My Health Update as of October 2010

By David J. Stewart

I ask for your prayers for my continued health problems. I am a mess since my 2nd neck surgery in April of 2010, which made me worse. The 1st surgery caused increased problems in my right arm and leg. The 2nd surgery has resulted in both arms and legs being adversely affected. I had ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion) on C5-C6-C7. The 2nd surgery was a revision of the 1st, since the surgeon said my bones weren't fusing properly after 9-months.

My doctor highly advises avoiding any further surgeries, since the two I've had have made me progressively worse. I am suffering much, with burning, tingling and a puffy feeling in both arms and legs. I feel like I have robot arms from that game I used to have as a kid... The Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em, Robots!!! My arms feel like puffy airbags.

I couldn't open a jar of pickles today. My grip is too weak. I have weakness in both arms and hands. I needed to go ask a neighbor to open it. I am not complaining, nor seeking sympathy. I know of a woman who cannot type on a keyboard, because of devastating injuries sustained after being hit by a drunk. She has no fingers. Until you have some form of handicap, it is difficult to understand what it's like. Still, I consider myself fortunate compared to what others are suffering through. I saw a woman doing dishes with her feet, because she has no arms; and a man who is blind, but makes a clicking sound with a handheld device to guide him. He listens for the echo to identify where objects are at.

Those who suffer are all my brothers and sisters in pain. I suffer daily. Behind my smile is a man hurting from head to toe, with a brokenheart and nowhere to turn except God above. Jesus is precious!

I am suffering from much nerve pain, especially down my right arm. It's a sharp razorblade-like pain that hurts bad at times. Nerve pain is difficult to treat, and available medications only partially reduce the pain. None of the medications have helped me.

I have had 3 neurosurgeons look at my past MRI's and say that the problem looks to be on the LEFT side; but I have told them all repeatedly that the problem is mostly on the RIGHT side. Originally the pain and tingling was only on the right side, but now surgery has caused it to move to the left side too. But still, it is my RIGHT side that is mostly affected.

Following are MRI snapshots from before my first surgery (left), and then after (right). As you can see, they did the bare minimum. And now I'm waiting to get another MRI after my 2nd surgery.

December 2008

November 2009

The common denominator that I see is that little piece of bone, which looks like it's sharply piercing my spinal cord on the right side of both scans above. The neurosurgeons who performed my surgeries focused on the protrusion on the left side (i.e., toward the front of the neck). Most neurosurgeons won't do surgery unless a person has noticeable loss of function in their limb(s). I was told by one neurosurgeon to have a morphine-injection-pump installed into my spinal cord. I've considered it when the pain is bad, but haven't pursued it thus far. The Oxycontin helps my neck pain; but not the razor-sharp pain radiating mostly down my right arm.

For those who have kept up with my ministry over the years, my health problems are nothing new. I've been suffering horribly since 2004, when I was first diagnosed with herniated disks in my neck. I was virtually assured by the surgeons that spinal decompression surgery would remedy my nerve pain; but I am 10-times worse now after 2 failed surgeries. People look at me and say that I look fine, because they cannot see my nerve pain, burning, tingling and puffy feeling in my limbs. They cannot see the toothache-like constant pain in my neck, and the ripping tension that tightens my neck muscles 24 hours a day, every day, all year long. It is a heavy burden to say the least. It overwhelms me often, and I have to just lay down and beg God to help me to face each day. I wake up in the night feeling like I'm on fire, because of the nerves.

As I type, my right arm is hurting very badly, an 8 on a scale of 10, and I just took some more Oxycontin and Dilaudid. I'm taking 100mg. of Oxycontin daily, and 12 mg. of Dilaudid for pain. I've tried to live without the meds, but the pain is unbearable. I have no choice. My medical options are zilch at this point. I am having a hard time even getting another MRI, let alone another surgery.

I have radiating razor-like pain in both arms and legs. It hurts to walk (sometimes more or less); it feels like something is cutting across the nerves running down my legs as I'm walking. The problems all come from my spinal cord in my neck. Something is messed up. The surgeons never have found the true problem. My right leg kicks way out when my knee reflexes are tested, which my doctor says is still an indication of compression of my spinal cord. I am being told by my doctor that I really don't have much choice, except to continue on the pain medications, which are a lifesaver for me. I've tried not using them and it is absolutely unbearable.

I take 1200mg of Gabapentin daily because the nerve pain is so bad I can't bear it at times. Unfortunately, the Gabapentin doesn't help much, as others have also said. It's easy for people to criticize taking drugs, as I used to; but now I know firsthand that when you are suffering horribly, you become desperate for even a little relief. It helps to get me through the day. I used to wonder how anyone could watch those crazy commercials on TV and still take those drugs with all the potential adverse side-affects; but until you've been in the shoes of someone like me who suffers in horrible pain, you can't possibly understand why people would be grateful for a drug that hurts them as much as it helps them. I thank God for the Oxycontin I'm taking, that alleviates the neck pain at least. Only God knows how much I am suffering inside my body. It is horrible at times, and bearable at others. My pain cycles with the medications. The more you take, the less pain meds work; so I have to cut back and then take more as I go. It's surviving, not living.

I underwent spinal decompression surgery, so I don't know what is going on. It sure feels compressed, like someone has their foot stepping on my spinal cord. It's been a nightmare just trying to find medical people who care; it's been very difficult. And so I suffer. It was a nightmare getting approval for the 2nd surgery, I doubt if a 3rd will be available for me.

I'm trying to get a recent MRI (which will be the first since my surgery), but am running into the usual red tape and hassle. No one has called me, I called the clinic twice. They haven't got back to me. So I have to wait and be persistent at the same time. One day at a time. If I can get a recent MRI, then my doctor can tell me what he sees and thinks. I know I still have a bone spur in the back at C5-C6 in my neck, but the surgeon said it wasn't a big problem. All I know is that I'm still a mess physically. I still have ripping tension in my neck that never goes away, constant tightness in the back of my neck. It's all a big burden to survive with; but God is good and He gives me courage. Whether God intended this all as a thorn in my flesh to keep me humble I do not know; but it certainly does keep me humble, very much so.

It is overwhelming at times, physically and emotionally, trying to deal with all these health ailments going on at one time. I also live by myself and it requires all my effort just to get everything done throughout my week. Still, I manage by myself, one day at a time, one pill at a time. I know that sounds terrible, but the pain meds are a lifesaver for me. I would be even more of a basket case without them.

The medications make me tired all the time, and I have to be careful because I am dizzy while taking them. My neck feels like someone is tearing the back of my neck out. I've tried Skelaxin, Robaxin, Flexeril and Soma... nothing helps!

The chart to the right is an actual thermal scan of my neck. The muscle tension generates heat, showing a problem in that area. After undergoing 2 surgeries, the muscle tension is as bad today as the day it started in 2004. The surgeons have missed the problem.

It is terrible. Something is pinching my spinal chord, and after 2 surgeries, the problem is still there. The surgeons went after the obvious problems, but there's still something wrong and I haven't found a surgeon that can find it. It may be the small bone spur on the rear of my neck, but the last surgeon said it wasn't severe enough to justify another surgery. They would have to cut a piece of my spinal bone away, to access the spinal cord from the back. Only God knows what the problem is, no surgeon has been able to identify the problem. My suffering continues, without remedy.

I am grateful that I can still play steel guitar, which is something that gives me hope. However, I can only play for a short time, because of the nerve pain. My fingers all feel like I've been using a floor-sander for an hour. If you've ever used a sander, then you know the tingling and puffy feeling that your hands experience after you're done. That's how my hands feel all the time. Albeit, I am thankful for what remaining health I have. At least I have arms. I am grateful to God for what I have. Music is a blessing from the Lord. I love Hawaiian and Country steel guitar, which is all I humbly want from the Lord in Heaven (and a new body without pain).

My mother had a paralyzing stroke at age 52. She had played piano since she was 4-years old, having grown up in Sweden. My mom could carry on a conversation while playing the piano. She couldn't read music, but she knew her chords. That's the same way I play steel guitar. She used to play piano at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, and my dad would preach, and I would quote a Scripture. I remember men coming forward after the sermon, during the invitation, gathering into the prayer room, where my father led them to the Lord with a Bible. I was only a small boy, but I remember seeing dozens of men praying on their knees. I miss those days. My mom played gospel piano (download MP3) similar to the style of Rudy Atwood, and gospel hymns is all she played. But she never could play again after her stroke in 1989. She graduated from this life to go be with the Lord in August of 2001 at age 65. I miss my mom and dad.

After having both legs amputated due to diabetes, a heart attack, kidney and liver failure, and all her physical suffering, it was a happy time when my mom went to be with the Lord in 2001. She smiled on her death bed and told me, “I have the best Physician.” I didn't catch what she had said at first. I replied, “Yes, I know the doctors here are good.” She said, “I have the Great Physician,” and then I knew that she meant the precious Lord Jesus Christ. My mother had faith even in death. My mother suffered horribly for the last 12-years of her life, and my father was there for her, and I was there for them both, just as they were there for me. My mom kept her faith, not becoming bitter or angry, she loved the Lord.

I hope and pray for a new MRI and then maybe a neurosurgeon who might see something they can do to help me. But most neurosurgeons are reluctant to do surgery, especially on a person like me who has already been chopped open twice. So we'll see. One prayer at a time. One day at a time. I hope you'll pray for me as well. For those who have been praying, thank you so much! Jesus could just speak the Word if He wanted, and I would be instantly healed, but so far it hasn't been God's will for me; and so I accept this as a thorn in the flesh from the Lord, or at a minimum, a burden that I must survive with for the remainder of my earthly life. I just took 10mg. of Ambien... meds are the only way I can sleep at night.

I am grateful for the many friends that I have around the world, who love Jesus Christ, and love the truth as I do. I love you all in the Lord, as I do my enemies and all my web visitors. I wish I were able to do more, and handle e-mails; but I am suffering so much daily in pain, tingling, burning and puffiness in my arms and legs. I limp when I walk most of the time because of the razorblade pain in my legs. I realize that many people are suffering worse than me, and I think about them every day, reaching out with their testimonies on my website to help others in the Lord.

Unshakable faith comes from having your faith shaken! My suffering has caused me to have greater compassion for others who suffer. God is using my burden for good, as only God can do (Romans 8:28). I would rather not go through all this suffering, but it is God's decision, not mine. He is the Potter, I am the clay. Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

I ask for your earnest prayers for this ministry and me daily. This ministry is much bigger than me, it's about the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE (John 14:6)! HEAR YE HIM!

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Ye Must Be Born Again! | You Need HIS Righteousness!