Ryan's C-Spine Surgery

For: Ryan Dueck
Organizer: Jennifer Dueck
Ryan's C-Spine Surgery (Ryan Dueck)
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Raised by 282 donors
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The Story

As many of you know, Ryan suffered a serious neck injury in 2009, playing football.He has had chronic pain and immobility since the injury.  Ryan’s condition is degenerative and while he has continued to seek answers, his symptoms, pain and mobility have all worsened over the past four years, and more noticeably in the past 10 months.  Our medical system here has not been able to provide any options for repair or surgery at this point.   His deterioration compelled us to look for answers elsewhere.  Ryan met with two Spinal/Neurosurgeon specialists from Germany (from an international program called ONZ) on September 4, 2013.  Upon viewing his X-rays, MRI results, and medical reports they were very concerned about the severity and condition of his injury.Ryan suffered an acute compression of three vertebrae in his neck (which the Canadian Doctors told us), but he also suffered a more serious condition as well; a fractured Cervical vertebrae at the C4 level as well as a ruptured spinal ligament and an acute alteration to the normal angle of the vertebrae of his neck.  Because this injury was not operated on immediately, over the last four years his neck has begun to shift dangerously (SEE X-RAY PICTURES).While this news was a shock to us, his increasing pain has left us wondering how severe his injury truly is.  Ryan’s life has been drastically altered with daily pain, an inability to turn or move and now a worsening situation that is threatening to leave him unable to work, move and even live normally. The reality is that if he does not have his misalignment, vertebrae and discs fixed in the next year or two, he will begin to lose the use of his arms as well as his ability to hold his head up (drop head syndrome).For some time now it has been very difficult for Ryan to work a full week.  He loves his work at Youth For Christ but is struggling to finish even a full 8 hour day because of this pain and headaches.

This is the prognosis:  Because we have caught it in time, Ryan qualifies for an extensive surgery that is only being done in Germany.  Surgeons will not and cannot perform this procedure anywhere in North America.  Ryan needs to have his damaged and twisted C4 vertebrae removed entirely and replaced with a synthetic one that will be fused to the vertebrae above and below it at the proper angle.  After this vertebra is inserted and fused to provide stability, they will adjust his entire Cervical spine back to its normal curvature, and then they will replace the 2 intervertebral discs below it (between C5/6 and C6/7) with synthetic M9 pads.  Both of those discs have deteriorated to be almost bone on bone (the source of much of his pain). 

This surgery, while daunting, has an extremely high success rate (especially because of his age), and has the potential to return Ryan to a pain-free life, with a huge increase in mobility and a permanent solution to serious medical conditions and paralysis resulting from further deterioration.  We are so blessed to have a chance to make a life-altering, mobility saving change! 

The procedure is roughly 40,000 Canadian dollars, not including travel for Ryan and I, as well as lodging for me as he is in the hospital.  We are waiting for a full quote on the total costs surrounding the surgery, but this is our target for now!

We have seen God moving in how everything has worked out for us to be able to have this opportunity  in time to prevent more permanent damage to Ryan`s spine. God has truly blessed us and we are even more overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends and family already. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for anything you can contribute financially or in prayer!

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on September 28, 2014

Posted on September 28, 2014

Hello Everyone!

I wanted to give you a quick update...it's been quite a while since I posted here on this site. I am now 10 months post-op! Recovery has been like I thought it would...some scary moments as I pushed my limits, but also many rewarding moments as well. It's been painful, filled with sweat and a few tears (mostly of joy!), but it's been so exciting to gain confidence in my new neck.

Things have been a little slower than I initially expected - undoing the damage of 5 years of deformity and damage has proven to be quite the battle, and beginning to walk, sit, exercise with my implants & new alignment and posture has been quite the challenge. My muscles and nerves have fought me every step of the way, even as my neck gets stronger and more stable.

But I have not regretted my surgery once...not even one moment of one day. The surgery has given me back my life - I have none of the pain I used to have and that has been consistent throughout the last 10 months. I often find myself experiencing these incredible moments. It might be walking through the mall, or finishing a swim at the YMCA or out for dinner with Jenn, or even just resting in my home. I stop for a second and realize I am comfortable in a way I had forgotten was possible! I am able to focus on the conversation I 'm having.. on my food, on everything around me instead of on my throbbing neck and headache. The buzzing, debilitating sensation that used to occupy my every waking moment is a distant nightmare. It is the most incredible gift! Any pain, stiffness, fatigue or discomfort I still battle each day pales in comparison!

My new 100% is still a little unknown at this point, but I can say with confidence that I am concent to keep working and stay patient with the speed of the process. 

I had the incredible opportunity to meet with Dr. Illerhaus (my surgeon) and the Germany team here in person in Manitoba for a post-op checkup last Thursday! We reviewed my x-rays together - and they were floored at how well my implants have healed and how strong the bone fusion has grown between my c3-c5. The Doc actually muttered "holy sh$$" when he saw my flexion x-rays. I am able to touch my chin to my chest which was likely going to be impossible.....he was ecstatic and mentioned that I was making optimal use of amazing, mobilizing technology in my neck (specifically the M6- artificial disc). I know that the months and months of forced rest, follwed by the exhausting combination of swimming, physio and stretching, along with our commitment to 2x week massage therapy, 1x week acupuncture and more have all made this possible. Prayer has also been a main tool of recovery as well! On the days when I was unable to envision pushing myself and working hard at my recovery, I was boosted, encouraged or challenged by a message from someone, a perfectly timed conversation, text or phone call or chance encounter. Prayer and faith got me to keep moving during the times when my physical/mental energy was flagging. 

Back to the post-op. The pain, stiffness/ neck fatigue and discomfort I still battle are within normal limits- considering how damaged my neck was and the extent of the surgery process. Dr. Illerhaus informed me that everything was in perfect alignment, no slippage or implant failure. They assured me that I will feel better every year, and to keep doing what I'm doing and keep being sensitive to my symptoms. "Forgetting" that i have implants will be my next hurdle as I look to get more active and more functional in the coming year. OVerall the meeting was incredibly encouraging. I gave him a giant hug and again, thanked him for changing my life!

I want to thank you again. As I write on this page, I see all the reminders of the pre-surgery process of fundraising and preparing mentally for the big day. It is quite emotional for me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting me to Germany and being part of this whole crazy miracle! I will cherish and appreciate your generosity, love, prayers and supportive comments the rest of my life. 

Out of this gratitude, and out of a need to feel like I am contributing to the world while i have been unable to return to work - I created a website: www.sixdegreesfreedom.com.  (six degrees of freedom refers to the ability for your neck to move in all 6 angles of motion!). This website has given me a purpose to fulfill each week. Sometimes I can work on it for an hour, sometimes it's 30 minutes, other days I am too sore from my recovery to do anything. But collectively, working on this site has given me so much joy. I am able to meet other people with neck and back issues, encourage them and give them hope. As well as explain their options for surgery/fundraising etc. A number of people that i have connected with from the website ended up having their own consultations with the Dr's from Germany which I am so excited about! Even if you have no spine injury, I'd love for you to check out the site and join our online community! Please pass it along to anyone that you think could benefit.

Time to rest a little bit. This will likely be my last post on this site, as I will continue to update and blog through my website. Thank you again, God bless each one of you! 

Posted on March 4, 2014

Posted on March 4, 2014


I'm feeling really good today, nice and loose after a great massage this morning so I wanted to write a quick update.

I had new x-rays taken in February and quickly sent them off to Germany.  I received great news back last week directly from the Surgeon and Liason team...all of the hardware is where it should be! In his own words, Dr. Illerhaus was very pleased, and was happy to note that no "migration or slippage" was noticeable with my titanium implants as well as with the artifical disk and end plates.  Everything looks structurally sound!  He also noted that there was good evidence of bone growth in the area of my fusion.  Guess all the sleep & vitamin C, D & Calcium seems to have been worth it. He was very happy with the oseointegration (bones growting together & integrating with the titanium) where my C4 used to be. The fusion will take about a year until it is at full strength, but at the 3 month mark he said I'm right on track... literally growing back a full piece of my spine...medical science these days!  He has officially cleared me to begin some light physiotherapy, with the aim of gradually and carefully increasing my range of motion and neck strength & posture.  

I have been feeling and believing that I am on the mend, but it was still a huge relief & blessing to hear the news directly from my Surgeon himself!  I am of course excited to begin some recovery work, but also a bit nervous...pushing myself out of my comfort zone will be difficult at first, but I know that it will be hugely rewarding!  I will be starting my physio this week. The plan is to be very cautious and see how my body responds to the increased movement over the next few months, at which point we will re-evaluate my condition and progress and look then to amp it up a little!  

Symptoms wise, I have been doing fairly well.  My muscle pain situation on the whole has improved alot, especially if I stay within my comfort zone and stay rested. My nerves around my neck seem to be back to normal as well which is great! I have still had a decent amount of tightness & swelling in the front of my neck, which affects my ability to breath when I'm lying down and sleeping.  I was very sick last week and after a whole day of "tossing cookies" my throat and neck were very agitated...so after a few nights of waking Jenn & myself up due to my difficulty breathing,  I have been sleeping on my recliner chair again which really seems to help keep things open.   I am able to do a little more computer work, reading and house work which has also been nice as well.  

Once again, I've gotta say that I am beyond grateful for this operation!  Jenn & I went out for supper with my parents to celebrate her birthday last Friday, and I sat on a tall booster chair for almost 2 hours with no pain and only slight discomfort near the end!  It was a huge highlight for me, because last year when I took Jenn out for her birthday at a restaurant in Grand Forks, I could barely make it through the dinner.  I remember literally counting down the moments until we could get the bill.  I remember rushing back to the hotel so I could hit the hot tub and then lay down the rest of the evening.  What an incredible life change for us!  Though the last 3 months have not been easy, they have been a blessing, I have a renewed vigor for life and totally new sense of hope and joy..praise the Lord!!  Hope and joy are such great gifts!

Thank you again for being part of this with us...we are eternally grateful!

I have posted all 4 new x-rays pictures here on the page, and below I have 2 links to the follow-ups that Global TV did on my story in February..big thanks to them for taking an interest in my life and in this whole journey we've all been on together!  



Until next time, cheers, blessings...and stay warm!

Sincerely & with gratitude!!


Posted on February 5, 2014

Posted on February 5, 2014

Hello Again! This is Ryan,

It has been about 2 months since my last update in early December, and I wanted to send out a brief message to keep you in the loop. 

The past two months of recovery have flown by fairly quickly.  Overall it has been a very good, encouraging time of healing.  My pain and discomfort levels have levelled off quite a bit, and I stopped taking medications and pain killers right around Christmas. I am sleeping a bit better and most nights I am sleeping for at least a few hours at a time. My stamina for tasks like writing this message, and doing small tasks around the house is increasing (translation..my string of weeks not doing any dishes has come to an end).  I still have to be very careful with my mobility, nothing quick, and nothing that extends outside of my comfortable range of motion.  Due to this, I am still not driving as of yet (also because the roads have been incredibly icy).  We have decided to do things by the book and take every precaution necessary to allow a full recovery!  

If I were to sum up the past 2 months, I would say that January was a very different month than November and December were. While Nov & Dec were more about sleeping and surviving, January has felt like I have gained some real traction.  I have experienced some new feeling and sensations in and around my neck as some of the nerves that were dulled and a little numb are starting to return to normal again..i can finally feel the spot below my chin and above my incision, which has made shaving a lot easier!  My voice has also begun to sound more normal and not be so sore or tire so easily. The great news for Jenn is I am able to badger her and sing again.  I have been experiencing a new ache in my neck which my research has confirmed is normal for the stage of healing my bone fusion is in..it feels similar to growing pains...just in my neck. My mobility improved a decent amount through January but has plateaued now. I am certain that once I am cleared to start doing actual exercises designed to pursue fuller motion this will continue to improve.  This past month I have also finally experienced some more lasting relief from tightness and muscle spasms in my neck, shoulders and back.  Massage therapy 2x per week has really paid off.  I still notice my arms and shoulders feel very weak, it is difficult to hold things in front of me or above my shoulders.  Things like holding a book for more than a few minutes, or simple exercises like unloading the dishwasher are very tiring for me, I get a weakness and a slight tiingling in my hands and forearms when I push myself.  I am not concerned with this, it is part of the process and this will just take time.  I also know once I can start working my muscles again, this will help speed up the process.  

Mentally I am in a great place.  I am content to allow this process to take its course.  People ask me often if I am going crazy being stuck at home everyday, but I can honestly say that every day I wake up without the old agony of my broken neck, is a GOOD day, no matter what my limitations are!  I still find myself struggling to wrap my head around how different my life is already, and how much better my future is going to be.  The speed at which this all happened, the money and support that we experienced in 2 short months, and the intensity and seriousness of the surgery and recovery have all been difficult to process.  I am often overwhelmed with the prospect of my new chance to live normally...I really cannot believe how badly things were before November 21st...and I really still cannot believe how good they will be as I continue towards full healing!  What a blessing, I can truly say I am full of gratitude and joy evey single day.

The next BIG moment will be this month. I am getting x-rays next week, which I will send to Germany for the Surgeon to review and then I will recieve my marching orders for the next part of my recovery.  I am hopeful to start physiotherapy sometime in February and then start looking at a realistic timeframe for heading back to work in the next few months!  

Jenn has been doing really well this past few weeks.  She has gotten back into the routine of the demands of work, while still having to take care of a lot of things here at home.  She is strong and is quite amazing.  We often sit over a coffee (and tea for her) and review the past 6 months with amazement! 

I want to thank you again for being with us every step of the way.  We are so grateful for you.  Out of this gratefulness for your generosity and support I feel strongly convicted to let you know how we are managing the financial aspect of your involvement.  We were blessed to have some finances left in our fundraising account after paying off the last of the surgery and trip bills in December.  We have continued to keep this money in a seperate account which we are using to offset my ongoing health costs.  This has been HUGE for us as we have been living on a single income and my EI since October.  Massage therapy, upcoming physio therapy, medication and recommended health supplements & vitamins are not cheap and so we are incredibly grateful for the provision we are experiencing.  

I will post a new update as soon as we hear back from the Surgeons!  Thank you again for your support, thoughts and prayers.  Also a big thank you to everyone that has dropped off food, that has been very helpful!  God bless, I look forward to staying in touch!

Love from us both, 

Ryan & Jennifer

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