Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kevin's Spinal Surgery Update

As most of you know, on Wednesday at 5:20 in the morning, we had to report to William Beaumont Army Medical Center for Kev's spinal surgery. This procedure consisted of a disc replacement in C5-6 and a fusion at C6-7.

Of course Tuesday night went by with very limited sleep and Wednesday morning came way too early! We did manage to make it to the hospital on time, even with Nicholas not wanting to wake up and get going. Surprisingly, they allowed Nic and I to go everywhere along side Kevin with of course the exception of the OR. Around 7:40 and the meetings with the surgical team, we were told to head to the waiting room and that the surgery would last a little under two hours. Needless to say, it lasted a little over three hours! Nic and I grabbed a cinnamon roll from the cart a few floors down, as well as a drink, then settled in the waiting room for a few hours. Nicholas made friends with anyone around us, he played with his cars and dinosaurs, watched a movie, colored in his books, and even had a nice woman next to us read a story to him. When we reached the three hour point of Kevin being in surgery, I started to get worried and nervous...only to find out that he was just being rolled into the recovery area at that point.

The Neurosurgeon arrived in the waiting room right around the three and a half hour mark of Kevin going back. At that point he explained that the surgery was a lot more complex than expected due to the bone spurs, arthritis, and bones crushing Kev's nerves. He explained that the MRI did not even come close to showing the extent of the damages and injuries. Needless to say, we are both very pleased with this doctor and very happy that he went ahead with the surgery in place of Kevin waiting for after we moved.

Dr. Caram (the neurosurgeon) made the incision in the front right portion of Kev's neck and went through the side wall to reach the discs. At this point there were findings of severe cervical spondylosis (degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the spinal vertebrae ~ degenerative disc disease) at his C5-6 and C6-7. Dr. Caram had to do a good amount of drilling during this procedure. As I stated in the beginning, his C5-6 was a disc replacement and C6-7 ended up being a fusion. Dr. Caram also explained that the discs were pressing down and crushing Kev's nerves, which in return was also causing a lot of the pain.

Dr. Caram explained to us that after the surgery and once Kevin starts to feel somewhat better, he needs to use his neck muscles in exercises that have him looking up, down, left, and right because certain neck muscles have been "lost" due to not using them. He now has to strengthen them all.

Before the surgery, Kevin would sporadically get stabbing headaches and neck pains, there was a grinding feeling when he would look left, right, up, or down. His back was beginning to show somewhat of a hunch and to lift his arms in an upward position would be painful throughout the shoulder area. Following the surgery, the shoulder pain was minimized and so far he has not grabbed his head from the stabbing headaches. Now, when he looks to the left or right, he no longer has the grinding pain and just has the surgical pain. Kev is still real sore and the pain is noticeable at times, but overall, the improvements are already showing through! He is very glad it is over and very excited to get through this recovery process so that he can feel all the improvements.

For those of you who may not know much about the incidents that led to this surgery, let me tell you. In 2006-2007 while in Iraq, Kevin came in close contact with many IED's, VBED's, mortars, RPG's, and was involved in numerous fire fights. The same thing in 2009, just not as severe. During one mission in 2007 an IED was activated right beside the truck Kevin was gunning in and he was thrown from the turret. This incident  left him with a gash on the front upper part of his head, bleeding everywhere,  briefly unconscious, broken elbow, hurt back and neck, and nerve damage throughout his arms. Following these injuries, he was put back on missions a couple days later and kept pushing through. When he redeployed home months later, I could instantly see the differences in him physically. He was not able to move as he did before and he was always in pain. He could no longer pick up heavy objects as before he deployed to Mosul, Iraq. As time crept by, he became worse. Even though the physical struggles became more challenging as the days went by, he still kept pushing through and even deployed again 17 months later. In 2009 he was in Iraq for about 8 months when they medically sent him home on R&R. At this point, he had become so much worse. He was unable to open things, such as water and gatorade bottles. His hands had quit working and he was partially paralyzed. Kevin could no longer hold nor fire his weapon and had lost feeling in both hands. Upon his return he had to undergo a surgery in each arm called a Ulnar Nerve Transition. Within time, the feeling and movement came back in his hands and arms. His left hand is much better today, but he still cannot fully extend his right hand open. His pinky and ring finger do not open all the way. He also has a lot of tingling throughout this area and the feeling has not even returned half way. After trying physical therapy and injections in his back and neck, the surgeon decided it was best to go ahead with the disc replacement and fusion. Kevin still has bone spurs, crushed vertebrae, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease throughout his back. However, this surgery should help him out tremendously!

As always, please keep our family in your prayers when it comes to our health obstacles!


  1. A consistent physical therapy can help him recover. I hope he recovers from his surgery quickly.

  2. Thank you so much! I believe he is suppose to start pt in the upcoming weeks. I think they are just waiting for him to recover a bit more. If you have any more advice, please email me! I would love any advice possible for this situation with my husbands neck!

    Again, thank you!