Well, teacher, with a big assist from Medicare, I spent the summer and continuing on into fall on a medical adventure.

Here’s what happened…  Since returning from our cruise (mid July) on the Seabourn up/down the Adriatic (snobby and not much to see), I started on a journey to regain my physical mobility with less pain and discomfort in walking or standing.  It wasn’t terminal, but not quite uplifting either.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  Right before the cruise I had an epidural injection to give me the relief to enjoy the excursions, etc., on the cruise.  For the first time, the shot didn’t work at all and made the cruise even less enjoyable.

To try and find a solution, I visited with:

–        Two pain management doctors—the second to check on the first.  Both said they couldn’t get the needle into the space on top of the inflamed nerve.

–        One physical medicine doctor—who confirmed the nerve was damaged.

–        Two chiropractors—who agreed they couldn’t help me if the nerve was damaged.

–        Four orthopedic surgeons—one who wanted to own me, one who wanted to stone me, and two who said they were a friend of mine (The Eagles).

–        One physical therapist—eight sessions, outstanding hands-on pro; however, no significant improvement.  I failed physical therapy.

–        One acupuncturist—who offered no relief after four sessions.

I’ve had an MRI on my back and one on my neck, a CT scan, two back x-rays, an EMG (nerve) exam, and a lot of probing and testing of limbs and body parts, all of which confirm that I have a disk pressing into a nerve in my lower back at L4/5 and about a 30-degree scoliosis (curvature) of the spine and all of which cause discomfort in the back and a lot of pain in my right thigh.

The conclusion from all four orthopedic doctors appears to be that to gain any relief I will need some form of fusion surgery.  They all agreed on the fusion, but each recommended a slightly different way of doing it.

The good news is, Gabrielle, among her many talents, has proven to be a great cane substitute I lean on a lot.

Along the way on this journey a small complication arose (late July) which delayed addressing the main problem of the back/leg pain.  After several days of tests for feeling light headed, no appetite and generally kind of punk, they determined I had a very high level of red blood cells—18.4 when normal is 16.3—and my testosterone was 1,213 when normal is 758.  You guys are probably all jealous of that T number.

To bring the red blood levels back to normal, I’ve had five visits with a hematologist who drained 13 ounces of blood each time.  At the end of September, the draining brought me back to normal—at least in my blood levels.  Nothing about the rest of me is normal.

Because of the appetite loss, I’ve lost about 12 pounds.  Not sure if the appetite loss was due to high red blood cells or the back problem, but it probably doesn’t matter at this point.

Long story, you probably thought I’d never get to the punch line.

So after much vacillation, I’ve decided on a surgeon with the Spine Institute in Santa Monica.  He was the most straight forward and consistent in his recommendation in each visit.

One of the other orthopods was kind of waffling on which procedure he would use.  One was less experienced and the last one wanted to use a somewhat dated procedure.

The first part of my fusion surgery will be at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica in mid November.  They’ll make a small incision on the left side and put a spacer between the disk and the nerve.  There will be a second surgery about three weeks later to make the spacer(s) permanent.  The recovery period will be up to six weeks following the second surgery, so we are continuing our travel hiatus until at least sometime in late February.

So you see, Teach, I’ve been pretty busy these last few months doing a whole different kind of homework.

Lessons to be Learned from Medical Adventures

You own the outcome of all tests.  Request copies for you to keep.

  1. Whenever possible, have a second set of ears on the important consultations.
  2. Don’t leave questions unanswered—make requests, follow up to seek answers, ask for meetings or more consults.
  3. Take notes and when you get home, review them and add whatever you can.

Take your time—let it all sink in.



Filed under Blog


  1. Gin Miller

    Here’s to a return of health! My mom had the spacer put in many years ago and it proved successful for her and this MN couple is hoping for the same success for you!
    Happy Halloween!

  2. Paul Pendorf

    All the best with the surgery next week Art.

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