On July 24, Jimmy woke up with excruciating back pain that by that evening had sent him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc and sent home with a prescription for pain medicine. The pain medicine did not even begin to help. He made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for that following Thursday, the 27th.
The orthopedic doctor originally agreed with the herniated disc diagnosis, but stated he couldn't totally read the CT scan from the emergency room due to the blurriness, so he sent him for an MRI that following Friday, the 28th. The pain had not lessened during this week, and if anything, it was worse. My dad's left hand had also begun to swell and by Friday was red and many times its normal size. At the time, the doctors thought something had bitten him and it was unrelated.
Upon reading the MRI, the orthpedic doctor determined that there may be an infection in or between discs in my dad's back and he pre-admitted him to Emory University Hospital Midtown. He was admitted on Friday, July 28 and started on broad spectrum antibiotics until cultures could be grown to tell exactly what the best course of treatment would be. After a few days, it was determined that strep bacteria had settled into the space between the discs in his back and was causing excruciating pain.
All the while, his left hand continued to swell and it became apparent that it was related. He remembers cutting his hand a few months back and perhaps strep bacteria made its way into the cut and into his bloodstream.
As the antibiotics began to work, the swelling was reduced and his back began to feel a little better and things looked to be on the right track. But slowly, another problem was developing: his hand was less swollen, but both arms and hands were starting to not work. The doctors weren't sure why -- they also didn't make a big effort to figure out why.
By the week of August 7, they began to talk about sending my dad home with in-home physical therapy. We knew he needed inpatient rehab and through my mom and aunt's efforts, they were finally able to get that approved. He was accepted to Emory's rehab hospital on August 15. All the while, his arm and hand function continued to decrease.
Upon being transferred to Emory's rehab hospital, he was immediately asked why his arms and hands did not work and he told them he had no idea and he'd been wondering the same thing. An MRI was performed almost immediately and it was revealed that the infection had also affected the cervical spine (neck) area and there was compression and nerve damage as a result, thus causing the weakness in his arms and hands. Surgery was the only answer.
On August 18, my dad was transferred back to Emory Midtown and on August 19, he underwent major spinal surgery. He had screws inserted into six of the seven bones in his neck as well as two rods. A bone that was compromised by the infection was removed and a bone from his hip was removed and fused into place in his neck.
The surgery also revealed that the antibiotics had worked -- there was no active infection -- but there was so much scar tissue and adhesions from the spine trying to heal itself that it was incredibly compacted. The neurosurgeon removed much of this as well as the "dead" infection. Had this surgery not happened, the spine compression would've continued, likely leading to paralysis and death.
The surgery was definitely a success because it saved his life. We are still in "wait and see" mode as far as arm and hand function and he may never regain full use. Regardless, we know that he has many weeks and months of rehabilitation ahead of him. He is in amazingly good spirits for all he's endured.
Like I said above, the purpose of this GoFundMe is to ease the burden of paying for my dad's medical expenses. The out of pocket maximum on my parents' insurance is $11,000, so that's what I'm seeking to raise. Anything raised here will be given directly to them.
We are so appreciative of the thoughts, prayers and well-wishes over the past month. THANK YOU!
- Mirko Alexander
- Ricky Gause
- Marilyn and Russell Montgomery / Smith
- Josh Arnold
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