4 Artificial Disc Replacements JZ
OK here goes:
Hello, my name is John Zorzoris and am a former patient of Dr. Bertegnoli. I have 4 PRO-DISC ADR v.5 used by Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli to replace the diseased and damaged disks in my cervical (neck) spine.
My story is a long one with many peaks and troughs so I will try and keep it short and sweet. When I first injured my neck it was in 1987 at the age of 21. I was involved in a front end collision that I suffered what had appeared to be minor whiplash; however the fact was that much more damage done to the soft tissues and structures that no one had understood (i.e. MD's) or wanted to tell me because the treatment I was receiving was being paid by a lawsuit. What happened over 20 years ago was some serious damage to the ligaments and muscles to my neck and it started a chain reaction that took that much time to fully bloom into a horrific health condition that was threatening not only my general health both physical and mental way of life.
To make matters worse, I was involved in yet another accident (again not my fault) in which I was rear-ended by a driver who had failed to make a sudden stop, like all the other cars did, on a major highway that was under construction. This was such a bad accident that the car I was driving was totaled and the State Police stated "If there was anyone in the back seat, we would have either a coroner out here or a medi-vac." I was hit by a van that was carrying a dozen workers from a restaurant that was traveling 70+ MPH and failed to stop because the driver was sleepy and did not expect traffic to have stopped.
It was this accident that started the downward spiral of my health and over-all condition of my life. After the accident it was discovered that I had what they called "Early onset Degenerative Arthritis of the Cervical Spine" a diagnosis that was probably done to protect the insurance company against a large payout. And a ruptured disc between levels 6 and 7. I went back and forth with several doctors that I got several opinions from because my left arm was going numb, I was not able to feel my thumb, index and middle finger tips and my neck was in a lot of pain and stiffness. 2 of the four doctors I talked to wanted to fuse the level. One Neurosurgeon wanted to open the back of my neck and enlarge the foramen that the nerve roots go through. This would have required very precise movements by the surgeon using a drill and other tools to clean the bone out and enlarge the holes on both sides of my neck. The fourth Dr. felt that it was not the narrowing of the foramen that was causing me all the pain but the bulging disk pressing on the nerve root. He wanted to go in using a small incision in the front of my neck and use a laser/cutting tool to remove the bulging disk tissue.
I was so confused even after spending months of my time researching different treatments on the Internet and library. Artificial disc replacement was not even an option in the US at this point because it was still in FDA trials/approval phase. I knew that fusion was not an option for me at 38 years old. I had heard and read what happens to fusion patients within a few years after the operation and none of the Dr's recommending fusion were able to give me a high degree of confidence that my problems would be solved if I had the fusion done. The Neurosurgeon was a really exciting approach. IF all went well I would still have all of the major structures in my neck intact and I would NOT have any symptoms left. However that BIG IF... I knew that he would be manipulating my left and right arm nerve roots and using a high-speed dental type tool to enlarge the holes. All the while, all kinds of bone dust/chips and debris would be diffusing into my neck structures, spinal cord canal etc. In addition what if he slipped? What if he makes a mistake? I could be damaged beyond repair and worst case in pain and paralyzed. No, I could not take that chance. I was too young to loose function of my arm, arms or any other body part for that matter.
I decided to go with the last Dr's approach, to go in through the front of my neck and trim the part of the disk that was pressuring my left arm nerve root.
This turned out to be the best deal of a lost battle. The surgery went well and for 6 months I was asymptomatic. Then, slowly but surely the same pain/numbness in my arm and neck was coming back but now it was in BOTH arms and much worse. What I feared was becoming my life and reality very slowly. I knew that trimming the disk would decrease its height. I was assured that they would use a cauterizer to keep the remaining contents in the remaining portion of the trimmed disk. They may have done this... I don’t know for sure, it said they did in the surgical report but who can know for sure??? The fact was the disk was collapsing; my neck was no longer in the proper shape to support my head properly and had not been in this shape since the first accident 20 years before. The disks around the bad disk that was trimmed were taking more and more of a toll because my body was trying to adapt to the pain by keeping my neck stiff and slowly changing the geometry of my neck. I went back to the surgeon that trimmed the disk and he told me "Its so unfortunate. We had very good results with other patients... Your only option now is fusion. When would you like me to schedule it?" I was terrified. In no way was I going to have fusion. I would fight this thing until the FDA had approved artificial disc replacement in the US and then I would get the ADR done. This was 6 years ago, 2005. I spent the next 4 years in a limbo state of pain and misery. I was given powerful and nasty medications to control my pain and other medications to lower my levels of anxiety and depression. All the while I was waiting for the almighty FDA to approve what had been in use in Europe for over a decade. Finally in early 2009 I find out that the FDA had approved the use of Cervical ADR’s but only in one level. I thought, that’s great I will get the one level done and get more surgery when they approve multiple levels.
I started looking for Dr’s across the great US trying to find one that would do the ADR surgery. There were none. Not only could I not find a Dr in the US to do one level… None of the Dr’s I spoke to thought anything short of multi level fusion would help me. At 42 this was still not an option for me. Finally I started to let go of the vision that I would not have to dig into my savings and started to look overseas for the answer that eluded me here in the US, the country with the worlds BEST MEDICICAL SYSTEM!! What a farce. Anyway I had been following Dr. Bertignoli for quite some time. At least 3 years. I have a cousin who has a very similar problem with her neck and she had found Dr. B first after being told that she would need a fusion after a similar car accident that I had. I contacted Dr. B’s representative Tim Vicknair who is the US Patient Advocate for Dr. Bertegnoli’s practice in the States. Mr. Vicknair requested I send to Germany via an FTP site my latest MRI’s, CT scans, X-ray’s and any other diagnostic procedures I had done in the last 6 months to a year. After doing so, I was called by Dr. Andrea Fenk-Mayer who explained to me that I would need a 2 disk ADR with a possible 3rd. They would no know for sure about the 3rd until they did a Discography. I was then told how much it would cost for 3 ADR’s. Nearly 40K Euro for the operation alone. Not to mention the cost of the airfare, hotel, food etc. This was steep. But how could I put a price on my health? So after much thought and stress, I decided that I had no choice and signed myself up. I arrived in Munich on May 26th, 2009 and was greeted (with great relief) by Mr. Hoch. Was I glad to see him! Up until that time I was not sure if I was being scammed or it was the real deal.
When I arrived I was greeted by the Patient coordinator who was more than helpful in getting me situated, ordering meds that I ran out of because I could not get them filled in the US, getting to the hotel, the shops, restaurants etc. When I finally did meet Dr. Bertegnoli I knew I had made the right decision. I felt the warmth, caring and expertise just by being in his presence. I was not going to let my feelings get in the way however. I wanted to see what type of place the Kreiskrakenhaus was (the Surgical Clinic) where I was going to get my operation done. I had to get some blood work done before the operation along with the discography. During the prep for the discography I noticed that everyone spoke English and were very professional. When being wheeled into the Surgery Room… I felt a blast of cold air, just like in the U.S. The reason its cold is to keep biological agents in check and the reason there was a blast of air (I found this out later) was because the air going into the Surgery Room is filtered to keep contaminates and biological agents out. I was very impressed with the equipment (I work in Healthcare so I know what to look for) it was advanced and new not old, outdated and on its last legs. The whole floor I was on was kept clean and modern looking. No chipped and pealing paint in there.
I had my surgery on May 29th 2009. When I woke after 8 hours of being knocked out, I was told that they had to change to 4 implants and not just the 3 as they had thought. Dr. Bertagnoli did not do the 4th as a preventative measure, he did it because it was showing signs of distress and he knew that if I did not do it then I would be back in a few years. Of course the charge was added on top of what I had already paid but I was not in a mood to argue.
I was walking within a week of the operation. I stayed in Bogen another 5 weeks just to heal up and get my life back but mostly as a precaution should there be any issues with the implants I would be there to get help rather than back in the U.S. trying to setup a flight back out to Germany. I was very fortunate… All healed well and I left in late August. Slowly but surely my strength was coming back and within 6 months unless I had told someone what happened to me they would have never known. The scar left by the operation is so faint that you really have to look hard to see it. My flexibility and range of motion is back to what it was before any injuries… I have no more pain, no more weakness and most of all I have my life back!! Drug free and pain free!! I could not put a price on that. Dr. Bertagnoli really delivered even though he never promised me anything. He said “I think you will be fine” “ You should not have any issues” “We can fix this so that you can move again”.
Thanks Dr. Bertegnoli and keep doing what your doing. My only regret is that there are no other great men like yourself with the talents you have to keep this type of cutting edge medicine going. I am happy that I could be part of your statistics!!
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