The picture above is the artificial disc in my back. The x-ray was taken this morning as part of my 2 year follow up visit in a clinical trial/study I'm taking part in (to get the disc FDA approved).
After writing out The Background and Surgery #1 I realized this was simply going to be way too long. So I've decided to break it down in three parts. The Background, Surgery #1 and Surgery #2. It's for the better, trust me.
In January of 2003, right after coming coming back from New York, my back started hurting. I had woken up one morning feeling stiff and sore and thought I had simply slept in a weird position. It hurt in a way that it hurts when you pull a muscle, kind of inflamed and burning. The pain, however, stuck with me for months. Even though the pain was increasing I ignored it for about a year until I finally couldn't take it anymore. This was around the time my legs would go numb and I would get intense shooting pains down my right leg, making it difficult to walk. I ended up seeing a few specialists over the next few months. All of them giving me the same diagnosis - I was suffering from a bulging disc. They said the disc could/would rupture at any time if I aggravated it enough but that I could just leave it alone and take it easy and it would fix itself. But if I didn't want to leave it alone they could fuse the two vertebrae above and below the disc, completely getting rid of my problematic disc. This did have a downside, however, in that my overall mobility would be decreased and recovery would be a pain in the ass. Being that I was still young I quickly decided against that.
Fast forward a few years (during which I went through a few rounds of physical therapy, traction, and around 5 caudal epidurals) to 2007 and the pain never got any better, it actually got worse. I went to a few more doctors, all of them again saying the same thing. Bulging disc, hasn't ruptured, it might, take it easy. One day I happened to be explaining to one of my college professors why I had so many doctors appointments and why I always seemed to be in pain all the time. He seemed a bit happy to hear this, which was pissing me off at the time, but it was only because another teacher in my department had gone through the same problems and had them all fixed by a local neurosurgeon. After speaking with said teacher I also found out her husband also had his disc problems taken care of by the same doctor. Getting all excited about the hope of being fixed, I booked an appointment.
In my first visit I told him my same old story - what possibly could have caused it, symptoms, pain levels, what makes it worse, what makes it better, etc. I also showed him all my old x-rays and MRIs (the same ones the previous doctors had seen and used to diagnose as a bulging disc). He immediately said, "Oh, no. This isn't bulging, it's already ruptured. And from the looks of it it probably ruptured many years ago."
This was a huge shock to say the least. He then showed me how bad the nerve damage was by making me do the kinds of tests a police officer would do to see if you were drunk (field sobriety tests). The one that really stuck out was making me walk heel to toe. Because of the nerve damage in my back it was almost impossible for me to do. I took a step with my right foot and then tried to place my left heel directly in front of my right foot. As I did this my left leg started to tremble and I almost fell completely over. I tried a few more times but simply couldn't do it. This was a major psychological blow to me, and to this day still makes me sad. The good news was that he said he could get me into surgery that week and fix the problem. I easily said yes, and was scheduled for surgery.
I apologize I don't really have any pictures to post in this story. All of my old x-rays and MRIs are with my parents.
The story continues with Part 2.