spend intimate time with my new husband as I was in pain just to move and he was fearful of any movement hurting me. This was not acceptable! As a payroll accountant, I could not feel my fingers on the hand that worked the calculator keys. Because my injuries were not healing, I could not go back to work before the FMLA time ran out so I lost my job. The stress and pain of everything was beginning to take its toll on all of us. If it wasn’t financial worries, it was cancelling their lives to take care of me.
When the physical therapy did nothing, the doctor ordered a different type of physical therapy to try and new pain medicines. This was even more painful and the meds were stronger.
I tried going to an orthopedic and was told that my injuries were not bad enough for them to do anything about. Sorry for all your pain but let’s try injections and more pain management.
Post Surgery Outcome: I knew I did not want to live my life without all the fun active things I once did and felt that more and more injections would just mask the injuries until they could not give me more. I saw North American Spine on a television show. I wrote the name of the procedure down and later I researched the words and it sent me to North American Spine. This is exactly what will fix me! For the first time since the accident, my family and I finally saw something that gave us hope. I called North American Spine, sent them my MRI written documents and they called me back. Over the next month, they said I was a good candidate and they would do the rest. My health insurance covered all but a portion and we borrowed the rest from family and friends.
On June 12, 2011, my husband, my daughter and myself, flew out to Dallas Texas and started on a journey of healing and recovery. After the first surgery on June 14, at the hospital out of recovery, I took my first steps towards my husband Jay. My daughter Victoria captured the whole thing on her phone and sent the stream to my son, Robert at home so he could watch me take my first steps. After my second surgery on June 15, after recovery, I was able to look at my family standing on my right side. I was able to move my neck left and right and up and down. My life was on the way back to me!
Each day brings new things that I can now do again, slowly but surely I am able to walk a few more steps each day. I tire myself out easily but smile all the way. Like a two year old who wants to do everything by myself, I insist to my family to let me try. My last two fingers on my right hand still have numbness but they say that only time will tell and to keep working them. I have very high hopes. I am counting on muscle memory to help re-build the rubbery blob that once was muscle in all parts of my body. I have started to incorporate Ensure/Muscle rebuild into my daily nutrition intake and lots of water!
I tell people that they may see me walking ever so slowly but in my head and heart I am running towards the finish line of a marathon and soaring higher than the clouds!
To patients everywhere, seek out information, research other opportunities available, and stop only when you find someone who treats you like an individual instead of what a text book says you should be like.
Thank you from the bottom of my walking feet and from the family that gets to see me laugh and smile again!
Kelly Talks About Her Experience with North American Spine