RE’s Excellent Spinal Surgery Adventure

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 15, 2015


Discuss this article at the Medicine and Health Table inside the Diner

Death-RattleAs regular Diner Readers are aware, I have been dealing for quite some time with Pain & Paralysis from a Neck Injury I suffered last year.  I did not have Med Insurance at the time, and have been waiting, hoping it would improve on its own.  It has not, it has become worse.  I finally got Insurance, and started making the rounds of the Doctors, beginning with my Primary Care Internist, followed by a visit with a Neurological Diagnostician and then finally today the visit with the Spinal Surgeon.

The issue is this: resultant from a fall I took on the job, the C4-C5 vertebrae in my neck were damaged. This has put pressure on the nerve bundle running down the  spinal column, and anyone who knows anything about this knows that when you have damage that far up, you’re not just in danger of becoming Paraplegic, you are on the road to Quadraplegia if you aren’t fortunate enough to die outright.


Vertebrae are grouped into sections. The higher the injury on the spinal cord, the more dysfunction can occur.

http://www.stemcureindia.com/images/spinal.jpgHigh-Cervical Nerves (C1 – C4)

  • Most severe of the spinal cord injury levels
  • Paralysis in arms, hands, trunk and legs
  • Patient may not be able to breathe on his or her own, cough, or control bowel or bladder movements.
  • Ability to speak is sometimes impaired or reduced.
  • When all four limbs are affected, this is called tetraplegia or quadriplegia.
  • Requires complete assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, and getting in or out of bed
  • May be able to use powered wheelchairs with special controls to move around on their own
  • Will not be able to drive a car on their own
  • Requires 24-hour-a-day personal care

Low-Cervical Nerves (C5 – C8)

  • Corresponding nerves control arms and hands.
  • A person with this level of injury may be able to breathe on their own and speak normally.
  • C5 injury
    • Person can raise his or her arms and bend elbows.
    • Likely to have some or total paralysis of wrists, hands, trunk and legs
    • Can speak and use diaphragm, but breathing will be weakened
    • Will need assistance with most activities of daily living, but once in a power wheelchair, can move from one place to another independently
  • C6 injury
    • Nerves affect wrist extension.
    • Paralysis in hands, trunk and legs, typically
    • Should be able to bend wrists back
    • Can speak and use diaphragm, but breathing will be weakened
    • Can move in and out of wheelchair and bed with assistive equipment
    • May also be able to drive an adapted vehicle
    • Little or no voluntary control of bowel or bladder, but may be able to manage on their own with special equipment

I was warned first by the Neuro-Diagnostician that any further falls or whiplashing of the neck could send me over the edge in an instant.  The Spinal Surgeon confirmed this today, and is desperate to get me on the table to carve up my neck STAT!  However, the costs of this operation are Mind Boggling.  We’re talking $200K here at least by the time all is said and done.

So, the last month since leaving the job have been a non-stop NIGHTMARE of dealing with Goobermint Bureaucracies and Insurance Companies as I attempt to get this covered under our dysfunctional system.  To this point, other than having some of the early bills for Diagnosis which are none too small themselves  partially covered, I haven’t been able to get any Bennies at all to cover my loss of income.  I am living entirely off my savings at the moment.  I’ve got a Lawyer working on this, but it will likely be months before I see any resolution or Bennies.

This may well be the Last Great Adventure for RE, so to further be able to Chronicle it on the pages of the Diner, I have to “Come Clean” and drop one of the RE Mythologies, that I have piles of money.  I don’t, I’m a formerly Hard Working Middle Class Guy who managed to stay out of Debt by being Penurious, socking away some Savings and getting a small Inheritance when my mom died.  That’s my “Cushion”,  which if I didn’t have it I would be well on my way to Homelessness already.  I could last a few years with no Income with no Med Bills, but if I can’t get this covered it basically would wipe me out financially, and then what fucking good is having my neck fixed if I am completely broke?  I’m better off DEAD in this scenario.

The next step in the process here is a Friday “Pre-Hearing” with Workman’s Comp Alaska, where my Lawyer will begin the process of doing Battle  with the Insurance Company Lawyers, but which will end in a postponement for minimum 45 days because neither side has all the medical records yet.  The Insurance Company has of course “Contraverted” the claim, since paying out on this will cost a decent piece of change between the Med Bills and the Lost Income.  My Lawyer will attend the pre-Hearing for me, I don’t need to make another trip to Anchorage yet for this one.  I never enjoyed going down to Anchorage to begin with, but now when I know if I even stop short because a Moose is crossing the road that could instantly turn me into a Vegetable I don’t relish the drive into Anchorage at all.  I try to not travel much at all these days and spend a lot of time resting horizontal which takes away some of the Pain.  If I spend a lot of time on my feet moving around, by the end of the day my Head feels like it will literally EXPLODE with PAIN.

Then, next week I am scheduled for a C-T Scan at the local Matsu Regional Medical Center.  The Surgeon wants this scan in addition to the MRI and X-Rays I already got ($3000, KACHING!).  This additional Scan necessary to determine which of two types of proceedures he might end up performing, which I have details of but I will save for another post.  After that, I will try and schedule the Surgery and get it Pre-Approved by the Workman’s Comp Insurance Company.  If miraculously that occurs,  I should be wheeled into Surgery sometime in Mid-May at the earliest would be my best guess, but somehow I doubt the Insurance Company will sign off on $200K in bills that easily.

Meanwhile, although every day is somewhat tortuous in terms of pain and just doing simple tasks like tying my shoes  and getting dressed, I am looking at this as my Retirement at long last from the world of “School” and “Work”, neither of which I ever was happy about having to do even though I was good in Skule and for the most part enjoyed my work while doing it, whatever it happened to be in whatever era of my life, although there were a couple of jobs I didn’t like at all after doing them for a while, like teaching in the Public Skules.  What I always hated was the necessity and responsibility every day of HAVING to get up and do what was required of me to be an acceptable member of this culture.  The Retirement may not be very long here, but at least I got one a month long or so and counting now.  Many folks never get one, they die in Car Accidents on the way to work.  or they sign up to be a Brave Soldier, and get their Ticket to the Great Beyond TM from an IED in Beirut before they make it out of their 20s.  Or they get Cancer young; or they get Hazed and Abused on the net and Hang themselves as Teenagers; or the numerous other ways people end up dying long before they ever get the chance to “retire”.

Anyhow, now if I don’t show up here one day Unexpectedly in the near future, Diners will have a better idea of what happened.  I HAVE made provisions for the Diner to continue on at least for a while after I cross the Great Divide, though I doubt it will last all that long.  In the grand scheme of things though, nothing lasts all that long and everything dies, even Species and even Planets.  I’d like to last a bit longer, and I hope the Planet and Homo Sapiens do also.  Ka inside the Diner asked what the purpose of living is without Individuality? What is the Purpose of  Honeybee living, or of a Flower?  It is self-reflexive, the purpose of living is just to live.  You do so for so long as you can, experiencing what we call life, and then you are Dust in the Wind.



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