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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Photos: My Spine Is Much Worse Than Imagined

Note:  The images below are of my body.  They are the property of myself and my respective doctors.  They may not be reproduced without my consent.  Thank you for understanding.

As you know, I had a discectomy on June 20th.  I had a couple of minor complications, but things seemed successful.

Within the first two weeks, however, the pain came back with a vengeance.  Pain medication quickly had no effect.  I started receiving regular epidural injections.  Every two weeks.  At some appointments, two at a time.  No effect.

With every passing day, my mobility worsened.  I started collapsing like I had before.  I'm at a point now where I cannot walk without a cane.  My spinal surgeon scheduled another set of surgeries for later this month.  He had me complete an MRI last week to get an idea of what we were looking at.  I had a chance to take a look at them yesterday morning.  What I saw was so much worse than what anyone could have imagined.

When my surgeon had completed my discectomy, the only thing that was removed was the portion of disc that was herniated and protruding into my spinal cord.  Actually, I like to say "spinal cord", but when your talking about the L5/S1 portion of your spine, your cord ends 4 or 5 vertebrae up.  The disc was pushing into nerve bundles that control leg functions, bowel and bladder function and leg sensation.  After the surgery, about half of the disc was still left in the disc space.  It looks as if the disc portion has migrated into the open space left by the surgery, and almost entirely out of the disc space.  Take a look.  This is an image from my MRI from August 28.

See on the bottom left of the image, there is a swollen protrusion coming out from between the vertebrae?  That is not good.  At all.  In fact, the two discs above L5/S1 are herniated.  Healthy discs look more like the ones four or five up.  Also, do you see how the spinal cord is a solid dark tube all of the way down?  Then, suddenly, when it comes to that disc, it becomes white.  That is an indication of, well, essentially inactivity.  The nerves in that area are being squeezed to death.  Those are the nerves that allow me to walk.  It's a condition called radiculopathy.  If it isn't fixed, it can lead to quadriplegia.  Here is another image.

The white circle in the middle is my nerve stem at L5/S1.  On a normal MRI, your spinal cord will look somewhat like the center of a ham steak all the way through your back, and down through your nerve stem.  This image, and the dozen or so below it, are extremely troubling.  The fact that the circle is not complete means that the disc is floating around amongst the bundle of nerves.  Secondly, the chewed up, Swiss cheese consistency of the image means that the pieces of disc are calcified.  My surgeon will have to push aside nerve bundles to drill out and pick apart disk fragments.  This will likely cause weeks of numbness in my extremities.

With the updated news, my long term disability company has said they may grant me lifetime disability.  At the moment, I am no longer receiving a check from them, but I am receiving health insurance still from my previous employer.  If they grant me lifetime disability, I can continue on my amazing health insurance, instead of being forced to switch to Medicare on October 15th.

As always, as things develop I will keep you posted.  Thanks for reading.  


Anonyvox said...

Good heavens. Even I could see the issues in that first picture before I read your text. I wish I had something better to say than good luck and I'll send my best thoughts your way.

Have you checked in with Mishell at all? She is practiced in Reiki and while that's obviously not going to cure your issue, I swear that she's helped me. She told me one day that she'd meditate on an issue I was having with stress causing pressure in my chest, and I was out driving around town later that day and felt my chest sort of decompress. I asked her when she was doing her work on me, and the times were the same. Pretty awesome.