So sitting here in the recliner at home trying very hard to do nothing now (because I started feeling better and did way too much yesterday... with a huge set-back on my progress last night), I did some more research on the 'net.
From the information I could find, it seems that a fusion of C5, C6 &/or C7 is most common as an anterior fusion (from the front, or the throat). There was less information available about the kind of surgery I had, a posterior fusion, where the incision and work is done from the back of the neck. I did find this article that I thought was super interesting, with good photos. The poor old man in that article had anterior fusion of the C5 & C6, plus posterior fusion of the C3 through the T-1. This part of the article is my favorite:
Ten weeks following stabilization surgery, the patient had a follow up visit with his physician. At the time of this visit, the patient's cervical spine had completely healed with no neurological deficits, and he was discharged from the physician's care. The patient's strength continued to improve with 4/5 to 4+/5 strength in the bilateral upper extremities and 5/5 in the right lower extremity.
And this 80-year-old man also had a broken and dislocated left hip. Ouch. Makes my posterior C5-C7 fusion seem piddling. Well, maybe not piddling, but holy cow, can you imagine being 80 years old and going through all that. Must have been a tough old guy.
Dr. Adams, the neurosurgeon who did my surgery (and who is absolutely a wonderful human being), told me I can expect to have 5% or less than 5% reduction in mobility once I'm completely healed. That's nothing, really. Compared to how I've been feeling the past few years... that's nothing. And already, just after surgery, when walking the hallways during our strolls on the advice of the PT who came and talked with us in the hospital room, I could sense a big difference. Before surgery, walking that distance would cause a sharp pain in the small of my back... it's gone. Totally enjoyed the strolls Kev and I took. Serious hope for the future. Kev and I started making plans about all the stuff we will do together once I'm healed. Walks, bike rides, canoe trips... Yay!
So anyway, after reading that article above plus some other interesting online references (like this and this), I'm convinced my neck injury occurred initially during that car accident I was back in 2004. I believe my C6 was fractured during the impact, and the resulting calcium deposits my body sent to that site began the pressure on my spinal cord. The pressure and inflammation causing nerves to be pinched or pressed, which caused the pain across my left shoulder and down my arm, as well as the headaches. Then the physical therapy I had this past June is when I believe the broken piece of the C6 was moved to a more inconvenient position, putting further pressure on my spinal cord. One thing they would do at PT is have me lie on my belly on a padded table, with my face in a hole in the table so that I could breathe easily. They would then take a solid, hard foam wedge and, beginning at the top of my spine, press the wedge down and push it forward along my spine. If I remember correctly, this was to create some more room between the vertebrae and release the pressure on the pinched nerve for which they were treating me at that time. If it had been a pinched nerve, I believe that treatment would have been appropriate. But all I knew then was that it hurt like holy hell. After that treatment, I was sick. I was dizzy and nauseous. I vomited a lot. I was still very ill the next morning, and when I called the PT office, I was told that reaction was normal. I was told that the pain would get worse before it got better. When my nausea was still frequent, almost constant, a PT there told me there were nerves that ran along each side of my neck that triggered nausea, and she somehow made me think that my feeling the nausea was progress in treating the pinched nerve. I knew, though, that something was seriously not right. I quit going to PT after less than half of the prescribed visits. I believe that I'm very fortunate that hard foam wedge they used on my spine didn't result in a serious spinal cord injury, with paralysis or even with my kicking the ol' bucket.
And I firmly believe once I'm healed, I'll be practically as good as new. If that 80-year-old man can recover from all that he had done to his cervical vertebrae, then my case should be a piece of cake. Chocolate with chocolate frosting.