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Iwan Sadler - Treatment

A Patient's Story Part 3

I just knew the longer I left these symptoms,  the more permanent my disabilities would become.  I had decided to have surgery.  I had discussed it with my wife and family and they were behind me.  I started to do my research online.  I started to read about anterior cervical discectomy, but I needed surgery at more than one level [C4 to C7] and there wasn’t much information on multi level cervical surgery.  I did come across a few success stories, but also some unsuccessful ones.  My appointment came through to see the surgeon – 27th July.  

Iwan Sadler

My symptoms were getting worse; I couldn’t make a cup of coffee or make food without fear of dropping whatever I was holding.  I had developed a permanent tremor in my left but it was starting to appear in my right hand.  The deep dull pain of my arms was now starting to affect my legs and my walking.  I just had to get this operation ASAP. 

The day of my review arrived.  I explained to my surgeon that my symptoms had got worse despite being away from the workplace and I needed the surgery.  He reviewed my imaging.  He explained that I had extensive cervical spondylosis from C3/4 down to C6/7 and also signs of spinal cord signal change at C4/5.  He felt that my recent symptoms may indicate further changes at C3/4.  He discussed with me the pros and cons of surgery and that there was no guarantee of any improvement but there was a strong indication for intervention.  He also pointed out that there is of course a risk of accelerated degeneration at other levels, particularly given I would require multi level surgery.  Following the discussion of the various potential problems he added my name to his urgent waiting list for a  three  level anterior cervical discectomy and an updated MRI.  He did mention to me that the waiting list was a few months long but he would fit me in as soon as he could.

The 1st October I had my pre -assessment appointment, to get me ready for surgery. Me and the wife headed down to the hospital, a little nervous but relieved at the same time that surgery was not far away. I sat down in the waiting room on the most uncomfortable chair – I could feel my neck tensing but before the headaches and dizziness could start, I was called into a clinic room. I was greeted by the nurse who took me through various bits of paperwork. She noted that my blood pressure was a little high and asked me if I was in pain currently. I said I was, so I took my tramadol and it settled. 

I then saw my surgeon again, he took my through the consent form and my recent MRI. He looked at his appointment screen and asked me if 4th November was suitable. I said yes without hesitating. I shook his hand and left the hospital, relieved that at last I had an operation date but praying it would be the answer.

The day before surgery I had to phone the ward at 10am to confirm they had a spare bed for me.  They said they would phone back in the afternoon.  It was a nervous few hours, but they called.  She told me to be there at 7:30am and not to eat anything after 12 midnight.  I was relieved I would spend one more night in my house, with all my creature comforts.  I had my dinner at 7pm, packed my bag and went to bed early.  

The day  of surgery  had finally arrived.  My wife took me into hospital.  I was a mixture of anxious and excited.  I sort of knew what to expect; I had been reading about the operation daily, including watching youtube videos of the procedure and this had allowed me to mentally prepare (something I wouldn’t have done at the beginning of this story).  As we arrived at the hospital, the wife was quiet and I knew this mean she was anxious.  I told her to go, there was no point hanging about and that I would be fine.  I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle the situation just sitting there, so I gave her a list of things I needed just to keep her occupied and her mind off the surgery.

Twelve noon came and I was still waiting and hungry.  I had watched everyone have breakfast then lunch, but nothing for me. The anaethetist had come down to ask me a few questions but other than that, I was just sitting and waiting.  

 At 1pm the nurses gave me a gown for theatre.  30 minutes later I was being wheeled down to theatre.  She asked me what I was having done, which I duly explained and then she pointed to a scar on her neck and said she had had C5/6 done before.  This eased my mind a little. 
 

Once at theatre there were a final few checks, before I was into a room to be put to sleep.  Something was put into my arm and 10 minutes later I was out for the count. 

I came around in the recovery room.  It felt like only seconds had passed, not five hours!  I was groggy.  There was a nurse testing my reflexes and asking how I felt.  I answered with a really deep groggy voice that didn’t sound like my own.  I started to test my arms and legs – I moved my neck and felt relieved I could still move it.  I was taken back to the ward.  I felt like I had been hit by a bus; my throat was too soar to even attempt to eat anything, despite my hunger and the pain stopped me lying down.  That night I didn’t sleep – the pain a constant burden. 

The following morning a nurse came to see me about my pain, I explained about the intensity of the pain and she increase the frequency of my oramporph solution to every two hours rather than every four hours.  What a difference this made!

I spent some days recuperating in the hospital. Due to the sore throat, for the first two days my diet consisted solely of weetabix and soup. On day three, the physiotherapist visited me and gave me a crutch. We walked down the corridor.

My balance was not great. She gave me some exercises to do. Later that day my surgeon came. He explained that I had undergone a major operation, that I needed an x-ray, but otherwise I was ready for home.

As I left hospital, the initial, intense pain from the operation had subsided thankfully and I was back on my normal medication. However the journey home was painful – I could feel every bump and every corner. I had borrowed a reclining chair. This was fantastic, as it was still painful for me to lie down and the chair was more comfortable than my bed.

Nine days into my recovery I had my staples removed and the wound was healing nicely. I still had a lot of my symptoms from before the surgery but they weren’t as extreme as they used to be. I’m still using my crutch due to balance issues and I also have difficulty eating (I even get my medication stuck in my throat). I find it less painful sleeping on my chair, but lying in bed is not yet possible. I’m probably asking too much too soon