The first time I can remember having neck pain was about seven years after moving to Pennsylvania. Every one asks what caused the pain — was I ever injured or in an accident? I wish there was a really great story to tell. It’s one of my life‘s mysteries. I have always been an active person. I had to be — I was a single mother until marrying my wonderful husband in 2003, I worked full-time and maintained our home inside and out. I even made exercising a part of my regular schedule.
While traveling out of the country for work, I decided that the pain was so unbearable I had to take action. I saw a well-known orthopedic doctor hoping he could say the words I needed to hear – we can help you. However, he said the exact opposite. He told me I needed surgery and referred me to a local neurosurgeon, who he thought could help. I immediately asked — if I were his sister, wife, mother, daughter, etc., would this be the doctor he would want operating? An emphatic yes was his response.
My husband and I arrived at the neurosurgeon’s office in the hopes I would receive some relief. Once we were in the examination room, in walked the doctor, a youthful-looking man wearing green scrubs. I was surprised he looked young and casual. But, being a younger professional myself, I remember thinking he would be educated regarding the newest medical procedures. We discussed my ongoing neck problem and the treatments I had undergone. He knew I was in pain and told me he thought I had run out of options and the only course of treatment was surgery to remove the herniated disc. Finally some relief…or so I thought.
After much discussion, my husband and I decided that surgery would be the best option. I had been assured the pain would go away and my life would return to normal. Living with pain for more than 10 years, relief was something I could barely imagine and the pain had been escalating. No other treatments had worked, including physical therapy, chiropractic, injections, medications, etc.
The surgery was scheduled for mid-June 2005. I worked with my employer to get medical time off. I researched the doctor, even paying a fee to get his credentials and other background information. Since Pennsylvania doesn’t share disciplinary actions or lawsuit information, I relied on the doctor himself to address these important questions. During an appointment, my husband and I asked the doctor how many cervical discectomy and fusions he had performed? We also asked if he had any lawsuits or disciplinary actions. The doctor sat down and said he had NEVER been asked these questions even though he felt that all patients should ask these important questions prior to any medical procedure. He answered “thousands of this type of surgery and only had problems with patients getting infections.” He also added that he had “never been sued.”
During the drive to the hospital, I was sending emails via my Blackberry working to finalize a few important last minutes work items. I was confident and had peace of mind since I felt I had done my due diligence regarding the doctor, the hospital and the surgery itself. After all, the hospital’s website publicized the neurosurgeon’s latest accomplishments and that he was “Board Certified in Neurosurgery.”
Once we were in the surgical suite, I met my surgical team, including the individual who would monitor my nerves, the anesthesiologist and each of the nurses. As they wheeled me down the long hallway to the operating room, the last thing I said prior to going under anesthesia was “please take good care of me, I have a wonderful life.” This memory is so vivid and the words are played over and over in my mind on a regular basis — as if I had just said them a few moments ago.
What I didn’t know that when I woke up from surgery in the recovery room seven hours later, that ‘wonderful life’ would change from that moment on.
©My Unplanned Life and http://www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com, 2011.