This December, when I visit Baltimore, I am going to undergo my 4th back surgery.
For anyone who missed 1-3, here's a quick recap:
After my accident in December 2009 I had two rods inserted into my back. These served to stabilize my spine, allowing my shattered vertebrae time to heal.
In April 2010, scans of my back showed that the broken pieces of my spinal column were pressing on my spinal cord. I am lucky that that my spinal cord didn't get severed but the continued pressure on my cord kept my from nerves from operating correctly, leaving me mostly paralyzed. I went in for two surgeries, spaced out over a week. They reconstructed the shattered vertebrae, putting the broken pieces of bone in a metal framework and placing them back in my back. The broken pieces of spine grow into the shape of the metal cage, providing me essentially with replacement vertebrae. They also shaved off some of the bone of the vertebrae, which was putting pressure in other sections of the cord.
The end result was that the nerves in my spinal cord had more room to regrow. It is a commonly held myth that nerves do not regrow. Cranial nerves (the ones in your skull) don't regrow but others still have the ability to regenerate. Given enough time nerves will grow and reconnect to the entire body; mine have, just very slowly.
Thanks to surgeries 2 and 3 I have increased function of both right and left legs, allowing me to walk with a simple ankle brace or AFO.
In surgery one, the spinal rods were put in place by drilling the screws directly into the bone. After two years the screws have started to loosen up. This process has not been painful at all... yet. There is the possibility that when the screws completely separate that they could bounce around, causing internal injuries. Before this happens, the rods and screws will be removed and replaced by more stable, permanent hardware. This surgery, while sounding ominous, is only minimally invasive and will only set me back for a few weeks. I will still be allowed to walk and I will be able to start back in physical therapy the very next week.
I'm not really happy about being cut into again but it beats the alternatives. I was seriously scared before the last set of surgeries, which ended up returning more function than I ever thought possible. And at the end of the day, who is really surprised that Peter has a few screws loose?