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Patient Stories – Melissa

At 21 I was diagnosed with a herniated disk in my lower spine. In 2009 I started experiencing numbness in my right and left hands. I would wake up with a stiff neck in the morning. Then it became pins and needles from my shoulder to my hands. And then it got really bad—the pain was very great. It felt like I had broken an arm. Saw an orthopedic doctor. He ordered X-rays and MRIs.

The diagnosis was two herniated discs that were causing pressure on my spinal column. The nerves that controlled my arms were being compressed. Then my balance started to go off. I felt like I was off-balance.

Can’t drive. Find my keys. Button my shirt. Carry a liter of milk. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t sleep. Terrible pain. On pain medication. Still in pain even with the meds. Tried acupuncture. Didn’t help.

Then they recommended epidurals. Had them two months apart. Temporary relief, but I was still on transdermal morphine.
Then there were the side effects of the medication—mood swings, appetite loss, paranoia, vomiting, nausea. I started to feel like a psycho. Couldn’t hold a pen to write—and I’m a teacher.

I didn’t want to have surgery. I had heard so many horror stories about spinal surgeries. I really was scared. I prayed to God for help with my pain and illness. And to help me find the right doctor. Got opinions from two other doctors. Both recommend spinal surgery—or I could permanently lose the function of my hands

Melissa // Age: 30
Condition // Cervical Herniated Disc
Occupation // Teacher (NY)

How did you find Dr. McCance?

A co-worker had a friend who had spinal surgery with Dr. McCance. I said I would check it out. And then, by chance, another co-worker recommended Dr. McCance. I knew I had to make an appointment and go.

She got me the number.

Why did you choose Dr. McCance for your spine surgery?

He is genuine and calm and confident and soothing. He was very open to you asking questions.

He ordered new tests. Then he explained about the diskectomy and the fusion. I was frightened. I was worried something would go wrong. He walked me through the whole procedure. He explained the recovery process. He told me he performed this kind of surgery regularly. And that the longer I waited the more I risked the possibility of permanent neurological damage—losing total control of my right and left hands.

Dr. McCance said surgery was really the only real option. I knew I had to have the surgery. With each day the pain was getting worse. It was excruciating.

Diana, his Physician Assistant, was very encouraging. She was so wonderful. She kept reassuring me.

How did this experience influence your life?

This experience has brought me closer to God and my faith. I knew that God would take care of me, working through Dr. McCance.

How did you feel after your surgery?

The service at Mt Sinai was amazing. Right after the surgery I was able to sit up. I got back all my sensations.

After two weeks I felt more confident. They took out the stitches—and Dr. McCance said I was doing so well they could remove the hard neck brace. All I needed was a soft collar brace. And that was wonderful, because now I could get a regular night’s sleep.

I began physical therapy after the fourth week. That was rough, too. But nothing close to the pain I had before. Just a little ache. That lasted a month.

Recovery took about two months. Surgery was in November and by January I was back at work.

How do you feel now?

Now I lead a regular lifestyle. I asked Dr. McCance if after the surgery I would be like an old lady and not able to wear heels. And he said, “What are you talking about? Of course you’ll be able to wear heels.”

Right after my surgery Dr. McCance went out and talked to my mother—because she was also very scared for me—and he assured her that everything went well. She remembered giving him a big hug and saying “Thank you so much doctor.”