Skull-C3 Fusion – A Turning Point

On January 14, 2021, at 6 am, Dr. Patel performed a spinal fusion from my skull to C3. 

Since Covid-19 was so rampant, only one of my parents was allowed to be with me in the hospital at a time. My mom went back to pre-op with me. She is typically pretty calm and collected, but I could tell she was anxious. At one point, she went to the sink and started splashing water on her face repeatedly. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was preventing a pass-out situation so they didn’t have to operate on us both. I smiled. It was a big surgery, and I was fragile.  She was nervous, and humor was good medicine for us all.

After being in darkness for months with very little stimuli, the sight of around twenty beds with pre-surgical patients was a bit overwhelming. From Dr. Patel, my skilled neurosurgeon, the kind anesthesiologist, to the vital scrub nurses; I was given the opportunity to meet and talk to everyone on my surgical team. Surprisingly, I was not nervous. Their confident words brought a sense of calmness to me. Also, I knew that friends, family, and even strangers were praying for me, which gave me this sort of unexplainable peace.

My interest in the medical field has always existed and has continued to grow. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I asked to go back to the operating room awake. I had imagined what it might look like and it didn’t disappoint. Soon after entering, I remembered receiving ‘laughing gas’ and then shortly after ranking the residents’ scrub caps. My surgical team told me jokes, and they were all so kind as I drifted off into a deep sleep. Throughout the five day stay at MUSC, the medical team assisting me was helpful and compassionate.

Although the surgery was extremely painful, it was definitely worth it because at least now, I was recovering rather than simply declining. My surgeon had to shave a good bit of the underside of my hair, but that was the least of my concerns. The first symptom to go away was the ringing in my ears. This symptom went away about two days post-op. After five days in the hospital, I was discharged. Pain control was very hard post-surgery because I do not respond well to opioids. I got off all pain medication except for Tylenol, two weeks post-op. It was too hard to be on the pain medications because they gave me so many side effects and often harmed me more than they helped. My sensitivity to light improved about a week after surgery, and soon after that I no longer had to wear a neck brace. Many of the other symptoms took longer to resolve. Sadly, my migraine and stomach pain never went away.