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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The "The Bionic Man" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished visiting with Amela at Lancaster Neuroscience & Spine Associates.  It's been slightly over a month since I had my third back surgery and today I had an appointment with my doctor's assistant so she could assess my recovery progress and tell me what I can and cannot do until my next appointment with Dr. Kuhlengel in another month.  I made a list of questions I wanted answers before the appointment and was hoping for the best.  I have not been able to drive since the end of October when I had the spinal fusion surgery.  
Sample of what I had done on my spine.
I only had three levels, not the four shown here.
That's OK, since I had no desire to drive.  Carol drove today to find out for herself what I am allowed to do and not do.  Amela questioned me about my pain level and about what I am taking for my pain.  Told her it was more like an ache than a pain and that I have been taking a couple of Tylenol in the morning and a few more when I go to bed.  "No narcotics at all," she said.  "That's great!"  Then it was time to view the Xray that I had taken about a half hour before my appointment.  She pulled it up on her monitor and had Carol and I step over to view it with her.  Only then did I realize what Dr. Kuhlengel did during my fusion procedure.  "How long are all those screws?" I asked her.  "You have six screws to hold the device in place that the doctor used and they are all about three inches in length," she replied.  
This shows the titanium clamps and rods
that were used in my spine.  I took this
photo from the doctor's monitor.  Click
on it to enlarge.
And, there are rods that hold the clamps together.  And, since you had parts of your vertebrae removed during the last surgery you had, Dr. Kuhlengel had to use another rod to hold the two sides in place."  I stood frozen, looking at the screen, having a hard time trying to realize that I was looking at my spine on the screen.  "And, the curvature that I see was something that he told me before he wasn't going to try to fix, since it would necessitate rods to hold the spine straight and I wouldn't be able to bend or twist again," I told her.  I was hoping that I could return to my part-time jobs shortly, but she nixed that notion.  "You have just begun to heal.  It will take a few more months before your back will be totally healed.  
A side view showing the length of
the screws needed to hold the
clamps in place on my vertebrae.
You don't want to do something that will damage what has been done for you.  The muscles need to heal and it would help if you can walk as much as possible," she told me.  She also explained to me again why they extracted bone marrow from my hip.  "The bone marrow is spongy in consistency.  We extract it, add it to bone marrow from a cadaver and an adhesive liquid and place it around the sides of the metal we placed in you.  The stem cells will form new bone to hold it all together," she told me.  Well, I did find out I can now drive and sit in my tub that has air jets, but I still cannot sleep on my stomach or go to work. I was also given a card telling security at the airport that I have a legal metal device in my back that will probably set off the Xray unit.  Has the operation solved my terrible right leg pain.  You bet!  No pain at all anymore.  The numbness I had in my left foot, which was also caused by my nerves being pinched in my back, still remains and she told me that that could take months or even a years to get the feeling back, since nerves regenerate only about a millimeter a day and my legs are long.  I'm just grateful that I found one of the top 100 spine surgeons in the country right here in my own back yard.  He told me he could help me and I'm convinced he did his job.  Now I just have to listen to him and his assistant so I don't ruin what he did.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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