It all started about a year before my surgery. I was walking down the hallway at work and my friend asked why I was limping. I hadn’t noticed a limp and didn’t think anything more about it. About 2 months later I did notice a slight limp but attributed it to a bulging disc pushing against my nerve root. I had no pain and wasn’t really concerned because 3 years prior I had a similar problem with my lower back but experienced a lot of pain with it. At that time I had it checked, got the steroid shots in my back, and problem solved. I figured this was the same situation, and since I wasn’t experiencing any pain, I thought I would schedule to get more of the steroid injections. No big deal.
But I put if off for another month. Meanwhile, my walking was starting to deteriorate and I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I was starting to develop what is known as the drunken sailor walk. Next I noticed I couldn’t walk up or down stairs without holding on to the railing. I’m 66 but I used to be able to run up and down the stairs without even thinking about it. Now I can’t even walk without holding on to the handrail. I thought I better get to the doctor and get those shots. I have nerve problems. I still thought steroid shots would fix the problem like last time even though the symptoms were different. About a month after that I noticed I had to concentrate on my walking if it was on uneven ground. I could not look around as I walked, I had to watch where I was going. Walking on grass was even more difficult.
I thought to myself “hey, I really have to get to the doctor and get these shots any day now”. I still didn’t do it and I don’t know why. About a week later the fingertips on my left hand started feeling numb, and two days later the fingers on my right hand started feeling the same way. At this point I finally went to the doctor and told him I needed steroid shots, the discs must be pushing on my nerve roots again. The doctor listened to my symptoms and immediately ordered an MRI to determine what was happening in my neck. I went to get the MRI the next day and when I saw the results I was floored! I had extremely bad arthritis in my neck -- the doctor said it was about the worst he had ever seen!
It was so bad that my spinal cord was completely inflamed.
A steroid shot couldn’t fix that, I needed immediate surgery. Once I discovered this I went online and found Virginia Spine Institute. After my second opinion, I learned I needed surgery immediately and I knew VSI was the place! I scheduled the surgery as fast as possible because the spinal cord damage is irreversible. Even after having an artificial disc replacement and fusion, I only had to stay at the hospital overnight. The amazing thing is I never had any pain. Just a little sore throat for a day after and that was it. I never used any of my pain medication -- I just did not need it. You can’t even see the scar because their specialists what they're doing. Now, almost a year from surgery, I can walk without concentrating on the ground, and I can go up and down stairs without holding the hand rail. I still have some numbness in my fingertips but it’s purely a result of me waiting so long to see the doctor. If you’re reading this, don’t wait as long as I did! If I had procrastinated much longer, I probably would have ended up in a wheelchair. Get to Virginia Spine Institute ASAP – they know what they are doing!