Artificial Disc - Jackson
28 December, 2009
Melvin W Jackson
Testimonial regarding Pro Spine/ Dr Bertagnoli
I began to have neck pain about 25 years ago @ age 40. It began with my first stiff neck upon waking one morning. I could not turn my head to brush teeth or shave. The pain went away after 4-5 days and I thought that was the end of it. 6 months later, the same thing happened, then 3 months later and finally every month I woke with a painful stiff neck. I accused my wife of changing pillows, then began the search for the pillow of my youth – harder, softer, bigger, smaller, foam, feathers, etc but nothing helped.
Finally, about 15 years ago, I had a trauma episode. We were in St Andrews, Scotland, where I caddied so that my wife could play the Old Course for the first time. That evening I began to suffer from a pinched nerve in my neck that was the most pain I have ever experienced. The first night I laid on my stomach all night with my head over the side to slightly relieve the pain. The next night I tried to stay up because the pain brought tears to my eyes and I knew I could not sleep. I drank a whole bottle of Scotch for the first time that night. The 3rd day I went to the emergency room @ the St Andrews hospital and was given codeine, which has since been my drug of choice. The codeine helped a bit. After a week of physical therapy and codeine, we began our drive back to Monaco where we were living at the time. About 1 month after the episode began the severe pain declined to a level of about 3-4 out of a 10 scale and I began to get numbness in the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. I could also feel pain the entire route from my back through my left shoulder blade, shoulder and elbow.
After a while I began to live with this reduced level of pain, which was 24/7 but I could get a few hours of sleep and even could play golf once/week but never more than that.
However, the last 4-5 years have been worse. The pain level went up to 5-6 and constant. I was having trouble sleeping and began to wonder if the pain would ever go away. Early in 2009 I decided to go ahead with surgery because the risks seemed worth it to me. I knew from a brother’s experience that I did not want to go the fusion route. I contacted a golf friend who had good success with surgery in Germany arranged by a patient advocate in California named Mark Mintzer. Mark is an extremely helpful shoulder to lean upon with personal experience of severe pain. Mark recommended ADR surgery by Dr Bertagnoli in Straubing, Germany, which is a beautiful town in Bavaria with a very good hotel and nice restaurants nearby. After stopping in Munich for an MRI and bone density test, my wife and I arrived at the Pro Spine clinic early on a Friday afternoon, 15 May, for a consultation with Dr Bertagnoli. We had a tentative surgery date for the following Monday.
I was surprised that I was asked to go through a normal hospital admission procedure and assigned a room when I was just there to meet the good doctor for a consultation. More x rays and blood tests and then his pretty assistant, Dr Fenk-Meyer, came into the room to look at my file and tell me that the good doctor would be along after day’s surgery. Dr Fenk-Meyer was very positive and certain that I should have the procedure because, if not, the problem would only get worse over time. The Dr Bertagnoli arrived, answered all of my questions (mainly I was concerned about dying from a slip of the knife in an important and crowded area!) and then looked at me and asked if I was ready to proceed. I thought he meant on the next Monday but he said, no, now. I looked over at my wife and she said that I must decide because it was my neck. I said OK and was prepped 2 hours later and finished the procedure around midnight. It was supposed to take 2 hours but took 3 because Dr Bertagnoli wanted to remove some of the bone spurs he saw when he was in there.
24 hours later I was up and walking around and 2 days later I was released to the hotel to watch TV. My biggest post-op worry was a very difficult time swallowing, which is a fear of mine. I was released from the doctor’s care a week after surgery and then spent next week having rehab/physical therapy at a spa a couple of hours away. Returned to London.
I write this testimonial at year-end, 2009, and am pleased to report that pain level in my neck is down to level 1, I can play golf, I have no shoulder blade, shoulder or elbow pain. I do have slight numbness in my left thumb and forefinger. My mobility has been restored and recent x rays show the artificial discs remain in the proper places.
The entire experience was very positive although expensive and not recoverable from my US healthcare provider. $50,000 is a lot of money but I can afford it and did not want this done by a beginner.
I hope that this writing is in some way helpful to the reader.
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