Last week we actually got some GOOD news for a change. This past year has been the year from hell. Last March, my son had a terrible seizure at school, fell, and fractured the C-1 vertebrae in his neck. We were told that although it is fractured, the ligaments were strong and holding the bones in place and he should be healed in approximately 3 months. With the seizures under control with medication, we were told not to worry too much. We brought him home, rented a hospital bed, and nursed him through those first few painful weeks. After 6 weeks at home, he was able to go back to school and graduate with his class but had to wear a ridgid neck brace almost 24/7, taking it off only to bathe and shave.
We were referred to a neuro-surgeon for consultation. His HMO (health maintenance organization) in their brilliance, sent us to an elderly neurosurgeon who no longer performed surgery. An x-ray and CT scan after 4 months revealed that it had not only NOT healed but was worse with the bone separating in the back and a bone fragment working it's way away from the rest of the vertebrae with the possible danger of it pressing on the spinal cord and causing serious permanant damage. This did not seem to bother the elderly gentleman. He told me he has read about cases just like these that have taken up to a year to heal and to not worry, just continue to wear the neck brace. He did however put in a referral to another neurosurgeon who actually does perform surgery to get his opinion.
After waiting 3 months for the HMO to approve this 2nd consultation, we saw the second neurosurgeon. He also had x-rays and a CT scan performed. He was shocked that it hadn't healed properly after 6 months. His comment was, if it hasn't started healing within 3 months, then it probably won't heal at all. He was ready to put him in a halo brace
saying that the current neck brace he has been wearing allowed for too much movement and if I wanted to avoid surgery (which I did) that this was our only option. Keep his neck completely immobile for another three months and see if it will heal (but he was skeptical). He was all for performing surgery to fuse together the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae which would permanantly restrict the side-to-side movement and up and down movement of his neck to just a few millimeters each direction. The thought of either of these options made me sick to my stomach.
Those few of you who know me well, know that my son has moderate autism. He has difficulty communicating and is very limited verbally. Despite this, he has always been very physically active. Before this accident, he was playing baseball, ice hockey, basketball and bowling. Sports also served as a social outlet for him as typical social situations were difficult for him. How was I going to explain to him that after 6 months of enduring his ridgid neck brace, that we were now going to put him in a brace that resembled some medievel torture device? Worse yet, if he had surgery, he wouldn't be able to play sports the way he used to. I felt lower than low.
In the meantime, I began to feed him twice-a-day calcium supplements with vitamin D. Then we received a letter from his HMO. They had decided to change management companies. That meant that neurosurgeon #2 was not on their approved list of doctors and he would have to see a different doctor. Please request a referral. Well, again it took 3 months for them to "review" his case and approve his consultation with a neurosurgeon. By December I was screaming at the approval department, "WHAT IS THERE TO REVIEW???? HE HAS A BROKEN NECK!!!!" By January, I had an appointment with neurosurgeon #3. After hearing this sad story, he ordered a battery of tests. An MRI, a CT scan, a nuclear BONE SCAN and an X-RAY (my poor son now glows in the dark). By the time all of these tests were approved and performed it was now March, just two weeks shy of the anniversary of his accident. But somewhere within that last 6 months, a miracle happened. His MRI, BONE SCAN, and X-Ray came back as "unremarkable" and near normal with scant traces that there ever was a fractured bone. The CT scan was the only test that showed signs of a bone that had been formerly injured but was now healed. So, elderly doctor #1 was correct. Give it time. In some cases, a year is neccessary for bones to heal, especially crucial neck vertebrae. Though, I think my calcium supplements played a vital role as well. NO MORE NECK BRACE! NO NEED FOR SURGERY! He is healed!! He can return to all normal activity.....with the exception of ice hockey. The doctor suggests waiting at least another 6 months before trying that again. I agree.
Last year several weeks after the accident. He could no longer play, but was asked to come back to be in the team picture.