Procedure: Spinal Fusion
What was your initial medical issue?
My first symptom was numbness in my toes that eventually radiated to my legs. It got so bad that the lower half of my body felt tingly and strange whenever I would lie down. It was almost as if there was a layer of air between my skin and the blanket.
What did this issue prevent you doing?
At first, it didn’t prevent me from doing anything. But it progressed to the point that I really couldn’t feel the bottoms of my feet.
What made you decide to do something about your problem?
I knew I needed help when I started losing my ability to walk. I could barely feel the pedals under my feet when I was driving, which was terrifying. Before that, I often felt that my symptoms were “in my head,” or produced by anxiety or hypochondria.
Why did you choose Dr. Chang?
I ended up having an MRI and being taken directly to the hospital from there. I needed emergency surgery and Dr. Chang was the doctor on call at that time. I had no time to get a second opinion, and I was terrified. I was so lucky that Dr. Chang was on call. I had a rare condition in which my spinal disk had ruptured and calcified to the point that it was compressing my spinal cord by 70%, causing me to lose my ability to walk. Because it was so rare, Dr. Chang had to “think outside the box” for my treatment.
What treatment/procedure did you have done?
I needed a spinal fusion in the thoracic area of my spine. The problem was that the calcium around my spinal cord was hard and needed to be carefully removed to prevent paralysis. Dr. Chang used creative approaches to pinpoint the spot he needed to find on my spine. For example, I remember going to radiology before my surgery. The radiologist was instructed to insert a needle on my back in the exact place where the fusion would be happening. I was lying there waiting while I heard the radiologist fumbling around. He came back to me and apologized, saying that he had never done anything like that before.
The surgery was complicated. Because of the location of the rupture on my spine, Dr. Chang needed a thoracic surgeon to make the initial incision on the side of my back. The thoracic surgeon then removed a part of one of my ribs and collapsed my lung in order to make space for Dr. Chang to get to the area that needed repair. Dr. Chang used the bone from my rib and titanium pins to replace and repair the ruptured disk.
How did you feel after treatment?
I had quite a bit of pain after surgery, but felt almost back to normal after 8 weeks.
What advice would you give other patients in a similar situation to you?
As soon as you start to feel any numbness, have it checked. I waited two years, thinking it was “in my head” and I could have ended up in a wheel chair for the rest of my life.
I also want to add that Dr. Chang made me feel very comfortable and safe. The morning of my surgery, he came to talk to me. He told me he had been thinking about my surgery all night and would not let anything bad happen to me. He was incredibly kind and caring. I feel so fortunate that he was the doctor who was there the night I came in! Since the surgery, I’ve had two more children (I now have four) and pride myself on being an avid walker and an active mom.