I remember it like it was yesterday – even though it happened 16 years ago. Lying on a hospital gurney with an iodine solution seemingly covering me from my chin down to my waist. The smell was horrible. Waiting for the surgeon to scrub up seemed like an eternity.
My heart was beating out of my chest. I thought it was going to burst. The nurse had to slap an oxygen mask on me. I couldn’t breathe. It was definitely a panic attack.
Slowly, I was wheeled into the bright, shiny operating room. I remember the surgeon give me a boyish smile as he started arranging pillows to hold me in just the right position. His arms were very muscular. He must have been a weight lifter.
AND THEN THE “FUN” BEGAN…
He said “see you on the other side”. An anesthesiologist injected something into my I.V. and the bright lights quickly faded. So began the cervical fusion surgery of C4 – C5 that was supposed to relieve my four years of ungodly neck pain.
Prior to this surgery, it was difficult to sleep. It would sometimes take hours to finally konk out. Then, it felt like someone lit a match on the back of my neck. The burning jolted me awake instantly. I felt like I just got out of the bath – covered in sweat from head to toe.
WHY DID I DO IT?
I’m a dentist (retired now). Bending over patients in awkward positions for hours at a time took its toll. The truth is that sometimes the only way to see what’s going on in someone’s mouth is to practically stand on my head.
That’s not good for necks. As the years went on, the pain got worse and worse. It got to the point that I would crawl to my private back office between patients and just collapse on my desk. Usually, I would slather some pain relieving cream all over the back of my neck. Using Ben Gay was out of the question – it stunk too much. My hygienist and assistant kept tabs on me back there… often shaking their heads in disbelief.
My patients often could see the pain etched across my face. Some were kind enough to offer advice. Others had exactly the same problem. Almost every patient I spoke to that had fusion surgery told the same story. They woke up in the recovery room and immediately felt huge relief. The pain was gone.
That wasn’t in the cards for me.
My wife was sitting next to me when I awakened. By then, I could see the pretty curtains in the hospital room. Guess I missed all of the happenings in the recovery room. A male nurse started talking to me to explain how to use the morphine drip. It’s not difficult… just push the button on the little hand held gizmo and it goes directly into the I.V. Only, it’s timed so you can’t overdose on the morphine.
My attention turned to the screaming pain from the back of my head. My left hip also hurt like crazy – the surgeon cut it open to get some bone to stick in my neck. Later, I found out that a plate and screws became a permanent part of my anatomy.
But for now, the unbearable pain in my neck told me something wasn’t right. Unlike all the stories from my patients, I didn’t get any relief. I was much worse off.
This is total hell I thought to myself. Total agony. I drained the morphine as fast as I could. The dispensing machine would beep at me if I tried to get it too fast – and I cursed at it every time.
The nurse had to put a new I.V. bag up twice during the night. I drained that sucker as fast as I could. But, it didn’t seem to make much difference. Truly, I was hoping I would die. That would for sure stop the pain.
Early the next morning, the surgeon came to my room to check-up on me. Swearing at him seemed like a great way to start the conversation but I held back. At least the morphine sedated me enough that I could act somewhat civilized.
Of course, I complained about the pain. My hip was throbbing – but I expected that. The neck pain was another story. When he asked me to rate my pain on a 1 – 10 scale, I called it a 15. Incredibly painful! The surgeon told me the procedure went well.
How could that be? As bad off as I was before the surgery, it was even worse afterward. He didn’t know what to say.
Soon after the surgeon left, my friend Bruce showed up. Bruce is a great friend and an Internal Medicine physician. He was there for moral support – and I needed that very badly. I discussed the surgery with him prior to booking it. And it was Bruce that recommended this particular surgeon.
Later that morning, the hospital discharged me. Walking was hard since they had just gouged a slice of bone from my hip. I grimaced with every step. That was NOTHING compared to the neck pain. I slumped into the front seat of the car and my wife took me home.
The next few days became a blur of pain pills, neck supports and lots of swearing. I couldn’t get any relief with the pills and was going crazy.
Hoping for some ideas, I called the surgeon’s office a week later to complain of the ungodly pain. He had me come in for a blood test but wouldn’t tell me why it was needed. Too busy, I guess. Later that day, the surgeon prescribed Valium. Valium!? That’s for anxiety… not pain! Hoping to get some sleep, I took it anyway. Even that didn’t work.
Realizing that I was on my own, I stopped at my office to pick up a syringe, some Novocaine (actually Lidocaine) and a needle. The plan was to try to inject myself in the back of my neck to get a couple hours of relief. But I couldn’t do it. It’s just too hard to look in a mirror and stab yourself in the back of the neck.
My office schedule had been cleared for 4 months to allow my neck to heal. That obviously wasn’t enough.
By then, all the bills arrived. The surgeon made $ 35,000 for 90 minutes of butchering me. With all of the other hospital bills, it came to $ 50,000.
What a waste!
Three years later, my pain level was still at an 8 almost constantly. Try to lead a normal life with that kind of burden. It’s impossible.
I was hopelessly addicted to pain pills. Three different pain management specialists tried cervical ablations to ease the pain. That means they burn nerves in the back of the neck so the pain signals can’t reach my brain. That didn’t work either.
One specialist implanted a neurostimulator over my right butt cheek and ran wires up my back into my neck. The electrical signals were supposed to block the pain. Guess what – it didn’t work.
Finally, I was told that I would have this kind of pain for the rest of my life. Well, that wasn’t gonna happen.
There were only two options… blow my head off or find a solution on my own.
Thus began my study of holistic medicine and Functional Medicine.
Fast forward to today… I am happy, healthy, productive and almost pain-free. Sure, there are days when my neck hurts a little. But nothing like it was back then.
What’s the bottom line? Ultimately, we are responsible for our own health and well being. Question everything. Educate yourself. Make wise decisions about personal health issues and their treatment.
Thanks for reading my story.
PS: Surgery should always be a last resort. Explore non-surgical options by scheduling a free consultation at www.stopneckpainnaturally.com. Also, please take a moment to like our Facebook page.