We arrived home from Las Vegas on a Tuesday, and I planned on using the remainder of the week to sort out our vacation clothing and gear and get back into normal life. The following Monday, September 17th, I was going to start my fitness regime and get into shape. Or so I thought.
On Thursday, September 13th 2012, I woke us as normal at around 8am. As soon as I moved to get out of bed I felt the worst pain I have ever experienced in my right shoulder and neck. I couldn’t understand it. The previous evening my shoulder had been a little sore, but nothing more than that. This morning it felt as though a sharp knife had been plunged into my neck and shoulder, and the pain was unbearable.
The simple process of going to the bathroom was excruciating, and as Glenda had gone back to work that morning and our children were all at work, I had no one I could call for assistance. It was too painful even to make a cup of hot tea (an Englishman always needs his hot tea), so I just lay there all day hardly daring to move.
Initially I thought I had just slept wrong on my arm as we all do from time to time, and pulled the muscle in my neck and shoulder. But this was different, and more painful than anything I had ever encountered, and I knew that something far more serious was going on, although I had no idea what it actually was.
I didn’t move all day and all night. The pain was unbearable, and I considered going to the emergency room. The only reason I didn’t was because it would have been too painful to sit and wait for hours on end before I was seen by a doctor. I was still hopeful that it was some muscular injury that for some reason was extremely painful. I had had my fill of doctors, hospitals and medical bills and I didn’t want any more.
I was unable to sleep or eat, and at nighttime I laid on the floor in the living room. The firmness of the floor somehow made me feel better. I didn’t want to disturb Glenda as she had to work 12hr shifts, so I found it best to alternate between my reclining chair and the floor. Either way, I wasn’t able to sleep through the pain. Our dog, a 6lb Maltese named Taffy, was the most wonderful loyal and faithful companion. She knew I was suffering and she stayed with me wherever I lay, never leaving me once other than bathroom breaks and occasional food and water breaks. Glenda pleaded with me to seek medical attention, but I was still clinging to the hope that it would clear up and go away. It didn’t.
By Sunday, September 16th, I was at the point where I couldn’t take any more. I hadn’t slept a single minute since Thursday, and I was in agony. I went to the emergency doctor’s office to see a doctor. I knew that he hadn’t got the equipment available to scan my neck/shoulder, but I was still hanging onto the self-diagnosis of a torn muscle.
The doctor felt around the affected area and told me that it was very tight and sore. He stated that although it could be a multitude of things, it probably was a muscular issue. He gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers and pain killers and sent me on my way. I was sure that these would do the trick and cure my agonizing pain.
.My children found it hard to understand my predicament. I had gone from okay to absolute agony overnight. The only respite I could get was to place my arm over my head and touch my opposite shoulder in what I termed the monkey pose. Although I had no idea, this was a classic response to the condition I was eventually diagnosed with.
I stuck with the medications the doctor had given me for several days. I was still unable to sleep, and I was beginning to lose weight at an alarming rate. I was exhausted and in agony. I wanted someone to just cut my neck and arm off and have done with it. It was unbearable.
I finally went to the hospital and underwent a CT scan. It was after hours and the MRI wasn’t available. The CT showed stenosis in my neck and shoulder, which is a narrowing of blood vessels that can be related to degenerative issues, and also a bulging – or slipped as we call it in England – disc in my neck. Now I was getting somewhere. This explained why I was experiencing the harrowing pain that wouldn’t go away.
The next day I went to see my own doctor. After referring to the hospital results, he made me an appointment with a pain management specialist, which was the next step in the process. I thought it would take weeks to make this appointment, but it was only a matter of a few days.
In the meantime, I still spent the nights either on the floor or in my recliner. It was easier than lying down in bed, which was the most uncomfortable place of all for me to be. My weight was still plummeting, but that was the least of my concerns.
The Pain Management Specialist took an MRI of my neck and confirmed the bulging (or slipped disc) diagnosis. He set up a schedule for a procedure to inject cortisone into the affected area to see if that would alleviate the pain. This was the next step required by the insurance companies, and although it wasn’t expected to work, it had to be tried before escalating it any further.
I went for the procedure early in October in the hope of some relief, no matter how tiny. By now my children had come to realize the seriousness of the situation and were fully on board. Before that they were as bewildered as I was, and I don’t blame them for wondering if my pain threshold had stopped somewhere shy of a pulled muscle!!
I had the procedure done on a Wednesday, and I gave it until the following Monday before going back to them. Nothing had changed, and I had reached the end of my tolerance levels. The Pain Management People made me an appointment with a Neurosurgeon for a few days later. I was very surprised to get in so quickly, but boy was I grateful!!
I saw the P.A to the Neurosurgeon, and he organized for me to have a further MRI on the affected area. The results showed a worsening of the situation in that the disc was now ruptured, not just bulging. Surgery was the only option, and it couldn’t come soon enough. All I knew was that it was the single most painful thing I had ever felt, and I couldn’t take much more.
I saw the Neurosurgeon himself on Friday, October 12th 2012. It had been a month since all this had started, and in that time I hadn’t slept for more than a combined total of about 8 hours. I had lost 35lbs of weight, and I felt terrible. He scheduled me for surgery on Thursday October 18th 2012 – my birthday!!
He did offer to postpone the surgery for a week so I could celebrate my birthday, but I immediately said no. This was the best birthday present I could have wished for!!
I underwent several tests at the hospital to make sure my body was up to the surgery, and at 6.30am on the morning of my 52nd birthday, I was admitted to hospital for the surgery.
I was in the prep room right before surgery when the room suddenly filled with people all wearing medical scrubs. Led by the Neurosurgeon himself, the whole medical team walked in and started singing happy birthday to me!! I was shocked as I wasn’t expecting this at all. Especially from a Neurosurgeon. They are top of the food chain when it comes to surgeons, and I didn’t think that he would even have known it was my birthday, let alone that he would walk in singing to me!!
He even made me a fish shaped balloon that was signed by all the medical staff. I was touched by the kindness of these people, and I really appreciated it.
I was wheeled in to the operating room and within seconds I was out cold. All I remember was waking up in the recovery room and moving my arm. It may have hurt where I had the surgery, but for the first time in over a month I could move my arm without it driving me crazy with pain. I was groggy from surgery, but I was happy!!
He had removed the ruptured disc, which had broken up and was digging into my spine in different parts of my neck. He then placed a synthetic bone into the space where the disc should have been, and screwed a titanium plate over it into my spine. This titanium plate will remain in place for the remainder of my life.
Now it was time for recovery and to get myself back on the road to the trails!!