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Randi Marks lived a healthy life, making sure to keep in shape and take care of her body. She could not have predicted that the tingling in her hand could have become paralysis. After visiting NorthShore’s Orthopaedic Institute where she was diagnosed with cervical myelopathy caused by arthritis, which lead to the degeneration and compression of disks in her neck. Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Mark Mikhael worked to prevent the potentially lifelong condition with an innovative spinal fusion procedure. Randi found a unique path to recovery, and is now telling her story below:
Your symptoms were similar to other health issues like carpal tunnel in the beginning – when did you feel that something more was wrong?I didn't know anything more was wrong until I saw a neurologist who I was referred to by NorthShore physician Dr. Leon Benson. I saw him for what I thought was carpel tunnel. He said it was not CT, and I needed an EMG from a neurologist. The neurologist told me at my visit with him about a week later, which was only days before my surgery, that I needed to get to the hospital immediately. He said I needed an MRI of the brain and spinal cord to look for an injury. What kind of differences did you notice as time went on?I didn't notice much; I was losing my balance and falling, but I thought I was just clumsy. This occurred for the 2 years prior to my surgery. Then I lost the ability to feel my right hand and to grasp things. What led you to the team at NorthShore?I went to NorthShore because I felt comfortable with their ability to help me. The spinal damage required surgery to be done very soon after your diagnosis. That must have been a lot to take in. How did Dr. Mikhael and his team help you through this process? Yes, I had to have surgery the very next morning. Dr. Mark Mikhael was wonderful. He called me on the phone in my hospital room, assured me that he would take excellent care of me and explained to me the surgery he would be performing. Dr. Mikhael came into my room the morning before surgery and went through everything with me and answered my questions. He assured me I was in the best of hands and his confidence made me feel SO AT EASE!!! He has been so compassionate and caring through this whole experience, and continues to follow my progress. What was recovery like after the fusion surgery?Recovery was not easy, but I did very well. Dr. Mikhael reminded me of things such as to continue to move my neck and turn my head so that I would regain full range of motion. My neck was so stiff after SX so this was not easy, but I did what he told me to do and I’m so happy I followed his instructions. Because I did, I now have full range of motion in my neck! I was able to work out (cardio on the elliptical) as soon as 4 weeks post-op. The recovery was not easy, but because of Dr. Mikhael and the nurses on my floor at Evanston hospital, I had the best possible recovery!
Have you been able to return to your favorite activities? Yes! I walk my dogs and work out as much as I want to!!!! How do you like to stay active?I work out and walk my dogs, and also swim in the summer. How did NorthShore’s care team help you through the surgery and recovery?The nurses and staff on my floor at Evanston were such a blessing in my life. I need to still go and thank them in person. I would not have gotten through this traumatic experience without the nurses. What would you say to others who are considering fusion surgery? Do your research on the surgeon you are choosing. YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE. I was referred to Dr. Mikhael by a friend who had heard he was very good and at the top of his field in spine surgery. I truly believe it is because of Dr. Mark Mikhael that I am walking today. I would also say to not be sedentary after surgery; keep moving as Dr. Mikhael told me a million times. I pushed myself to keep moving and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
Thank you to everyone who played a part in my experience. I am forever grateful.