My trip to Germany started New Years eve 1980 when I was hit by a drunk driver. I planted my head into a windshield twice and suffered a moderate to severe “whiplash” and compression. At this point the process of degenerative disc disease began. If I had not been a young athlete, I would likely have broken my neck. Being physically fit allowed me to survive the violence of this accident. I spent the next 26 years suffering from moderate to severe neck pain. Towards the end (last 6 years) I had severe episodes of pain and began losing the use of my hands. I ended up on disability and it was at that time I made the decision to go to Germany. Please note that I did a lot of research prior to making the commitment. It was not a decision made lightly. I made sure I had the support of my wife and we both realized this was my best chance to get back to a normal life. Through the years, I had spent a small fortune on physical therapy, epidural injections and pain management consultants. I had tried many different combinations of pain blockers and pain killers, yoga, physical therapy and denial. At the end: if I was comfortable, I was too impaired to work. If I did not manage the pain I was too uncomfortable to work. Looking up (while shaving for example) sent shooting pains down my arms. A car ride on a bumpy road was agonizing. I was no longer able to do anything physical, my weight started to increase. I was becoming increasingly irritable and depressed. Although it was discussed in many consultations, I never wanted to have a three level fusion - Fusion was the only option the US doctors offered. I believed then and still believe today that a three level fusion would have inhibited my ability to safely do many of things I considered part of a life lived well. I did not qualify for studies in the US at the time and I was not willing to be in a blind study where I might be fused at all levels. I had three discs removed, two replaced with ADR (C4/5 and C5/6) and one Scient-X cage fusion at C3/4. Surgery is never fun, but I never had to wear a collar, I started physical therapy the day after surgery and I was off painkillers (except for Tylenol) 2 days after surgery. I was very conservative. I stayed off work for two months post surgery. By the end of two months, I started riding my horses again; another eight weeks I was weight training, scuba diving and trophy fishing. I was even able to go back to acrobatic flying (all are things I had not done for years.) Now I am 2 years out and I am doing virtually anything I want to do. I ride my horses, work around my house, weight train, road race, fly, sail, fish, golf… I lead as full a life as any one I know and I am only looking for more! I must stress that I do my exercises religiously and that does make a difference. You will absolutely get out of the experience what you put into the experience. It takes work. There is no question that my decision to go to Germany was the right one. I only wish that I had made the decision earlier.
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