This story was taken from the ADR section of the www.backpainsupportgroup.com site with the author’s permission.
I am having surgery next month in Straubing with Dr. Bertagnoli. Although I have not posted much for a long time now, I was one of the very early members of this group (Artificial Disk Replacement / Spinal Tech Talk ) last July when we started it. At that time, I had been completely abandoned by the Canadian medical system. After 5 spine surgeries with 3 levels fused, they labeled me as failed back surgery syndrome and told me to go away and simply deal with it as I was losing the strength in my legs, control of my bladder and living with unrelenting pain.
I had presented my case to everyone I could think of: all the Canadian doctors I could get in to, Bertagnoli, Hoogland, Zeegers, Stenum, Marnay, etc. Nobody would take a second look at me and I was getting very discouraged. I had exhausted all my options and still had nothing to look forward to except a wheelchair, diapers and drugs.
We got a lot of resistance from Dr. Bertagnoli’s staff, so we started on plans B and C. Plan B was for me to try to get to see Dr. Bertagnoli on a trip to NY. This was very difficult to set up and I came very close to spending over $1000 on a trip that would not have been very effective because there was no new data for us to deal with.
Plan C was for me to try to get to see Dr. Yeung to try for a good diagnosis. (I never would have thought of seeing Dr. Yeung.) Just as we experienced with all the other doctors, we got nothing but resistance. My case looks too complex with too poor odds of success. It was clear from dealing with his staff that I was not going to have an easy time getting help. Finally, in mid-March I was in Phoenix having diagnostic injections, imaging and a discogram with Dr. Yeung.
Amazingly enough Dr. Yeung found that I am a normal person with a normal pain response. L2-3, sitting atop the 3-level fusion has been dominoed and was clearly responsible for many of my symptoms. He recommends a total disc replacement. Based on Dr. Yeung’s diagnosis, Dr. Bertagnoli would now consider implanting a ProDisc, hopefully reducing my advancing symptoms and insulating the rest of my spine from the long fusion.
My next step was to make one last attempt at getting Canada’s system to pay for the surgery. I thought that this would be a straightforward, “yes” or “no” process, but something interesting happened. Based on Dr. Bertagnoli’s offer for ADR, my Canadian surgeon said that I should not go to Germany, he would implant a Maverick! I asked him how many ADRs he has implanted and he replied, “Thirteen!” Great news, 8 months after everyone in the world told me to go away, I now have offers from 2 ADR surgeons: possibly the top guy in the world, and Dr. Thirteen Mavericks! I am not going to go with Dr. Thirteen, but it took me several months to run the gambit of being denied by the system. My symptoms continue to advance and it’s clear that I can not get it paid for, so I’ll be spending my retirement money and heading to Straubing next month. I understand that I am still a serious case and that my history gives me a reduced chance of success, but I am certain that ADR with Dr. Bertagnoli is my best option.
I think that my story may be important for many other spine patients — keep searching!