Billy is delighted with results of surgery after experiencing pain in his neck and arms
Billy had Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion C4, C5 surgery on August 9 2016 and it has made a huge difference to his life. Take a look at his story:-
Symptoms before surgery
“Before I had surgery, I was in a lot of pain. I had pins and needles and tingling sensations in my lower arms and fingers, and stiffness in my neck when I tilted my head back or moved it from side to side – as if two rods have been placed down my spine and I was turning against them.
I also had recurrent shooting pains down the back of my arms, right down to my hands, which gradually became constant. On a scale of 1 to 10, the level of pain was from 6 to 7 but it got progressively worse to the point where I was losing the dexterity of my fingers on my good hand.
It was that that spurred me to contact the Thalidomide Trust - losing the use of my good hand would have had far-reaching consequences for my lifestyle.
Certain positions aggravated the pain and made it impossible for me to function normally. It was some time before I realised that I'd stopped reading. It was painful to even hold a book or bend my head to read a newspaper. I still had to perform my usual day to day activities, despite the pain, as I live alone. I had to alter the way I was doing things even if it meant taking a lot longer to do them and still experiencing extreme discomfort.
No specific incident had caused the pain; perhaps it was just the wear and tear of the past 40 years. When I described my symptoms to the medical team, they told me they where indicative of a slipped disc.”
Managing the pain
“Before surgery, I used Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, and Dihydrocodeine (an opium-based painkiller). After spinal surgery, I was prescribed Sevredol (a morphine-based pain-killer) along with Paracetamol and Dihydrocodeine.”
“I was treated by Mr. Casey, the head consultant of the team at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) Stanmore and at Bolsover Street. The team were very professional, very thorough and I felt reassured and confident to undergo treatment with them.
After X-rays and an MRI scan I was diagnosed as having four slipped discs in my neck. This meant that the nerves that ran down my shoulders and arms were compressed, causing the tingling, pain and gradual loss of dexterity.
The team knew straight away what to do and what surgery I needed. They were very forthright and honest about the procedures, the risks and the advantages of successful surgery. This was my fourth operation in 8 years and at first, I was a bit apprehensive, asking myself ‘When will all these medical procedures ever stop?’; but having met and talked with the team and seen how professional they were, I eagerly agreed to be put under the knife, fully confident that the deterioration would stop, my dexterity would improve and the constant pain would go.
Mr. Casey and the team decided that they would first replace the two discs with the worst damage and, in the process, ‘un-trap’ or decompress as many nerves as possible; hopefully giving me enough relief to avoid a second, more serious and traumatic operation on the discs that were less damaged.”
“ I woke up from the operation and felt instant relief; so much so that I wanted to do cartwheels down the ward. After all these years, most of the pain was gone and I felt so much better. The nursing staff had to continually warn me to take it easy and not do too much. They had estimated a 5-day stay but I was discharged after three days. I used my neck brace/surgical collar for two weeks after which I made steady progress and recovery.
Almost 90% of the pain in my neck has gone. There is still some pain but it is manageable. I still get stiffness in my neck which Mr. Casey said will always be there because they could not give me a new spine. The best news is that dexterity has returned to my fingers. The full movement of my fingers which disappeared a long time ago has all come back and the shooting pains down my arms and fingers have stopped."
“After my op I went for two follow-up appointments (after two months and six months) which showed that it had been a complete success. The titanium discs and screws had fused to the bone successfully and alleviated the pressure on the nerves which allowed complete healing. The improvements were so great that further surgery wasn’t necessary. I was delighted with this news and can now tackle the other health problems I am facing. It’s quite daunting but I just focussed on the day of surgery as the lowest point of my journey, knowing that from the minute I came round things were going to improve.”
How Billy feels now
“ I am absolutely delighted with the results of my surgery and strongly urge beneficiaries with the same symptoms to get in touch with the Health and Wellbeing team at the Trust."
"If they have the opportunity to consult Mr. Casey and his team I’d definitely recommend it. It’s also good to have the surgery carried out at RNOH Stanmore; you are very well looked after and there are canteens, and accommodation for relatives in the hospital grounds. Lastly, as a thalidomider, just like you, I am a fighter. That's what we do; it's what we've always done and what we will continue to do. Don't give up. If the first consultant you see isn't a good fit then Dr Dee Morrison at the Trust will help you find someone more suitable. Mr Casey was the third person I consulted with. The first just wanted to operate on a thalidomider; the second thought I was a hypochondriac and then Mr Casey found and remedied four slipped discs in my neck. Look after yourself and get the treatment you need!!!"
Read Billy's other story about his successful shoulder surgery.