An Astonishing Week

As my wife Lisa and I sit in our home library this evening reflecting on this past week, we’re looking at each other in slack-jawed amazement.

I told part of the story in a blog post Thursday on the HELPcare site, but now I want to take a step back here on my personal blog to give some details, along with an update on my spine surgery experience.

I’ve been dealing with neck and back pain for almost four months, and in the last couple of weeks noticed weakness and numbness in both my arms and legs.

Among other impacts this affected my golf game, as my shots were consistently shorter than I expected. Eventually I recognized that I needed to “club up” a little, e.g. using a 6-iron when I ordinarily would use a 7.

In what turned out to be my last round of the year Monday, I seemed to have found the groove:

On Tuesday, July 19, Lisa and I left Austin at 6 a.m. and drove to the Twin Cities to take test specimens to Labcorp and to get an MRI of my spine as ordered by Dr. Dave Strobel.

After my scan, the remote technologist asked me to stay around a bit while she had the radiologist review it. She had seen something and wanted to make sure no additional images were needed.

That gave me an opportunity to capture an image of my own:

It was a little unnerving eavesdropping on one side of the conversation as the local staff person responded to the radiologist’s question with “No, he’s mobile.”

We had hoped the MRI would give us a reason for my symptoms.

To have the radiologist wondering whether I was even able to walk told me this was serious.

A few minutes later we were heading back to Austin with images on CD, and with the radiologist reading to follow by fax.

That evening we discussed the report with Dr. Dave and he said I needed to be evaluated for surgery, and we planned to have him refer me to Mayo Clinic.

On Wednesday at 8 a.m. he submitted the referral. Lisa typically goes to Rochester on Wednesday afternoons to drop off HELPcare Clinic lab specimens for Labcorp pick-up, and we decided I should go with her this time with the image CDs in case I could be seen at Mayo.

We got a call from the Mayo referring physician office while we were on the way, and by the time we had dropped off the specimens it was clear we needed to go to the Emergency Department.

We arrived just after 3 p.m. and the speed of the process was otherworldly. By 5:15 we were told I would be admitted and scheduled for a Thursday operation.

On Thursday at 10 a.m. I participated with Dr. Dave in our regular weekly radio program on KAUS AM 1480, but this time from my hospital room:

Less than two hours later I was taken to pre-op, and I was wheeled into the operating room at 2. The operation started at 3:20, and at 5:53 Lisa got a text message that they were closing and that it had gone well. I was back in my room at 8:30.

On Friday morning I went down for x-rays, and before I was discharged the chief resident reviewed them with me and we discussed the need for follow-up. The team had taken a conservative approach, just removing the C4-C5 disc that was clearly causing the symptoms, and fusing those two vertebrae. The discs on either side might need attention eventually.

We left at about 1:30, and on the way home we stopped at the HELPcare Clinic office to see and thank Dr. Dave and the team.

I went to bed around 9, but then awakened at about 12:15 a.m. Saturday because the Tylenol had worn off, and my mind was flooded with ideas related to HELPcare Clinic development.

Practicing my Getting Things Done (GTD) training, I captured the ideas on my phone so I could clear my mind and get back to sleep.

But within a few minutes I’d get another idea, and then another.

The more I captured, the faster they came.

By 6 a.m. I had 51, and I realized I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, so I got up and started refining them.

They boiled down to about 30 distinct concepts or projects.

I think it’s one of the most creative nights I’ve ever had. Maybe all the stimulation my nerves got through this process amplified their creative activity.

At any rate, I didn’t have any problem getting to sleep early last night.

So just to recap:

  • Monday morning I played golf for the last time in 2022
  • Tuesday I got an MRI of my cervical spine
  • Wednesday I was admitted at Mayo Clinic for surgery
  • Thursday I had the operation
  • Friday I was discharged home
  • Saturday I had one of my more productive days of work

In less than a week we went from just having suspicions of the nature of my problem to having it surgically repaired.

We prayed for a positive outcome and resolution of my symptoms, and we appreciate so many who joined us in this plea.

Those prayers were answered in a way we couldn’t have imagined. We’re overcome with gratitude and joy.

I’m recovering well, and looking forward to having all six of our kids, five spouses and our 14 grandchildren together this weekend as my son Joe gets married on Saturday, and Amy Wagner will become our last daughter-in-law.

Today, Sunday July 24, Lisa and I were blessed to be able to worship with our church family at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Rochester.

Soli Deo gloria!

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 14. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

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