Jean learns how aging is not a life sentence and the pain she’s experiencing may have originated from a misalignment in her neck. After falling on the floor and passing out for unknown reasons, the doctors told Jean that the discs in her neck have collapsed and that she needed to undergo neck fusion surgery. The surgery was successful but unfortunately, the pain persisted. Jean shares her story of discovering Blair Chiropractic and how they helped with her rehabilitation and healing.
Listen to the podcast here:
Where Neck Fusion Fails, Blair Chiropractic Corrects
My guest is an incredible guest who I’ve been pursuing for probably a couple of months and begging to come on my show because her story is outstanding. I want to introduce to you my friend, Jean Fenoglio, and I want to share her story with you. What is so amazing about this story is that she has had a couple of different surgical procedures that would basically deter her from ever seeing a chiropractor. When she walked into my office, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Once I saw her x-rays, I was not confident, but I was like, “We’ll see what happens.” I didn’t know for sure if I could help her. I want to welcome you, Jean, to my show.
Thank you, Dr. Hoefer. It’s nice to be here.
Everyone is going to be in for a treat because we get to hear about a neat story that has changed your life and my life. It’s given me more confidence to know that I can help people who’ve had surgery. Give me a little background about who you are, where you’re from, what your life was like, and how you got into the predicament of meeting me?
I’m very active. I’ve worked for years. I traveled a lot, move around a lot, and very healthy and never had any problems at all. One night, I got up to get a good drink of water. I remember standing in front of the kitchen sink with this glass in my hand. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor. I passed out and I woke up I’m lying on the floor. I tried to get up and felt knives going through my shoulders and neck. I couldn’t move. I just laid there for a long time because every time I try to get up I’m like, “It hurts. If I move, I don’t know what happened to me, but I might really hurt it.”
How long ago was that?
About four years ago.
You got up to get a glass of water and something happened. You passed out, you fell down and you had stabbing pain in your neck and in your shoulders and you couldn’t move?
When I moved, it just felt like these knives are going. I just was lying there. If I didn’t move I was fine, but if I tried to lift myself off the floor, I’m like, “I can’t do this.” Eventually, I had to. I couldn’t just lie on the floor.
Did you crawl somewhere to get to the phone?
I finally got up off the floor and went in and laid on the sofa that wasn’t too far away. Then I called my children.
It didn’t ever occur to you to call 911? “Help. I’ve fallen. I can’t get up.”
I can’t be that hurt. When my children got there and they we’re trying to get me off the sofa, they saw what pain I was in. They we’re calling an ambulance and I’m like, “I could have done that myself.” When the ambulance came, when all of what was going on, they didn’t first hear that I blacked out. I just said I fell. When I said, “It was weird because all of a sudden I’m on that floor and I’m already lying down,” they’re like, “You passed out? We’ve got to make sure.”All of a sudden, it’s this whole big thing, another ten minutes of checking me out before they even moved me.
Did they put a brace on your neck?
They put the big brace on the neck and asked me how long I was out. I said, “I don’t think I was out for very long.”
Do you remember when you were standing at the kitchen sink to get water? Did you have pain and then you passed out?
I don’t recall any pain. Maybe I did and that’s what happened. All I remember is having a glass with water in my hand and I was just on the floor the next thing.
After they assessed you, what was the next step?
They took me by ambulance to a hospital.
What happened at the hospital?
They did a bunch of x-rays. At first, they’re like, “Did she break her neck?”While they put you in that thing, you can’t move your neck. They took a bunch of x-rays and they said that my discs in my neck had collapsed. This wasn’t a big hospital. I was at a friend’s house when this happened. I wasn’t in my neighborhood. After two days of going back and forth and not knowing what to do with me, I did call my GP and I said, “This is what’s happened.” He goes, “You should get back to Orange County. I’ve got some great doctors you could go to.” They finally released me after two days of doing nothing and took me down to Hogan Newport. My doctor, the one he wanted me to see, was at a big convention. I had to see the doctor on call. He took x-rays and that’s when he said, “These are collapsed. You’re going to need 4-5 and 5-6, the vertebras in your neck.” I wasn’t in such pain but they said I have to have two surgeries. They don’t want to do both of them at the same time. One does the arms and one does something else.
What she’s talking about is the nerve roots that exit your spine. They innervate different parts of your body. 4-5 is your shoulder area and 5-6 goes down to your hands.
I had both. No wonder I was in pain.
A lot of people come in and they have this radiculopathy or this shooting pain coming down their arm. A lot of times people think it’s their wrist or their elbow or shoulder. The truth is most of the time, it’s because their neck is having an issue. Surgeons will go and do a decompression or a disc replacement or they’ll fuse you and they’ll stabilize that area so that the nerves leaving those vertebra can communicate with your body. If you don’t have function because of your nerve supply, then things get bad quick as you experienced. How long did you have from the time you got back to Orange County to the surgery? How many days was that?
I still don’t know why, but he wanted to wait for some reason. He put me on some medicine and we waited at least three weeks.
Were you still suffering in pain?
I was taking different meds to help so it didn’t hurt.
Were you taking an anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxer and a steroid?
Yes, steroid. I remember that word.
Usually what happens, at least this is the experience that I’ve seen people that I know walkthrough, is they have this thing happened, they go see a medical doctor, and they get referred to a specialist. Did you see an orthopedist or did you see a neurosurgeon?
An orthopedic spine specialist and then they have to go through this cascade of events where they have to take an x-ray and they see what’s up with the bones. Then they put you on medication to de-flame the soft tissue in the nerves. Steroids are often what they prescribe. Sometimes they do muscle relaxers too, because the nerves innervate the muscle. It makes everything tight. You just are super uncomfortable and then they prescribe physical therapy a lot of times. They’ll have you go through and try to work with the physical therapists. Physical therapists are movement practitioners that are very brilliant in movement and synergistic of how the body works together. They work oftentimes under medical doctors. They’re not a portal of entry provider, which means that they cannot diagnose conditions, but they are a practitioner that works under the direction of a diagnosis or a treatment plan from the medical doctor.
After that fails, then they probably go to surgery. He probably wanted to exhaust and because of insurance, those are the steps that they have to walk patients through, unless it’s a hard-neurological sign. If you couldn’t hold the glass with your hand or you couldn’t write, or your hand was swelling, there was obvious issue of vascular compromise or the muscles were going away, wasting away, atrophy. Those hard neurological signs would need immediate surgery. There are some people that I’ve had that and sent immediately to have emergency neurosurgery. A lot of times, they go through that cascade so you have the x-ray, then the drugs and the PT, and then you have surgery. Is that what you had to walk through?
I’d go once or twice a week for him to see how things were going. I’m just at home. I can’t work and I’d be sitting there watching TV. All of a sudden, the pains would just go right down my arms and into my hands. They would cramp up so badly I would just cry. You never knew when that was going to happen, but it happened over and over every day. I’m like, “Can’t I just have the surgery to alleviate this?”
After three weeks, you did have the surgery?
I finally got the first surgery done. He said he was going to go in the disc collapse. What he has to do is pull them apart and put some plate or something to keep from rubbing, a spacer.
The vertebra are separated by these discs and those discs are basically space savers. The vertebra coming together at the joint creates these little openings called intervertebral foramina, and that is the exact place where the nerves live. When that space gets smaller, the intervertebral foramina or the IVF gets smaller and it pinches your nerves. That’s why you were having these things you were having.
Structure dictates your function, and because your structure was changing because the discs were degenerating, the function of your body was changing and you were having pain and all kinds of different things. There is a time and a place for surgery. Who knows if I met you before you had your surgery, I could’ve helped at all. The truth is I didn’t meet you until after you had that surgery. After that surgery, what happened?
They waited about five months and they did the second surgery to do that.
What was the reasoning behind waiting? Why were they saying we shouldn’t do this all at one time? Why were they saying, “We’ll save this problem for now and then we’ll do this later?”
They said that’s just what they recommended.
Who knows why? There are all kinds of speculation, but the truth is you ended up with a five level fusion. Generally, most people have seven cervical vertebra. You’re fused at five segments. Fast forward four years, how did you come to learn about Blair Chiropractic and coming to the office where I take care of my patients?
After the first surgery, there’s a long recovery. Maybe that’s what it was. They wanted to make sure that you recovered well before you went through surgery again. Then I had the second one, but out of nowhere, my arm still got these shooting pains. It’d go down to my fingers or my fingers would cramp and they would just stay there. I had to pry to open up, they wouldn’t just open. I’m like, “I’m still in pain.” It’s not every day and then I also started getting a lot of leg pains and feet cramps. I’m like, “Is that another vertebra?”
Do you have to have low-back surgery now? When you were having these symptoms, was is long after you’ve had surgery? You’re not having active treatment with the orthopedist that did your surgery?
No. I did go through a lot of physical therapy for two or three months, but the pain, maybe once a week, maybe twice a week, maybe not for another two weeks. It was not consistent. There’s no pattern that I could figure out.
It was intermittent and random. It was still frustrating because all of a sudden, you’d be doing something and your hand would cramp up and then you’d have to peel it apart.
Yes, and the pains. The other thing that was happening was I would be just walking down the street and I’d just fall flat on my face.
Like what you felt in the beginning where you didn’t have any recollection of why you fell?
No. One time, I was walking with my girlfriend. We are in a crosswalk walking across the street. The next thing, I’m halfway through the crosswalk and I’m on the ground. She goes, “What’d you do? There wasn’t anything there.” I’m like, “There must have been a rock on there or something,” because I just collapsed. That happened maybe five or six times.
Did you have any sense of weakness in your legs? All of a sudden you’re walking and you we’re just down?
I’m just down. It happened so fast. All of a sudden, you’re just down. One of my daughters heard about this Blair Institute and that if your atlas is not in line, then you could be clumsy. She goes, “Mom, it sounded like you. You fall for no reason. I bet that’s your problem.” I’m like, “No one can help me. Do you know how much iron is in my neck?” Every once in awhile, if I would turn my head a certain way one way or all of a sudden, it felt like it was going to stay like that. I’m thinking, “Is the hardware moving and it crimped?” That was scary when you moved your neck and you felt the shift, you’re like, “Can I move it back again?”
Especially because you’re still working and you’re an active grandma and mom and you want to just stay active in your life. I can’t imagine how scary that must be to think that you’ll get stuck in a position because of the hardware in your neck. Did your medical doctors have any answers for that?
What did they say? You’re just going to have to live with it?
That’s the way it is.
Did they give you more medication?
They just said, “Sorry, this is what happened.”
It’s not as bad as it was.
Do they ever bring up the word chiropractor?
Did you ever think of a chiropractor?
It wasn’t until your daughter who had heard about the Blair method said, “Mom, this sounds like you. You’re clumsy, you fall for no reason.” It didn’t even occur to them that they could do anything about the hardware in your neck.
You just got to balance at this whole Atlas thing. It sounds exactly what you need to get stabilized to quit falling. I’m getting older.
That is the biggest farce. I hear that every day when I take care of new patients.
No, but if I fall, it could be worse. Not just because I’m getting older, but because I am. Your bones are getting brittle.
I hear that from people that are “aging.” They say, “I’m getting older so that’s why this is happening.” If that were true, every person that turned 52 would have the same issue, and we don’t. It’s important to understand that because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose function.
Correct. You’re not quite as agile. It’s like you don’t want to fall.
I get that especially because the last time you fell without knowing, you ended up having neurosurgery. It’s scary to think about.
We don’t want to do that again.
No, I don’t want you to do that again. Fast forward to a little under a year ago, you come into my office and I adore your daughters. I get to thankfully take care of them and many people in your family. They said to me, “My mom’s got some issue. She’s had a couple of neck surgeries. Do you think you could help her?” The optimist in me says, “Of course, I can.” I guess I’m confident because the Blair work is awesome. Once I saw your x-ray, when you were in the x-ray chair, I got a little scared because I’d never seen anybody with a five level fusion and that amount of hardware in their neck. I said, “What am I going to do? How am I going to help her?” Thankfully, the way that we engineer our corrections, it has nothing to do with your hardware. It has to do with the joints where the bones come together, and hardware isn’t there. I was able to make a correction in your neck. I was able to set your atlas and you’re C3, which is one of the segments that was partially fused with the plates and the screws. We made that correction. I want you to tell me what has happened since that day? I’m just so proud and so excited for you because not only has some of your stuff gotten better, but getting your life back.
The hand cramping happened maybe a couple more times and the cramps in the legs. All of a sudden, one day I’m like, “I haven’t been cramping at all.” My hands, literally, I would wake up in the middle of the night, with such a leg. I would just walk in my bedroom for ten minutes trying to get rid of it. They would last a long time, and then after my hands, pried open, they would hurt from being so tense. All of a sudden one day I’m like, “I haven’t had any cramps. This is great.” One day I went to the grocery store and I was walking down an aisle and all of a sudden, my foot came up from under me, but this time I was going backwards. I wasn’t falling forward and I’m like, “What’s going on?” I put my hands on and I balanced myself and I didn’t fall. The people around me were like, “Where did that water come from?” There was water on the floor and I didn’t see it and my foot just slipped right in it, but I completely got my balance and I didn’t fall.
In a legitimate circumstance where anybody could have fallen because there was a reason, water on the floor, on a slippery tile at the grocery store, you caught yourself. I remember when you came in and you were ecstatic and I was like, “This is such a huge celebration because you would fall literally walking across the street for no reason, and now you had a legitimate reason to fall and you caught yourself.” That is the power of the Blair Upper Cervical correction. It gave your body a sense in space to be able to catch itself. You have had one upper cervical correction the whole time I’ve been taking care of you. Obviously, you’ve come in for follow-ups to make sure that you’re holding your adjustment and you’ve gone through the healing process, but you’ve had one upper cervical correction and it’s held and in my estimation. You’re significantly better than you were when I first met you.
There’s no question that you have helped me tremendously because the pain I was still getting out of nowhere, I just was like, “Why does this keep happening to me?”
You’re pretty busy. You travel a lot for work.
I have seven grandchildren, four children. We have family dinners and I can’t just be sitting in a chair not being active. It’s not me.
Do you feel like you’ve gotten more vitality to your life?
Absolutely. I can play with the grandkids and I’m not going to fall.
What would your advice be to anybody who’s searching out Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic or chiropractic in general? You’ve had surgery and I know people are probably told, “Don’t see a chiropractor.” What would your advice be to them and what is your encouragement to them?
My daughter had come to you and my problem was unique, but this whole Blair Institute is something that I think is unique if it does what you keep telling me and my daughters. When I came in and met you and you explained how things went, I’m like, “They were right. This is it. If my atlas is off, then that’s why I’m so trippy. I’m not balanced.” Growing up, I was very athletic. I’m playing every sport. I could never fall unless I was sliding somewhere.
Would your encouragement be, “Don’t be afraid to give it a try?”
Don’t be afraid to go in and talk to them and be honest. This is what’s happening. Give it a try. It can’t get any worse and it certainly can get a lot better. You listened and you told me from the get-go, “I’m going to try and help you.” You don’t make promises, you just say, “I think I can do this for you.” You told me that when you first do the thing with your adjustments, they could slip or they could stay. You gave me everything. It was wonderful and I’m so thankful my daughter recommended you. I did feel very comfortable with you. I look forward to coming in and going, because then I know this is all going to stay good.
It’s so neat every time you do come in that we check you and you’re holding. That much more life have you gotten back. I remember having a cautious optimism with you, but being very realistic about, “There’s no way for me to tell you exactly how you’re going to heal or what’s going to happen, but this is what I think could go right based on your structure being attacked and your neurology being restored.” You have succeeded my expectations, which is thrilling.
Jean, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story and hopefully giving some hope to some hopeless situations. For everyone, even if you’re not in Southern California, we do have an entire society full of amazing Blair doctors that want to help you. If you are looking for maybe a different approach to your health care needs, specifically with fusion in your neck or disc degeneration, why don’t you go to the website, www.BlairChiropractic.com and you can locate a doctor. Put in your zip code or put in a city and it’ll find the nearest doctor to you.
My goal in life is to train up more doctors. I’m always working at educating students and interns and going to the colleges to train more chiropractors to do this work so that there is a Blair chiropractor in every community in the world. If you’re in the Southern California area, I would love to have an opportunity to talk with you. You can email me through my podcast website, Is Your Head on Straight. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and you can always give me a call at the office too. DrHoefer.com would be how you find me. Thank you again, Jean for being here, for sharing your story and I can’t wait to see the good things to come.
You’re welcome. I hope that you are fascinated with her story. Make sure you check out the blog and the associated pictures with the blog because her legitimate live x-ray is going to be posted up so you can see what I saw the first day that I met her. Have a great day. I look forward to talking to you soon.
About Jean Fenoglio
Jean Fenoglio is an active working woman. Mom to 4 grown adults and grandmother to 7, She is able to stay active and have a ton of fun pain free due to the power of ONE Blair Upper Cervical adjustment,