Wednesday 6 February 2013

November 28, 2012 - A date with David!

Nothing gets me more excited than having a date in the diary with David Harrison. In a medical sense one could say he is my perfect date.

But today, whilst exciting as always, had a melancholic undertone as I knew that this was destined to be my last date with the great man (wistful sigh).

You see November 28th was my back's first birthday. It was a year to the day when I allowed my body to be opened up by David and for him to give me an amazing gift that will hopefully last a lifetime, my wonderful artificial disc. 

And a year down the line here I was striding confidently into his office flushed with pride at how well I had recovered, and then sitting down like a docile, old labrador waiting for a pat of approval. Woof woof.

I came armed with my latest X Rays and the good news was that my range of movement through the artificial disc was virtually at the level of the real disc, and in time David thought that there was no reason it wouldn't achieve the same. My flexibility was much improved and my abdominal strength was largely recovered. Tick, tick and tick.

I found myself beaming uncontrolably like a veritable Cheshire cat, but who wouldn't at this news? You go into this operation hoping above everything that it will be the cure, but I'm sure we all secretly harbour a fear that not only will it not be the cure, but that it could actually make things worse. I certainly did. So to be told by the big guy that in the nicest possible way he never wanted to see me again, because I was cured, was sweet, sweet music to my ears.

And I can honestly say I feel cured. And I knew when I walked in there that this was the end of the road. Because when I wake up in the morning now, my first thought is never about my back. A year ago it always was. Every day.

People probably think that being able to do the really active things again is what makes it so worthwhile, but for me it's actually the normal things that have made the real difference. 

Going out to a restaurant without my trusty cushion! 
Watching a 3 hour movie without having to nip to the loo halfway through to rub some freeze gel into my back. 
Being able to stand all evening at a gig and dance without fear (although admittedly my dancing probably induces fear to those in the immediate vicinity...). 
Getting on a plane without the aid of medication or alcohol and being able to help my family with the suitcases! 
Having sex without worrying about doing myself an injury (not exactly helpful thoughts...) :-)
Being able to go on a long car journey without stopping in a lay-by to stretch. 
Carrying shopping bags home from the supermarket...I could go on, but you get the idea.

Okay so I admit I haven't yet walked onto a tennis court. But theoretically there is no reason why I couldn't. The only thing that's stopping me is my mind. Because what they don't tell you when you have an operation like this is that your mental condition has to be cured too, not just your physical one. 

You have to rebuild your confidence and its a fragile thing and in my case its actually taken longer than my body and I'm still not there yet. I had some back pain about 2 months ago and my immediate reaction was...shit! Its all gone wrong!! But of course it hadn't, it was just the normal aches and pains that anyone of my age gets. I know that I'm getting there and I'm sure that in 2013 I will hit a tennis ball again. I'm in the gym every week and my progress is good.

I often get people who are considering having the operation emailing me or calling me and asking me whether I can recommend it. Well of course I can!! For me it was an absolute, bloody miracle. And if I ever developed the same condition again (god forbid) I would be down to David's surgery rolling over and having my tummy tickled in a shot. No question. 

But it's a real responsibility being asked for an opinion like that. I can't make your mind up for you, because I don't know what your circumstances are. Don't get me wrong I'm only too happy to try and help people in the same situation I was in, because I would have loved it if there had been someone there for me. So I can tell you about my hugely positive experience and what to expect in the days and weeks after the operation, and I hope that's useful. Because I know when I was trying to find some positive stories before my operation they were few and far between, and the negative ones outweighed them, and that made the decision harder. It's human nature I understand that, we like to moan, and moan loudly! But when things go well we just get on with life and move on, because life is about living. And that's what I'm doing because I have no excuse not to any more. 

So here I am, a year older and a year wiser. And a year happier.

I wish everyone out there an outcome as good as mine, and one thing I can say with absolute confidence, David Harrison is the man. Don't even think about looking elsewhere.

Good luck and good backs!!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

It's been nearly 4 months since my op and the good news is that yesterday I was signed off by David Harrison. 

He's happy, I'm happier, everybody's happy. Result!

The X Rays look great and the disc has been embraced by my spine like a long lost friend you don't want to lose touch with again.

I can't tell you how uplifted I feel...well ok I can...I'm VERY uplifted!!

The sun is shining brightly today, it's 20 degrees, Spurs grabbed a point in the London derby and my back feels GREAT! Happy, happy Days.

David said that he'll see me again in November to chat about all the amazing things I'll have done during the summer!!

The bad news to end this post is the tragedy that happened this week. I am of course talking about Nick Boeree's death. I met Nick a few months ago and I was actually originally scheduled to have my op done by him, but I decided to use David as he was much closer to home. It's unbelievably sad and such a loss. You feel so indebted to your surgeon when you go through a procedure like ADR and I know there must be so many patients of Nick's who are feeling just stunned this week.

My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children and to everyone who owe their recovery to this talented man.

RIP Nick.

Monday 20 February 2012

Week 12 - My Everest climbed.

Week 12. I'm finally there.

At the top of Everest.

Stepping foot on the moon.

Relieved but exhilarated. 

I'm looking down at a world of possibilities. A life that's ahead of me and not just in the past.

A world where I can still be anything I want to be. Where I can still do anything I want to do. 

But a world where I'm a better man. A happier man. And a man with a great story to tell for anyone who is willing to listen.

It's time to finally say goodbye to my old life.

I'm not going back. I have a new back. This is the first day of the rest of my life.

Give the man a cigar.

Monday 23 January 2012

Day 54 - oh that's an excellent half century!

Well on the day my ADR innings has gone past 50, I couldn't let the occasion pass by without at least one cricket quote. The incomparable Richie Benaud once said sagely..."I think the batsman's strategy will be to make runs and not get out". Wise words indeed.

So I shall be continuing with that strategy and I will try not to get out. Not quite yet anyway. 

In my last mini-post I gave my eager reader the opportunity to contact me. So yesterday I got an email asking how the furry invalid was. I stupidly assumed that they were asking after me until I read it again and realised that I am not in the least bit furry. There was clearly only one explanation (I've been watching Sherlock intently you see...), they were asking after my dog. Well it was kind of them to ask, BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? HUH?!!

Well I am pleased to report that Brody our dog is getting much better thank you. After a few days when he became some sort of schizophrenic monster he seems to have turned a corner and his good-natured dopeyness has once again come to the fore. But I must say it's kind of nice to have another invalid around the place.  I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Here is a photo of his leg for your delectation. I note with some guilty satisfaction that his stitches are nowhere near as neat as mine. Now I told him that he should go to David Harrison but he ignored my advice. He's a very stubborn mutt.

But to his credit he is already significantly faster around the house than me, despite the fact that he is missing the use of one of his legs. That makes me feel a bit rubbish really. He can also still cock his bad leg on a lamppost or a suitable shrub. I've not tried that one yet but i'm pretty sure I would struggle with that too. 

The only problem when I take him out for a little walk (or as it is currently known the three legged hop) is that I have to make sure that I walk on the right hand side of the road. That way his bad leg (which is his hind right leg) is nearest to the bushes. So when he wants to relieve himself he can happily cock his bad leg in the traditional manner. 

But if I make the schoolboy mistake of walking on the left hand side of the road then his good leg is nearest the bushes. So when he wants to cock his leg he ponders his dilemma for a moment but bizarrely seems to believe that he will be able to balance on two legs, and pee at the same time. So he continues to give it a go and tries to lift his good back leg only to realise once it's in mid air that his bad back leg is already suspended in the suddenly he is basically doing a handstand. Uh oh. 

Now some smart ass dogs seem to have actually perfected this art. What a bloody show off. 

Anyway the admirable way that Brody has dealt with his injury has got me thinking that dogs don't have an army of therapists that they can consult when something goes wrong...well at least the ones outside of California I mean. They just have to get on with it, however bad their problem is. And generally speaking they do a damn good job of it too. When Brody ruptured his cruciate ligament within 5 minutes he was desperately trying to chase the squirrels again, despite one of his legs pretty much hanging off. Bonkers but impressive.

In comparison I was thinking today about all of the people that I went to see in the last 6 years to try and make my back better. The list is frankly ridiculous and makes me realise just how desperate I was. So here are the ones that immediately spring to mind. I know there are others but I just can't think of their names they are so damn obscure.

Massage therapist
Cranial therapist
Independent Financial Advisor

The last one on that list I visited to try to work out how I was going to manage to pay for all the others. Because goddamn it the fees really do add up. I hate to think how much I spent over the 6 years. I could probably have bought a sensible family car, with comfortable seats of course.

Now don't get me wrong I am not demeaning these professions at all. And I know that some of these certainly seemed to do me some good, even if it was only temporary or even just in the mind. But in the end they couldn't cure me because I had a problem that simply wasn't going to get better. It was like I was trying to stop a very slow runaway train, it was a valiant effort but ultimately futile.  

But perhaps I had to go through that long and at times immensely frustrating experience of seeking a 'cure' to finally come to the realisation that actually there really wasn't one, and that my appointment with David Harrison was basically the last chance saloon. 

And perhaps that is what makes how I feel now, so so sweet. Because if it had been easier maybe I wouldn't fully appreciate just how good it is to be pain free. And dare I say it...ok I'll whisper it....cured. Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully. Cured.

I'm like a dog with a huge bone. Very fucking content. Yep.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Day 46 - Sick as a dog...say hello!

I had hoped to do a proper post this weekend but it's been a bit of a nightmare. 

No, sick as a dog isn't the fancy dress costume I jokingly referred to in an earlier post. This is a real dog and he's really sick. There's a serious dose of irony in there somewhere if you can be bothered to find it. 

My poor dog ruptured his cruciate ligament in one of his hind legs chasing squirrels last weekend and it left the leg completely useless. The options were either a permanent severe limp and the real prospect of the other leg going very soon too, or an operation which may restore full function. I guess my recent experience probably had some bearing in making a swift decision to go for the operation, which he had on Friday. But since we picked him up its been like having a very sick child, but worse, because however hard we try to speak dog we just can't make him understand that we're not torturing him on purpose. Where is Dr Doolittle when you need him?

So anyway this explains why I am only able to type these few lines as he has finally conked out in complete exhaustion from the stress and I am swiftly following him.

But before I go I've been meaning to do this for ages.

For some reason Blogger doesn't appear to give you a way to let people contact you...which seems plain daft to me given the nature of blogging, so perhaps I'm just being thick.

So anyway I've used some code from another site to add this Contact Me form below.

I've had a few people contact me from the ADRSupport forum, but if there is anyone else out there who would like to ask me any questions or just say hello it would be a pleasure to hear from you.

Suffice to say I will be more expansive in the next post...but for now good night.

Thursday 12 January 2012

6 weeks - It's a Milestone Folks!

Yes sir! We got there! 6 weeks and counting. 

I feel like I should have a couple of trumpeters standing behind me announcing the arrival of this day. 

And not only was it my 6 week milestone, but also the check up with my hero David Harrison.  But more of that later.

Firstly I think its time to reflect on where I've come from. Just over 6 weeks ago I was scared, no actually I lie, I was shit scared. Despite everything I still wasn't sure I was doing the right thing, but there was no going back. I'd finally come to the conclusion that I couldn't face a lifetime of pain, frustration, embarrassment, compromise and disappointment. 

Life is for living, not for enduring. I needed to start living again, I needed to be rebuilt.

Yes I was a man barely alive... but then I met David Harrison and he had a plan.

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. He will be that man. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster. And he will not need a cushion any more.” 

Yes, 6 weeks on I am the Bionic Man. I am Robocop, I am the Terminator, I am part man, part machine.

Ha! I can hear you giggling at me up the back of the class. I can feel you pinging elastic bands at my head and firing rolled up bits of wet paper out of your peashooter (ok I admit we are talking a class circa 1978). You want proof? Well I'll give you proof. I give you my bionic back.

Isn't it fucking awesome. Glowing inside me like a beacon of hope. I love it...just a little bit mind, but I do love it. I never thought I could feel such affection for a small metal object. The only thing that came close to this was Blakeys.

For those of you who never experienced the thrill of Blakeys they were crescent shaped bits of metal that you stuck on the heels of your shoes back in the day. No, really. When you walked down the road you felt like the proverbial dogs bollocks. It was a bit like wearing tap dancing shoes, but with no effeminate connotations. With Blakeys you were hard. No question. 

People could hear you coming a mile away which was actually pretty useful. We used to gather at the local chippy and you knew when the lads that you wanted to avoid were approaching because you'd hear them 5 minutes before they arrived. It was a bit like the sound of the ants on Tom and Jerry.  I remember we used to put Blakeys all over our shoes and then squat behind one of the older boy's mopeds and get them to drag us along the road to create sparks. Ah...I miss those simple, but dangerous pleasures.

Imagine my delight to find literally just 30 seconds ago that Blakeys still I urge you to treat yourself to some. Could anything else come close to making you smile so much for only £1.82? I think not.

But I digress, let's have a closer look at my bionic baby...

Yes it is the perfect sandwich. Who needs Jammie Dodgers when you can have a Blakey sandwich.

What is fascinating is the way that the vertebrae have literally grown into the disc. David Harrison told me today that they coat the disc with a chemical that mimics bone cells, so all the real bone cells come and get together for a party on the surface of the disc. And they have so much fun that they decide to stick around and have lots of kids and the kids grow up and have lots more kids and before you know it you've got a whole new bone town. And I shall call it Harrisontown in honour of the great man.

So what did the great man have to say today? Well he told me that I was doing great. He said that complications if they happen are almost always in the first 6 weeks, so whilst I'm not out of the woods, I've stopped walking around in circles and I've found the path back to the car park. 

He even told me that I could be playing tennis this summer. Now that just blew my mind. I had given up all  hope of ever playing tennis again. Even the thought of getting on a court makes me smile like an idiot, but it also makes me feel just a little scared again. On day 2 I said that I used to walk around expecting something bad to happen. And occasionally I still get that feeling. Is this really too good to be true? Can I really be cured? 

Well David said that the disc is now part of me. Hopefully forever. He truly has rebuilt me.

And I don't know exactly what the future holds, but I'm going to get some Blakeys tomorrow and I'm going to put them on a pair of shoes and I'm not going to wear those shoes until I can run down the road and yell at the top of my voice "I am Steve Austin. I am the bionic man. And I'm wearing Blakeys so don't mess with me."


Thursday 5 January 2012

Week 5 and a wee bit longer - Physio Update!

A quick update for the one of you who was on the edge of your seat wondering what the physio had to say this afternoon.

Well, get in! Yes I'm officially allowed to get on my bike and ride...and go nowhere. But that'll do me and my tum nicely thank you.

Yes the physio gave me the green light to get on the exercise bike which is most excellent.

I've also got some new exercises! Who would have guessed that being given a bridge curl to do would inspire such excitement. But it does! No really!! I've been desperate to stretch out that lumbar spine and this will really hit the spot nicely.

I'm like the cat who got the cream or should I say the man who got the cat stretch. Did I say I'm allowed to do the cat stretch too? Well I can, and the swimming prep. Penny the Physio you spoil me.

To celebrate I'm off out to dinner and I will be able to sit and eat pain free for the duration. That's what I'm talking about! I knew 2012 was going to be a good year.

And it's only day 5.

See ya.