This morning Chris and I went to see his orthopaedic specialist, Dr. Recknagel (the same wunderkind who patched up Paige's broken wrist) for a follow up visit to Chris's shoulder surgery (which was a radical reconstruction in lieu of a complete joint replacement). Chris and I both let Dr. Recknagel know how much pain he is in everyday. "As a matter of fact, my neck hurts worse than my shoulder," Chris said.
So Dr. Recknagel ordered neck x-rays in addition to Chris's shoulder x-ray. The minute he put the neck x-ray up on the big white glowy view thingy, he said, "This is bad. We will have to get this taken care of today." He turned to his assistant and told her to get Chris an MRI and an appointment with the spine surgeon today and start scheduling a neck surgery.
After saying that to his assistant, Dr. Recknagel pointed to the obviously jagged black line going through Chris's neck and said, "Your neck fusion is broken. We need to repair it immediately or you will most likely be paralyzed." Apparently, all it would take is for him to move the wrong way or trip and fall, and he would be permanently paralyzed.
You have no idea the terror of hearing a statement like that.
"I don't understand!" I said, "Why didn't the ER doctors see that when we were in there just a few weeks ago?!?!"
Apparently they were only looking for NEW fractures. To see a fracture in an old fusion was apparently not worth the trouble to consider a problem, despite the fact that Chris told them about the numbness, the tingling, the light-headedness. No, they sent him home to not only suffer, but potentially a lifetime in a wheelchair.
You see, Chris has broken his neck twice before and his back once. His first injury was when he was 15, and he broke his neck playing football. When he broke his neck again in his twenties in a car accident, the doctors finally went in and put in what is called a butterfly clip (not to be confused with those pretty things little girls like to wear in their hair, of course). We don't know if the fusion failed to heal or if the fusion was rebroken in the rear end collision a couple weeks ago. Judging by the pain and symptoms he's been having since then, however, it is a likely culprit.
So, we expect Chris to be in surgery sometime next week, and Dr. Recknagel told him outright that he won't be back to work for at least a year. A year. On top of which, he is facing either a re-scope on his shoulder or the joint replacement.
I'm still shaking.
However, having said all that scary stuff, as I explained to Chris, this is very hopeful news. To continue living with the pain he has been having was not an option. To be able to look forward to even reducing his pain by 50% would be a significant improvement for him. Between his neck and shoulder, he can no longer do the things that he loves; playing golf, hunting, fishing, playing football, working out, even riding his bike. But if he were able to get his pain under control, life would be so much more enjoyable and he might even be able to participate in all his favorite pasttimes.
As scary as it is to hear that that person you love has a broken neck and could become paralyzed, it brings a huge measure of hope that now that we've caught it, his life could take a huge step in the right direction with these surgeries. Let's pray!