Friday, August 7, 2020

Second Opinion

 I'm sure everyone can appreciate how frightened I was when I was referred to a neurosurgeon.  That's a certain level of 'holy crap' that's not fun.  Impingement of the nerve, degenerative disc disease.  I wanted to ask 'how much longer do I have, doc?'.  I was horrified, frightened, and not at all willing to talk to a neurosurgeon.  I had to do a project for work on the results of spinal procedures (I work for a healthcare cost transparency company) and lets just say, those numbers are not pretty.  40% of procedures aren't necessary?  18% are worse after the procedure?  Those are not odds I'm cool with!  And with multiple levels involved (C4 - C6 for those watching at home) and anterior and osteoarthritis, I was considered 'complicated'.  Ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  NO.

Fast forward to me bringing a copy of my MRI images to the chiro. I didn't tell my neurologist, I just picked up the disc and brought it to the chiro.  Fun fact, they must release your images to you and they don't get to ask why.  They are yours and you can have them.  Do not listen to anyone that tells you otherwise, this is protected by law.  I filled out a form and they handed me a disc.  I didn't even see my images before this, I just got a phone call stating that I was being referred to a neurosurgeon.  I was frightened and not even sure my chiro would see me anymore.  That scared me a lot considering she'd ended my SI pain and I really didn't want that to return.  But who would treat someone that was so messed up that she might be paralyzed and needs a surgeon?  I brought her my images so she could decide whether or not to continue treating me.

My chiro showed me my images and . . . I'm not dying.  I have 3 bulging discs from C4 - C6.  C5 is right on the line of 'bulging' and 'herniated'.  It's pushing hard enough to deflect the sheath around my spine but my spinal cord is still traveling in a straight line.  My spine is irritated but not crushed.  She pulled up my x-ray and pointed to the bone spurs she'd spotted before around C5.  My MRI was exactly as she expected.  She's been doing this for 30 years, she's seen some things.  Am I injured?  Yes, absolutely yes.  Is my spinal cord impinged?  Yup.  Do I have neurological symptoms?  Sure.  Do I need surgery?  No, not yet.

Key word:  Yet.  One day I'll have to do something about this.  But considering what's going on, they're going to want to fuse part of my neck.  Which means I'm going to see problems above and below the fusion in the future.  I'm not in pain, I'm fully functional, why would we start that roller coaster before we have to?  So there's no surgery in my immediate future.  It's just chiro, PT, and some Advil for the days where things flare up. 

I'm still not supposed to do things that will accelerate the timeline.  No sitting trot, no broncing ponies.  BUT . . . things are looking up for my return as a h/j princess.  I'll never be able to go back to being the one that gets on the naughty pony without a care but everyone has to retire from that role at some point.  I can work toward loping around a 2'6" course with my butt out of the saddle.  Yes, there's a risk, but a reasonable risk.  At least it gives me something to work toward.

I do like to jump

Theo heads north in 9 days.  It's going to be tough but at least I have some real hope.  I do my PT, I let my chiro open up that space to take pressure off my spine, and I'll be able to put my foot in the stirrup again.  I'm not done yet.  It will be my jumping saddle but hey, that's not exactly a burden.  I do love jumping.

I think my neck situation needs a name but I haven't come up with one.  Wonky neck?  Damn discs?  There's so many options.


  1. My mom has a pretty messed up back, that shit is nothing to joke with but she did a lot of reading on how they handle surgeries in europe (specifically Germany) and has a lot of hope. I really hope you are able to get back in the saddle one day!

    1. Part of me wishes I didn't do the work before around outcomes. I don't want to screw around with this. But at the same time, it does seem kind of crazy to open me up and fuse my spine for something this early. I know this is degenerative and one day I won't have a choice. We'll just keep a close eye on it and avoid anything that will turn this from minor to emergency.

  2. Excellent news. The possible riding, not the back. My grandmother had several fusions, one always seemed to lead to another. FWIW, I think you are right to be deliberate about starting down that road.

  3. So funny story... my horse basically went through the same thing you're going through! We ended up doing a procedure called Prolotherapy where they inject an irritant into the tendons and ligaments surrounding the neck joints to strengthen them which creates a more stable environment to hold the vertebrae in place. They had started doing it to humans with a lot of success so we found a vet that was willing to do it to my horse instead of the basket surgery (it's what they call the surgery in horses that fuses the vertebrae, not sure what they call it in humans?) My horse was 14 when he went through this and lived a great life until he was 22 when he passed away from colic.

    This comment is getting really long but do look into Prolotherapy and see if it is something that could help your situation. It really made the difference in my horse and I was able to ride him again. We never were able to jump again but he was a great lower level dressage horse and was able to gallop around his field with his friends until he passed away.

    1. I should say we opted not to do the basket surgery on my horse b/c of what Virtual Brush Box said- one fusion leads to another and in horses it really only works one time (This happened with Seattle Slew) But with the prolotherapy my horse never had to have the surgery and was a very functional neurological horse and probably lived a lot longer than he would of had we opted for the basket surgery.