I’ve just had my birthday; I’ve now notched up 1000 miles on the Reiver – 600 miles of which I might never have been able to do; it’s been six months since my neck operation. All things which have prompted some reflection.
The ‘fizzing’ in my hands described in the previous post has settled into a bit of dysaesthesia on the back of both hands between first finger and thumb. It’s quite variable, even during the day, but crucially it doesn’t seem to affect function and strength and co-ordination have gradually returning to normal. Dysaesthesia is something which, for some people, has a profound effect on their lives causing them to dwell on their symptoms and to structure their lives and activities in ways that avoid provoking discomfort. I think I’ve probably got it in a mild version but I decided to just get on with it – I’m wearing slightly bigger gloves at work for comfort but otherwise behaving as normal.
The surgery on my neck happened a month before Christmas. This was ACDF of C5/C6 – basically removing the disc between two vertebrae and fusing them – to re-create the space lost by ageing. Recovery was uneventful although I realised I was affected physically more than I appreciated at the time. The week after the surgery Storm Desmond arrived and we wandered down to the river to have a look. In the end we probably walked 2-3 miles but the last half mile home took some focus to keep putting one foot in front of the other, like at the end of a big endurance run! This leaden feeling lasted a couple of months before suddenly lifting in early February.
The surgeon said I could cycle (“as long as you don’t fall off”) but not to run for three months. Riding a bike again was surprisingly fine – you never forget – but I’d lost some proprioception in my right leg which meant that my foot would fly off the pedal at the top of the stroke unless it was clipped in. Weird. This gradually disappeared and I’ve just realised I rode a bike last night without being clipped in and never even thought about it so it must be fine. I wasn’t allowed to cycle alone for a good while so when joining in with our usual Wednesday night runs I would cycle with two doctors on hand just in case.
Around Christmas I was out for a walk when I noticed that dipping my head down produced a startling tingling sensation in my left leg. I’d noticed a strange sensory disturbance in my left leg before – as if a layer of tissue inside was numb – but this was different and disconcerting. It was brought on by exercise and eventually passed once I’d stopped but nobody, including the surgeon, seemed to know what was causing it. The amount of exercise needed to start it got less and less and the area affected spread to both legs and up my sides. Eventually another MRI scan – with me in different positions squeezed into the scanner – showed nothing except some residual oedema (fluid) in the spinal cord in the area where the original trauma had been. Presumably bending my neck was causing the cord to slide and this irritated area was producing some strange sensations. Just confirming how lucky I’ve been but reassuring that nothing else was going on. A patient suggested I should “embrace the tingle” so that’s what I’ve done.
Running in this state was a bit strange but I’ve gradually got back into it. Both that and cycling have pretty much returned to normal. By the digital benchmarks of strava and the physical benchmark of my 16 year old son I’m not as fit as I was but just delighted to be able to do any of it. I suspect the graph of Sam’s improvement and my decline have crossed anyway so he can have the baton!
As I don’t actually remember the accident I’ve not had any flashbacks thankfully. I’m much more cautious descending off-road, partly due to confidence and partly imagination and awareness of what could happen. Sometimes I shudder when going at 20mph and imagining hitting a tree or hedge at that speed…..
This is really just a record for me to remember my progress at this stage but if anyone with a similar spinal injury reads it and wants to compare notes then please do get in touch.