Tuesday, 04 April 2006

It's been seven weeks since I underwent surgery on my lower back up near Seattle, Washington. I was the recipient of a Kineflex lumbar artificial disc, a three-part, all-metal mechanical replacement for the torn, herniated and collapsed (degenerated) disc between my L5 and S1 vertebrae. That's the lowest one in your spine.

This surgery has truly given me my life back.

Before the procedure, I was always - and I quite literally mean always - in pain. Real pain, the kind that wears you down every minute of every day. The kind of chronic pain that people can't fully understand until they've lived with it themselves. It wears you down, chews you up, and eventually spits you out. "Normal" for me was a lot like the "normal" road noise is for someone who lives right next to a freeway: Spend your whole life around it and your brain tunes it out just to cope, but it's always there. Sure, louder noises still annoy you, but the mind has a way of coping with whatever you throw at it, at least as best it can. But that background pain still has an effect, progressively more so over time. When the sound is gone, it's almost deafening. And when the pain is gone, you finally realize just how bad it's been.

I feel ten times better than I've felt in more than ten years. Seriously.

Yeah, I am a guinea pig of sorts - the artificial disc I was fortunate enough to receive was provided to me as part of an FDA trial - not very many people have this hardware in their bodies. I did more than a year of careful and critical research on artificial disc surgery before I decided to take the leap. I considered bone fusion (which is the classic and most common treatment for my condition) and I tried every other treatment that was available to me - physical therapy, exercise, medicine, cortisone injections, minimally invasive procedures, you name it. When it came down to it, it was a choice between bone fusion or ADR (artificial disc replacement) procedure. the ADR device allows the joint to remain mobile instead of locking it up permanently, and I am only 38 years old (well for a few days anyhow), so staying mobile is  important to me. Because I had a 50/50 chance of receiving either a Charite or Kineflex artificial disc (they split the patients randomly, half and half), I also had to become confident in both technologies (the Charite is two metal plates with a plastic core, while the Kineflex is the same basic idea, but with a different design and a metal core). I can tell you that I was lucky and got the one I really wanted (the Kineflex), but either would have been okay with me.

Not everyone is the same, and surgery is rough stuff. The procedure is a serious one with potential side effects that one has to be ready to accept. Everyone's body is different and surgery is in large part an art, which means they all go slightly differently. Many people benefit from the new technology, while some are not so fortunate. That said, I am so grateful for my decision and to my doctors and the staff that have given me so much back. I did not fully realize how bad off I was until now, and still each day I keep feeling better. It will likely be many months before I can say I am healed and recovered, but I can see and believe that day's coming, which is something I had almost given up hope on before.

I write this from what used to be one of the most painful places in my life: An airliner seat at 37,000 feet. And guess what?

It doesn't hurt anymore.



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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Tuesday, 04 April 2006 19:04:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Saturday, 08 April 2006 12:54:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Just read your article and we are so happy that you are out of pain of all sorts. We can relate to a lot of pain. Glad that every day gets progressively better being a Bionic Man now and all. Remember when I told you to get it over with ASAP? Aren't you glad it's behind you. Look forward to seeing you soon. Love, Rich & Gina
Rich and Gina Lesak
Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:03:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
HI. I JUST WANTED TO SAY THANKS FOR THE POSTING OF YOUR STORY. I AM A 36 YEAR OLD MOTHER OF TWO WHO IS FACING FUSION OF THE CERVICAL SPINE (C5-C6) AND I HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY LOOKING INTO THE CLINICAL TRIALS OF REPLACEMENT DISCS INSTEAD. IT IS HARD TO MAKE A DECISION BASED ON ONLY WHAT DOCTORS TELL YOU WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK WITH AN ACTUAL HUMAN WHO HAS HAD THE SURGERY. ALTHOUGH OUR INJURIES ARE IN DIFFERENT AREAS, YOUR EXPERIENCE GIVES ME HOPE AND THE CONFIDENCE THAT I AM PURSUING SOMETHING THAT COULD HELP ME KEEP MY FULL MOBILITY AND BE FREE FROM CONSTANT PAIN. THANKS AGAIN AND ALL MY BEST FOR A FULL AND QUICK RECOVERY. MAY THE DISC LAST AS LONG AS YOU DO!!!!!!!!!!!!
L. NICHOLSON
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