Artificial Disc Replacement - Washington

This Thanksgiving I am so grateful for my health.

I am 43 years old and consider myself very active; I have to be because I have 3 very active boys. Boys that need to go to all of their activities, expect me to volunteer in their classrooms, and above all else expect that they will have some delicious dinner and amazing dessert waiting for them when they return from their various activities.

I don't blame them for their expectations because as long as they can remember that what I do, that just what I do!

Almost 2 years ago, I woke up one morning, and my life changed. I could not not move my neck. I was in such extreme pain. Pain that I could never imagine, even thinking about the pain I was in bring tears to my eyes. I could not hold my head up. I was in a neck brace and taking so many different pain medications and muscle relaxers hoping I could get better. I also lost all strength in my right arm. I could not lift a glass of water to my mouth, it was too heavy. I could not grasp a fork, open the refrigerator, dry my hair with my right arm, Basically my right arm was useless.

My neck hurt so much, that I would cry hysterically after my boys went to sleep because I couldn't stand the pain, and they couldn't stand seeing me in such pain.

An MRI showed that I had 3 bulging discs and had narrowing of the foramen in level C5-C6. I had an EMG which showed I had nerve damage going down my right arm from the pinched nerves. My body was not my own, I was scared. My legs also had this weird heaviness that I could not explain.

The pain and feeling in my arm and neck went on and on for months. I told my husband that I wanted to jab an ice pick in my neck to get rid of the pain. I told him I wanted to take a serrated knife and just cut all of the nerves so I wouldn't feel any pain. I NEVER was out of pain. When I fell asleep, I prayed that I would wake up without pain, but that did not happen.

For 8 months I tried everything to avoid surgery. I tried physical therapy, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, reflexology, massage therapy, structural integration, rehab pilates, and so many different kinds of medications. I went to 4 or 5 appointments a week to try and help me and ended up spending $28,000 in the hopes of avoid a 3 level disc fusion in my neck. I was in bedridden the last 4 months prior to my surgery, from July to November of 2010. My husband felt helpless. The only thing he could do for me was rearrange my pillows to make me comfortable, and massage my neck. However, I wouldn't call it a massage, I had him dig his fingers and knuckles into my neck and push as hard as he could to help get rid of the pain.

After many months of research and seeing top neurologist and orthopedic surgeons, I found that my best option was to have a 3 disc replacement in my neck. The only doctor that can do this type of surgery is Dr. Bertagnoli, and he is in Germany. I spoke to my mom, who of course conferenced in my non, who did not hesitate for one second, and told me to get the surgery. They told me that my health ease more important than anything. My non offered to pay for it, actually insisted that I get this surgery, and not to worry about the money.

I had surgery a year ago, it took me about 9 months to be free of pain, but now I have my life back. Dr. Bertagnoli, my mom and grandmother gave it back to me. For that I am truly forever grateful.

Wendy Ayers

Spokane, Washington

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