Friday, January 30, 2015

A New Day and a New Path - Spinal Surgery Consults

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As many of you know (and had been faithfully & fervently praying over), I was scheduled for two spinal surgery consults in Georgia on Thursday and Friday - one in Gainesville and one in Cartersville.

A few people have been asking why Rence is unable to attend many of these visits with me. Rence is more than supportive with everything that is involved with my care. He was able to get off of work last minute this last time (thankfully). It is, however, very difficult for him to take days off because he doesn't get paid days off (and we're already running very short on money, which is why we try are trying to save his "off days" for surgery time - additional days off mean additional days without pay, which we may not be able to afford). In addition, it throws off the class's timeline in regards to accomplishing the AL state standards for college math, which is already difficult to fulfill in a semester when no classes are cancelled due to time constraints. I am so grateful for his never-ending support. If he could be there, he would. During the rare occasion when he's off and I have appointments, he usually goes with me (he works during the summer as well). And I can't say enough about those who can help fill the gap when Rence is unable to take off. We are so grateful to you all!

I need to also say a HUGE thank you to both my parents for sitting with the boys almost all day on Thursday and all morning on Friday. The boys were also sick this week (again - they started running a temp. the day we arrived at my parents' in Georgia), and Grandma and PaPa have handled it so well (of course they would - I had no doubts leaving them in the hands of two nurses who take good care their Grandbabies).

Visit at Georgia Bone & Joint, Dr. Charles Cha (Friday morning, Jan. 30th):

Cartersville is fortunately very close from my parents' home in Georgia - only 25 minutes drive. It would be about 2 1/2 hours from our home in Alabama. We were very pleased with the friendliness of the staff and the nice facilities. They got me back fairly quickly. As most physician visits go, they took my vitals and paperwork and all of the test/scan reports & discs that I had. They then took me back to get another x-ray, although they didn't take but 3 angles/views. The nurse practitioner then came in to see me and get some basic information for Dr. Cha. She did a very simple exam on my SI joints ("does it hurt when I press here"). She tested reflexes and leg strength. Dr. Cha then came in, and I was very pleased with how personable he seemed. He did a very simple exam, but did do a few of the SI joint diagnostic manipulations. The majority of them were very painful. However, he came to the conclusion that I did not meet his criteria for surgery, which he said meant having pain for each of his tests performed, as well as taking into consideration the x-rays. He felt that the L3/4, L5/S1 was my primary area of pain and I was getting confused by the source of the pain. He was very nice about it all and answered all of our questions. Rence and I felt he was simply wanting a candidate that clearly met every criteria to the "T" for surgery. In other words, if it isn't "black and white", he feels uncomfortable proceeding. Rence and I were not discouraged one bit, but rather felt that God was helping point us even more clearly in the right direction.

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Visit at Specialty Clinics of Georgia, Dr. David Weiss (Thursday afternoon, Jan. 29th):
Gainesville is about 4 1/2 hours (without traffic) from our home in Alabama, and about 2 1/2 hours from my parents' home in Georgia. Before we even left my parents' house, we felt at peace with what God had in store for us - even though we didn't know what that would be. My parents, Rence, myself and Gavin all gathered to pray for wisdom in all that was done and that the doctor would be understanding and compassionate.

We arrived right on time for my appointment. I was already impressed upon arrival. The facilities were set up very nicely, and the staff seemed friendly and personable. I had x-rays of my SI joint and lumbar done recently (on October 23, 2014), but they only did 2-3 angles/views of the joints/lumbar spine on the x-rays. This physician's office does them for every new patient and did approximately 15-20 different views and angles of the SI joint and lumbar spine. I then went in to the exam room with Dr. Weiss' nurse, who was extremely sweet and personal. Once she was done gathering her information, Dr. Weiss and his other nurse (one that takes charting notes during exam) came in to do the exam. Over the course of the entire exam, Dr. Weiss spent 45 minutes with us....yes, 45 minutes. I didn't feel rushed, and every question was answered. Part of the exam is a painful manipulation of the SI joints in all sorts of positions and with pressure on the joint. I felt like I was going to literally jump off the table for several of the manipulations he did. But I knew it was coming before he even came in the room, and it's worth it to get the answers you need. I asked Rence if enjoyed watching the Dr. "beat on me". ;) He giggled.

Not once during the visit did I feel nervous or anxious. I knew God had this under control. I didn't know how it was all going to play out, but God's peace surpassed my understanding....I love it when He does that! *sigh*

After Dr. Weiss finished his exam, he sat down and explained that he takes everything into account, but especially the physical examination. He said he doesn't go solely by x-rays (I knew at that point we were in the right place...). He then said he felt that I was a perfect candidate for surgery. Dr. Weiss felt there were a few things we needed to know before making a major decision:
  • By evidence of my physical reactions from the manipulations during Dr. Weiss' exam and from looking at my description of symptoms (including burning pain, numbness and tingling down the legs), he felt that it was extremely likely that I have piriformis syndrome. He explained that one of the manipulations he performed is solely for diagnosing piriformis syndrome, which I was positively responsive to (meaning I showed signs of piriformis syndrome). In order to absolutely diagnose, we will need to see a physician in Atlanta in February for another EMG/NCV. This time, however, the EMG/NCV will test specifically for piriformis syndrome, which the prior EMG/NCV (done in November) did not test for. If it is diagnosed, it is an easy fix through surgery and can be done at the same time as SI fusion surgery.
  • Secondly, Dr. Weiss discussed the difference between using the I-fuse system (through SI bone) and basic screws. The I-fuse system uses a type of triangular pin that is placed in the SI joint and the bone actually fuses to the pin over time. Screws, however, are made of material that is unable to be fused to the bone. Also, the I-fuse system seems to work extremely well on middle aged and older patients, since the objective is for the pins to create a complete fusion and no movement in the joint whatsoever. The screws, however, do allow for just a slight bit of movement, therefore minimizing the stress on other joints following the fusion. For this reason, screws in the SI joint are recommended for patients of younger ages (under 40).
So...we believe we have found the surgeon God has been preparing us for. We felt such a peace about this entire visit. He seemed so knowledgeable, compassionate and well-balanced in how he received evidence of injury. We are leaning toward using screws, and we are waiting for the call from his nurse to schedule the date of surgery for the Thursday before Spring Break, as well as to schedule the EMG/NCV with the physician in Atlanta for February.

(February 4, 2015)

I'm still feeling very led toward Dr. Weiss for surgery. However, I have one more consult in Huntsville. I am debating slightly about still going, but am leaning toward keeping the appointment just to get one more opinion on my lumbar spine, especially. Stay tuned for updates!


  1. Replies
    1. Hello Laritaraine! I'm sorry I did not see your comment for over a year now. I've pretty much quit blogging for a while until I can balance a few more things in my life. ;) I am doing fairly well. My surgery for the SI jt. went fantastically, and I have recovered well. I do, however, have a lot of continuing issues in the spine (neck and lumbar - lumbar is by far the worst). They recently told me that if I do not look into fusing several levels of my lumbar (from the L5/S1 up - it's up to the Doc on how far up he wants to fuse), then I will not have enough stable bone to ever have it done. They said it looked terrible. I did have a car accident in June 2016 (hit and run) and the collision was very jarring...I believe the quick deterioration seen in just 1 year might have been a result of the accident. But the bottom line is that this procedure will need to be done definitely by the end of the year, if not sooner. He also said that this would basically be an effort to re-structure the mal-formed spine instead of an effort for pain relief (it's just not realistic in their point of view - "malformed spine" -
      curved abnormally, arthritis taking effect, torn &/or bulging discs at all levels at and below L3/4, etc.). I'm as ready as I'll ever be to "dive in" and get this over with. I know the recovery is a living nightmare for the first week, at least, but I also know that God is with me - guiding the hands of the surgeons, and standing with me wherever I go. Thank you for asking about me and following my story. As always, it means a great deal when you know there are people caring for and praying over you. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much for following my story! It's ironic that you comment about a healthy lifestyle, as I've been on a "health kick" lately - hoping it sticks, especially since I need to lose some of these lbs. from imbalanced thyroid and adrenal glands. I'll start waddling soon if I'm not careful...Lol. In all seriousness, though, my lifestyle is very difficult to implement an exercise regimen unless I have a hand cycle, for instance (which is too costly by far, and not covered by insurance). I have a very difficult time walking at any speed, as well as doing PT exercises. I also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), so when my body releases energy, it never replenishes. I can literally pass out in the middle of a simple physical therapy workout involving basic stretches and a few muscle strengthening exercises while lying down. So it's a catch 22. If you will, please keep me in your prayers in that regard. I desperately need to lose weight and can't because of a thyroid and adrenal gland issue, and I feel that it's gotten out of hand and I'm helpless. At least I know that I'm doing everything in my power to be healthy and most importantly honor the dwelling place of my Savior -
      the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Thanks again for your prayers and for following my story!