Central Cord Syndrome

Where I was in August of 2014 for my 65th birthday.

 November 16, 2014:  Here is what I posted then.

A cautionary tale:
I had been working out for about an hr and a half on the autobelays, and already had gotten seven of the eight 5.11's. The only thing left on my agenda was the one 11+ that I hadn't topped out on yet. Unlike the rest of my workout, I was doing single burns on that one route without unclipping. I thought if I took a good rest I would try one last time, so I unclipped. For that last burn, I neglected to clip back in. The crux move is at the very top with right foot way out right, even with the right hand. The right handhold is a slopey rail with golf-ball dimples on it. The left hand was even lower, also on a sloper. The move was to bump the right hand up to a horizontal-sloper-tongue-pinch. I couldn't hold the pinch so my hand came off before my right foot, thus I fell horizontally, thankfully. So, there's the play by play of how it happened.

Even though my body was numb at first, feeling and movement came back fairly quickly, except for my hand and arm. I was rushed to the trauma center where they did CT scan and MRI. Upon examining them, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Perry, determined that there was nothing broken and the spinal cord was intact. He wrote up papers for my release with instructions to make and appt with him in three days, but I began to show signs of shock so they decided to check me in and observe me. They determined that my pain and weaknesses were due to swelling so they gave me steroids and decided to wait a couple of days to see if it would change when the swelling went down. They decided to send me to a rehab hospital after a couple of days, we signed the papers and were going to load up on a van in 15 minutes when Dr Perry came by to check in with me. He asked if I had seen any improvement and I told him that actually my mobility had gotten worse. I couldn't lift my arm the way I could the day before. I was also experiencing intense pain in both arms. The doc thought about it for a minute, and decided that less mobility means that something besides swelling was going on, and he recommended surgery. He wanted to do it the next morning, Thursday, but couldn't get an OR room so he booked it for Friday morning.

The morning of surgery, two orderlies came to move me from the hospital bed to the gurny that would take me to the OR. One was a tiny lady and the other was a pretty big guy, and they weren't in sync. They put a slide-board under me and moved me violently, causing the most intense and horrible pain I have ever felt in my life. This pain and the blood curdling screams, lasted for the entire trip to the pre-op and continued for another tortuous 15 min or so while they got me ready for anesthesia. The anesthesia was my only relief.

Later we found out that the MRI that the doc had did not sync up with what he was presented with when he went in to operate. Something had changed since the MRI.
The vertebra in my neck were no longer in line but offset by 50%. Alarmed, the doc lined them up, replaced the discs with cages filled with bone growth hormone and stablized it with a titanium plate. Bone will grow in them and fuse three vertebra together. We were told later that that amount of offset often results in lower body paralysis. The doc also did the procedure he had originally intended to do which was removing calcifications and bone spurs in the vertebra that were pinching the nerves. The entire operation was done through an incision in my throat to the left of his adams apple. It took 3 hours and during that time, everything in my neck was pulled aside including my esophogus. Recovery was scary for Nat but I was out of it. The doc told her initially that I couldn't move anything on my left side. Then he later reported to her that everything was moving.

Results of surgery as of now: Regained full motion everywhere except left hand and right arm. These areas have feeling but limited motion. Doc thinks there could likely be a full recovery after PT and time. Also, I can't swallow anything due to my esophagus being pissed off that it was pulled aside for so long. That should come back in the next day or two. Thank you for all the love, support, positive vibes and prayers. Especially thanks to Natalie.

Rehab summary showing where I started and an update to where I was at six months.

One year campus board workout.  I show campus workouts since they stress most of the climbing muscles and the failure point is forearm strength which is my weakest link.

Two year campus workout.

Three year campus test.   I consider this pretty good progress since I am now 12 pounds heavier.   I still don't know how my hands get stronger with the obvious limited blood flow to my forearms.

This picture shows why, after 3 years, my progress in climbing is limited.  You can see the absence of visible blood vessels on the surface of my forearm vs the way they were about 5 years earlier on a birthday challenge day.   It is weird to not get pumped in the normal way but is also hard to recover when my forearms get tired.    Shaking out doesn't do a lot and my forearms don't get the normal pumped hardness no matter how much work I do.   But, I do seem to be getting a bit stronger so I will keep looking for the breakthrough where the blood vessels suddenly pop to the surface.