A little background on me: I was deployed to Bosnia for 8 months in 2000, as a Supply Sergeant, responsible for Hazmat certification, weapons and chemical gear. I was a 39 year old female when I deployed, carrying a duffle bag, ruck sack, weapon, metal tool box with 36, M-16 bolts, a flak vest, my M-16, a medic bag, and my gas mask. I volunteered for this deployment, and have no regrets and learned alot. The following year after returning home, I had shoulder surgery, due to an injury sustained overseas; all went well. In 2002, I started having lower back pain, and was told by my physician that I had a herniated disc in my lower back. I had physical therapy, as well as home exercises over the next two years, and just lived with the flare-ups.
Early in 2004, I was activated to deploy to Kuwait, however, I was already scheduled for an epidural on my back, the same day I reported for duty. Needless to say, I was left behind to hold down the fort. The epidural really didn’t help me, so I did not return for any future shots (limited to a max of three). I finally went to see an orthopaedic surgeon, and had an MRI performed on my spine. This was late 2004. I was told I no longer had a herniated disc, but that I didn’t have a disc at all, and therefore the elevated and constant pain. I scheduled surgery early in 2005, after being advised that I qualified to participate in the Maverick Total Disc Replacement clinical study.
I received all the written documentation concerning the study, the Maverick disc, and what it was designed to do, and the hopeful outcome of the surgery. I was 45 at the time, and a little hesitant. When I left the doctor’s office that day, I was in tears by the time I reached my SUV, I was in such excrutiating pain. I had to physically lift my legs up into the truck, and pretty much could not use my right leg at all. As soon as I got home, a tearful phone call was made to schedule the surgery. The soonest I could be scheduled was 5-weeks away; I had to take the time off of work. I couldn’t even put socks and shoes on by myself, couldn’t sit or stand without being in pain.
My surgery day arrived in March of 2005. It was to be an approximate 1-2 hours, and an overnight stay. Yes, I was nervous, but I was also tired of living with such pain. The surgery went well, and I awoke in my room, although quite in pain, which is normal, considering that I had an approximate 5″ incision on the side of my stomach, my insides had been moved around, and a metal implant installed. Once in the room, they make you get up and walk every 2-3 hours, with the aid of a walker. While painful, I know it was necessary to aid in the recuperation and healing process. I was discharged to home the following day.
While the first 4-5 days were extremely painful getting up and down, it was mainly due to the incision made in the stomach; my back felt better for the first time in ages. I returned to work 2 weeks after my surgery, alot better than the 5 weeks I had to take off prior to the surgery.
It is now, almost 1-1/2 years later, and I have no regrets. I feel I was given a wonderful opportunity, and would do it again. I cut trees with a chain saw, haul 50 lb bags of horse feed, shoot hoops, go boating, etc. The Maverick Replacement Disc allows flexibility in your spine, as you had with good discs. The surgery has a much faster recuperation time than fusing the discs, which also causes less mobility and flexibility.
The Maverick Disc is made from cobalt-chrome alloy, a metal that is frequently used for orthopaedic implants. You will not activate metal detectors in the airport (I travel often), so no special card is needed. Fusion of the spine is designed to stop motion at the affected level, and merely restore stability to the spine. The recuperative period is much longer with a fusion of the spine, and there is loss of mobility. The Maverick is much more desireable if you are fairly young, active, into sports, etc.
As with any surgery, there are risks of anesthesia use, post-operative infection, etc. However, given the option of the Maverick Disc versus fusion, I would opt for the Maverick anytime. If you feel this is for you, discuss with your orthopaedic surgeon to see if you are a candidate for this procedure.
NOTE: I am now retired Army after 21 years, and carried the unit guidon on our return trip from Bosnia, at the Commander’s request.