info@myelopathy.org

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On InstagramCheck Our Feed

Patient stories - Alan “Addo” Addison

A Long Road to Answers and Treatment

Hello, my name is Alan “Addo” Addison; I am 64 years old being born in 1952 and I am retired, my story begins some forty years ago.

The Background

One day back in 1976 when I was 24 years old I was driving home along a long straight section of road from work in my Ford motor car. I was approaching a junction that would have been on my left hand side, in fact the front of my car was very nearly past the junction when there was an almighty bang and my car was forced sideways across the carriageway, I had been “T-Boned” by a vehicle that failed to stop at the junction.

I saw my GP within 24 hours of the accident and he diagnosed whiplash and insisted that I had to wear a cervical support collar for the next few weeks. Two years later I was passenger in a car that ended up going backwards into a ditch at approximately 30 mph; whiplash case number two. Again I was told to wear a cervical support collar.

For the next thirty plus years I thought nothing more about the road accidents or the whiplash.

In 2011 I began driving as a Private Hire Driver for a local Taxi company. Obviously by its very nature this meant a lot of sitting around in the same position. In January 2013 I became a Chauffeur for a local company. This too meant a lot of sitting in the same position at the steering wheel added to which I was required to carry the Clients luggage to the vehicle when I met them at their homes or place(s) where I was to collect them.

 

Early Symptoms and mixed messages

In the middle of 2014 I became aware of a tingling (Pins & Needles) sensation in the middle and finger next to the thumb on my right hand. My immediate thought was that this was the prelude to a Heart attack. I consulted my GP who reassured me it was not a Heart attack and suggested that some Physiotherapy might be appropriate, potentially I had trapped a nerve.

I attended the local hospital where I was assessed, actually that is not quite accurate, I was asked a lot of questions about my work and general health after which the Physiotherapist attending to me came back with about 20 sheets of A4 paper suggesting that I should carry out the exercises whilst at rest from my job!

On one occasion I went back to see the Physiotherapist I ended up walking out of there resembling a trussed up Chicken such was the amount of sticking plaster tape that had been applied to my left shoulder and neck area. These sessions with the Physiotherapist continued for many months with no satisfactory results.


In early 2015 my GP sent me for X-Rays. The results as I was informed showed a degree of Osteoarthritis in my neck area; I was advised to continue with the Physiotherapy. Towards the end of 2015 I had reached a point where I realised that the Physiotherapy just wasn’t effective and or working for me. I felt frustrated at the whole thing; all along I had been ‘fobbed off’ with Physiotherapy and despite me saying it’s not working everyone I spoke to said “give it one more go”

In February 2016 I was sent for more X-rays, I was informed that they showed a deterioration of the Osteoarthritis.
The numbness and tingling by March 2016 had significantly increased and I yet again returned to my GP who then referred me to a Consultant in MSK. At her suggestion I then agreed to try some sessions of ‘hands-on’ Physiotherapy.

In the interim I received a copy of a letter my GP had sent to the MSK Specialist suggesting that I had an Epidural for ‘pain management’. I was very quick in sending my GP an email that said no-one was going to give me an epidural before I knew what was wrong with my back and causing the pain.

By the beginning of July 2016 the Physiotherapist and I agreed that Physiotherapy wasn’t working so she referred me back to MSK. On July 13th due to the severity of the numbness in my right arm, my big toes on both feet feeling like they were permanently wrapped in bandages, my heels feeling like I was walking on jelly and worst of all for me as a Chauffeur was the lack of bladder control. If I felt the urge to urinate then it had to be then and there which on some occasions was slightly embarrassing. My balance and coordination were also affected. I knew only too well it was time to give up the position as Chauffeur in fact I haven’t driven since that day as I still don’t feel 100% confident.

 

On August 18th I saw another MSK Consultant; she conducted a number of tests on me which led her to believe I had a spinal cord disorder. Her words to me were in the order of “I’ll arrange for another MRI for you” I believe my wry smile told her I’d never had one!!

A MRI and some answers!

September 7th I underwent my first ever MRI Scan; the results showed that I had Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy at C3/C4.

Within 20 days I saw Consultant Neurosurgeon Mr Mark Kotter and a further 10 days later I was operated on by him and his team for that condition. I felt all along that had they (Physiotherapists / MSK Consultants) and perhaps my General Practitioner listened to me and acted more responsively then my wait for a diagnosis would have been considerably reduced. 

After all said and done it is you the patient that knows something is wrong with your body but you cannot be specific as to what it is as you do not have the medical training or knowledge.
During my consultation with the neurosurgeon, he pointed out just how serious this condition was. Myelopathy is most often progressive and there was a chance that I could end up paralysed from the neck down. Moreover, I was at increased risk of a spinal cord injury when falling. That was frightening and struck fear into me especially as I had used public transport to get to the hospital from my home! ​

At my surgeon’s suggestion I went to the Physiotherapy department within the hospital and got myself a walking stick (Cane) to aid me with my balance. I was also told that if my symptoms progress significantly, i.e. numbness / pins & needles got worse I was to go immediately to A & E (ED or ER whichever is applicable to you) and seek advice.

My Consultation was on a Tuesday; Friday of the same week I was in the Emergency Department. I waited a total of four hours to see and ED Doctor and a further two hours while she tried to get a definitive answer from the on-call consulting Neurosurgeon. After 6 hours 30 minutes I was discharged from the hospital feeling really frustrated and no further forward than I was six and half hours previously.

My whole experience until the time I first saw my surgeon was one of sheer frustration, as I said earlier no-one seemed to want to listen to me or act on what I was telling them. 

In the lead up to surgery, I saw my Consultant Neurosurgeon and the Anaesthetist that would be administering and looking after the necessary medications to keep me sedated throughout the surgery. The evening prior to my admission my wife and I had discussed at great lengths the risks and outcome of surgery if (I was told there was a <1% chance of failure by the Neurosurgeon) I would be paralysed by the operation. At the end of the day I chose not to be resuscitated if that 1% came to fruition, my wife agreed.

My Consultation was on a Tuesday; Friday of the same week I was in the Emergency Department. I waited a total of four hours to see and ED Doctor and a further two hours while she tried to get a definitive answer from the on-call consulting Neurosurgeon. After 6 hours 30 minutes I was discharged from the hospital feeling really frustrated and no further forward than I was six and half hours previously.


My whole experience until the time I first saw my surgeon was one of sheer frustration, as I said earlier no-one seemed to want to listen to me or act on what I was telling them.

In the lead up to surgery, I saw my Consultant Neurosurgeon and the Anaesthetist that would be administering and looking after the necessary medications to keep me sedated throughout the surgery. The evening prior to my admission my wife and I had discussed at great lengths the risks and outcome of surgery if (I was told there was a <1% chance of failure by the Neurosurgeon) I would be paralysed by the operation. At the end of the day I chose not to be resuscitated if that 1% came to fruition, my wife agreed.

On the day of the surgery I had to be at the hospital by 07:00. I conveyed these thoughts to my Consultant Neurosurgeon and the Anaesthetist. It may have seemed selfish to many people but having been active all my life I would not be able to bear life totally dependent on other people for what remained of my life. There was obviously a feeling of trepidation prior to the surgery (especially given the last time I had had an unrelated operation, things had not been straightforward). I underwent a ACDF at C3/4 and to my relief the operation was a success.

Prior to the operation I had been informed that I may find it difficult at first to swallow food and or liquids and that in all probability I would speak with rather a hoarse voice for a few days. Again I proved them wrong, within two hours I was sitting up in bed drinking cold juice and within four hours eating a cheese sandwich on brown bread, I don’t know who was most surprised, me or the Consultant Neurosurgeon when he came to visit whilst I was eating. My voice too was normal, quite something when you are told that both the Thorax and the Trachea have been pushed to one side to permit the surgery. All in all I was feeling extremely good with myself and with the Consultant Neurosurgeon and Anaesthetists.
The following morning I had a visit from the Physiotherapists and the Occupational Therapist who both agreed that I was well enough to be discharged the following day.

​Post-operatively I did everything that was laid out for me to do in my discharge notes. However around 4 months later I began to experience a slight pain in my neck in the area of C3/C4 and contacted my Neurosurgeon’s Secretary who then arranged for a ‘precautionary’ MRI scan. I saw my Consulting Neurosurgeon at the six month post-op period and he showed me that there was nothing to concern myself about and the pain was probably nerves settling down.

Living with CSM

I am pleased, no delighted to say that he stated that the operation was a success. I still use a walking stick to help me keep my balance, the feeling is slowly coming back to my feet, as it is in my legs. Learning to walk again is a very frustrating experience, especially so for someone nearly 65 years of age! The other good news is that I don’t bounce off the walls of the shower when I close my eyes to apply shampoo or shower gel with my eyes closed. My bladder control has returned and fortunately I do not now suffer those embarrassing moments.

One of my “problems” is the cocktail of prescribed medications I take daily prior to and since the operation, there is Gabapentin and Codeine, as well as a tablet for high blood pressure; a cracking start to and way to live through the day. Most of all I suppose it’s getting used to having to adapt to life at a slower pace, something that doesn’t come easy to someone who has spent the majority of his life in the fast lane of life.

My biggest problem now is finding a way of saying a huge thank you to someone that has saved me from a potential life of paralysis?

​Other than that all I ask for now is a cure for the arthritis in my right hand and arm! ​

Mr Alan Addison

Mr Alan “Addo” Addison is a CSM sufferer and Freelance Aviation Researcher & Reporter. His diagnosis took a long time coming, but he has now undergone surgery and has shared his story with Myelopathy.org

You can see more from his ‘day’ job at
addosaviationadventures.wordpress.com/