Injury Update – Pre-op Meeting Over

So, the wife and I went up to Stanford yesterday to meet with the staff for the pre-operative tests and info. On the test side, not much needed to be done. They took 5 vials of blood (I got a few punches in), checked my vitals (still mostly alive), and went over my medical history and medication list. They also gave me some directives.

For the week leading up to the surgery, I am not supposed to take any supplements (meaning Creatine or Fish Oil). Now, the scientist in me wants to believe that this is because Fish Oil is an anti-inflammatory and may suppress immune function, while Creatine has been known to cause some water retention and possibly restlessness. However, the cynic in me thinks this is likely because a lot of folks (especially in CA) ingest enormous quantities of highly questionable shit, and rather than try and keep up with whatever miracle herbal pill is in fashion this week, it’s easier just to say ‘stop taking everything’.

Anyhow, regardless of the reason, I have complied.

In other news, I got a new MRI on a stronger machine (1.5 Tesla as opposed to 1 Tesla) this past Saturday, and the results are disappointing. Basically, I’ve had little to no change in the extrusion, and it’s still compressing my cord. Which brings me a little further around to my decision to have surgery.

A lot of people have questioned this, and rightfully so. My situation currently is that I am still experiencing some improvement in strength, and some (small) improvement in muscle mass on my left side. Based on that, I have an orthopedic surgeon telling me to hold off on surgery. And since I am not degenerating, that seems to be the best course.

However, I have three other surgeons (one ortho and two neuro) telling me that I should get the surgery because the extrusion is compressing my cord. In fact, even the surgeon that suggests for me to wait is telling me not to lift anything heavy or do anything that requires valsalva because it may cause more leakage from the disc and damage my spinal cord.

So, for the last two months, I’ve not lifted anything heavy, and have only done bench presses and light upper body isolation work. The hope was that this would help reduce the extrusion, and that I would be able to go back to lifting. However, the latest MRI shows that not to be the case, so if I don’t get the surgery, I would be back to another 2+ months of no lifting in the hopes that things improve.

And then, even if I could go back to lifting, discs don’t really heal. Discs have no blood flow, so they simply dry up when they burst. Which means this level would always be a weak point, and if I don’t get the fusion, I may never be able to bear the weight that I could pre-injury.

With the surgery, assuming all goes well, there’s a high chance that I will make a full recovery, and I may be squatting again in as little as two months. So basically, my choices boiled down to:

– No surgery: Continued weakness, months of no lifting, a chance or permanent damage daily, and reasonable chance that I will never reach previous levels.

– Surgery: Two weeks of no lifting followed by 8 weeks of light lifting. Then, a relatively high chance of full recovery, with minimal chances of relapse or complications (<1%). The tradeoff is an up to 25% chance of a herniation in an adjacent level (due to increased pressures) within the next 10 years, but I am hoping to avoid that by strengthening my neck and improving my posture and lifting form.

After thinking a lot about this, I decided that surgery is the most optimal course for returning to my previous quality of life. Perhaps that is a mistake (it’s possible I’m wrong, of course), but there’s no possible way to know that from this side of the surgery. I feel like I’ve done all I can conservatively, and now I just need to get moving forward again.

Due to how much I’ve been absent, I am going to try my best to post updates often. I hope to post shortly after my surgery, and perhaps daily but at least weekly thereafter to serve as a kind of guide to others who may need to go through this.

D-Day is next Wednesday, so I hope to post something positive from an upright position Thursday.

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