4 Level ADR - Cervical Myelopathy

My name is Howard Smith and I live in the United States. I am aged in my mid to late 50’s and was diagnosed with Cervical Stenosis at C3-C7 and Cervical Myelopathy at C3-C6 in January 2013. Prior to my diagnosis I was an active road cyclist averaging over 300 miles a week riding my bicycle in the mountainous terrain of my local area. After consulting with my neurologist and three neurosurgeons here in the United States I faced the certain prospect of fusion surgery for my neck. I was at extreme risk for paralysis if I fell in bike accident or any other athletic activity that posed risks of jarring my neck. Unfortunately for me fusion surgery would have ended my road cycling career because of the loss of movement and range of motion in my neck that comes with fusion surgery.

I researched all of my options very carefully for the next 75 days before tentatively concluding that I might be a candidate for ADR surgery. As many of you know the FDA has only approved single level ADR surgery in the United States for the cervical spine. Because of this I was not a candidate for ADR surgery in the United States. Coming to this realization was one of the biggest disappointments of my life.

Fortunately for me one of the neurosurgeons that I consulted with shared his experiences with Dr. Bertagnoli and his work in ADR surgery. The neurosurgeon’s knowledge came from first-hand experience observing the surgery with Dr. Bertagnoli in Germany. I can think of no higher endorsement that helped me begin the process of getting comfortable considering the possibility of going to Germany for ADR surgery. I am eternally grateful to this neurosurgeon for openly sharing his experience even when it meant that I might not have the surgery here in the United States from his skilled hands.

Subsequently I learned that Dr. Bertagnoli is the most experienced ADR surgeon in the world with an impeccable reputation of successfully conducting this life-saving surgery for patients all over the world. I also contacted a former patient who has also posted a testimonial on Dr. Bertagnoli's web site for further validation. I then contacted Tim Vicknair who quickly made arrangements for me to complete the patient evaluation process with Dr. Bertagnoli. Over the next day and a half I scanned all of my reports, MRIs, X-Rays, etc. and uploaded them to Dr. Bertagnoli's secure patient web portal. Within a week I had a very thoughtful and compassionate response from Dr. Fenk-Mayer explaining to me that I was a good candidate for multi-level ADR surgery and that my case was pressing and urgent and that delaying the surgery could have life threatening consequences for me. After considering all of the options I decided to go to Germany for this truly life changing surgery. Dr. Bertagnoli's office made all of the travel arrangements and all I had to do was get on a plane to Germany. His office made it so easy. Surgery occurred during the third week of March 2013.

And what an outcome I have achieved. Today after 3 months from my surgery I live pain free. I have regained all of my lost athletic endurance and strength and ride my bicycle at the same level I did prior to surgery. I lift weights and move and stretch and enjoy Pilates with no restrictions. And this outcome came through a very rapid post- surgery recovery. Upon returning to the United States within 10 days of my surgery I was back on a stationary bicycle riding about 2 hours a day. I also walked 2 miles a day during those first weeks. At week seven I began riding my bicycle for short rides and by the end of May I completed my first 300 mile week. My family, friends and doctors here in the United States are amazed and cannot believe how well I am doing. And I have to admit I cannot believe it either. The simple truth is that I am in better condition than I was prior to the surgery. In fact the surgery has been so successful that I enjoy almost "celebrity status" within this small circle of family and friends.

I must admit that prior to my surgery I was skeptical about going to another country for major surgery, especially something as complex as ADR surgery. I have learned that my deeply rooted notions that the United States has the most advanced and best health care system in the world are not true in all specialties. The fact of the matter is the quality of care I received from the staff at the Bogen hospital and Dr. Bertagnoli's staff was second to none. I would not hesitate to go back. Dr. Bertagnoli's staff was so helpful and made sure that all of my needs as well as my wife who shared the hospital room with me were taken care of. And my wife and I are especially grateful to Peter Hoch, who handled all of our ground transportation needs while we were in Bogen and Straubing. His knowledge of English was invaluable.

In conclusion I cannot say enough good things about my experience and recovery. Notice that I use the term "lifesaving surgery" because the ADR surgery under the skillful hands of Dr. Bertagnoli truly is life-saving. I cannot see why anyone would opt for fusion surgery when this life transforming surgery is available for those brave enough to challenge their own preconceived notions about going to Germany or any other major industrialized country for surgery and accepting the fact we do not currently have good options in the United States for treating this painful and dangerous spinal condition. You only live life once, you only get one shot, make it your best one. I certainly did and I am eternally grateful to Dr. Bertagnoli and his fine staff for extending the quality of my life for years to come. And finally I plan to continue to post testimonials during the course of my recovery so you can read how I am doing at each major anniversary of my surgery. Good luck.