Ryan's C-Spine Surgery

For: Ryan Dueck
Organizer: Jennifer Dueck
of $43,426 goal.
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

Posted on December 8, 2013

Posted on December 8, 2013

The past three weeks have been some of the most difficult in my life, and yet I can truly say I am filled with gratitude and joy as I write this!  Jenn did such a great job writing all the updates so far as it was just too difficult for me to do so. We are overjoyed to finally be back at home, it is comforting to be close to family and friends again. 

The surgery is a success!  As Jenn has mentioned previously, I knew within mere hours of waking up in the recovery room that the situation in my neck had altogether changed.  Nothing has ever hurt as much as those first few days (specifically the first 2) post operation…so I can assure you it is a very unique thing to be in that much pain and yet be so overcome with relief!  It is something I will never be able to fully describe. I gripped Jenn’s hand and my Dad’s very tightly as I shared this moment of realization with them in those first few hours.  As the days have passed since the 21st, though not without difficulties and challenges, this initial realization has continued to prove true.  Things are different for me already in ways that we have prayed about for years, in ways that I could only dream about until now. For the first time in almost 5 years I have had moments of zero pain. I can think clearly…and when I sleep or rest, I wake up actually feeling refreshed.  As I gained confidence and began walking, first in the hospital and then outdoors, it hit me again and again that I was not wanting to lie down in the middle of the street as I felt like doing EVERY time I was out of the house in the past 5 years.  It is surreal!  Even though I tire easily right now and I am still very sore and stiff, I don’t have to WORK to hold my head up, I don’t have to fight to walk or sit or maintain a certain posture for more than a few minutes at a time.  I don’t have to muster up the strength to put a smile on my face when I am with other people! I can only imagine how I will feel next week…next month…6 months from now!  

What a blessing it is today to report no complications, no setbacks and no issues outside of the normal range in this first few weeks of recovery!  The next 2 months are a crucial stage of continued healing for me.  I am supposed to rest as much as possible, my only therapy coming through massage treatments to keep my shoulders, chest and back loose. My mobility is still very limited, but that is essential for the implants, bones and muscles to settle and stabilize.  The Surgeon’s orders are to be comfortable as many hours in a day as possible, and so right now for me that means a mixture of sitting up, walking for exercise, lying down and of course sleeping! In mid-February I am to submit new x-rays to Dr. Illerhaus.  Based on how the bone grafts and plates have grown and settled (respectively) we will then look into more aggressive therapy aimed at increasing range of motion and getting me back to full functionality!  We will know what my new 100% looks like in the next 8-12 months..so I’m shooting for July at full speed!!  I am grateful for whatever aspects of my life I get back, God has given me back more than I could even have imagined already, so I am content to do my part in healing one day at a time and allow him to bring me where he wants me to be at the end of my recovery. 

I want to conclude by mentioning two things.  Firstly, I must tell you all (because she will not tell you herself..) that Jenn (my wife) has been the most incredible support and strength for me through this life-changing journey.   She has displayed the most incredible resolve and determination in the most difficult moments of this past month.  From the very first consult when we looked at needing to raise over $55,000 dollars in two months, to the final moments before my surgery, to the first hours after my surgery, and now through the final weeks in Germany and then our trip home…Jenn has been by my side every step of the way.  She has encouraged me, prayed for me, pushed me and comforted me.  She did not leave my side for the first 4 days straight, and those were very long, tough days.  She has personified what it means to be a companion, a wife and a Godly woman.  I would have never experienced such victory and such strength and such faith through this ordeal without her..and I consider myself a tough cat!  I am grateful and will be forever so, to Jenn for her love and support!  I also want to thank my Dad for being there with us for the first week, it was very comforting to have him there..we had many great moments, laughs, tears and we even got to celebrate his birthday in the hospital with a local German beverage hidden from the nursesJ. 

Secondly..(and finally I promiseJ), I need to thank each of you, my wonderful family & friends as well as the many kind strangers that showed interest. Somehow, you saw my need and you choose to respond. With your financial gifts, kind words and messages, prayers and thoughts, we have received more support than I could have ever fathomed.  Over the past 3 months I have been so dumfounded and astonished at the strength, intensity and pure volume of your outpouring that I cannot get myself to really accept that I deserve this all…and I think that’s the great thing about this experience. My definition of “a blessing”, is receiving something that you may or may not deserve and definitely can’t earn or ever fully pay back. I believe with all my heart that this is how God operates.  And that has been the story in my moment of need. I have been blessed by each of you, and whether you know it or not, you have been that answer to our prayers and cries over the past few years. As I struggled to live with this burden of pain I never really lost sight of the fact that God loves me and knows my needs…the real challenge was waiting to see how and when he was going to do something, and who he was all going to tap on the shoulder to be part of it!

This is an experience that will shape my entire life from here on…this gift of health is something that I will use to live a life filled with gratitude, centred on service, and focused on giving back to those around me. THANK YOU for what you have done for me, for Jenn and for my family.

I know we would appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers as Jenn returns to work next week, and as I recover and work towards full health over the coming 8 months! 

For your thoughtfulness and generosity, may God bless you in the areas of your life that you need it most, and give you the patience and perseverance you need to wait for his timing…take this from someone who has just experienced this timing, it is perfect!

With much Gratitude, Love and Joy!


Posted on December 8, 2013

Posted on December 8, 2013

I would like to thank you all again for your patience on my update! here is how our last week in Germany went and how Ryan is doing now.

Ryan was released from the hospital on Tuesday Nov 26th and as I mentioned in my last update we were a little nervous to be out of the hospital away from the wonderful nurses and doctors but we were assured Ryan's recovery was at a point that his rest and recovery wouldn't be much different laying in the hospital or hotel.  So we took on the challenge and within the first day we already felt good about being on our own. Meals were a concern for me but the hotel had a wonderful breakfast and because we had a stove top and fridge in our room I was able to make at least one meal a day and have some snacks in the room. Then we would walk into the market at least once a day for exercise and eat one meal there. 

Wednesday November 27th
On Wednesday we were in contact with the ONZ clinic regarding Ryan's recovery plan since he is not allowed to do any physiotherapy or excessive movement - it was recommended he get massages to help relax the muscles and increase blood flow to facilitate healing. They arranged for the massage therapist to come directly to our hotel which was huge for Ryan as traveling was very uncomfortable for him. They will be coming every second day until we leave.
We went for a walk today into the market area, Ryan finds walking around people challenging because he can't move his head quickly to react in case someone bumps him or passes him. He is doing his best to be confident and since he has a giant white bandage across neck people tend to be careful when they see him from the front. It is quite amusing to see the looks on people's faces when they see his bandage because he can't move his upper body a lot which makes him look like he is a bit of a "gangster" :) We ended up walking for about 2.5 hrs which was amazing but he was pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel. Overall he had a really good day but he still struggles with muscle pain and swelling in his throat.

Thursday Nov 28
Thursday was one week exactly since Ryan's surgery. It is hard to believe that only one week ago he had such an invasive surgery and he is already out of the hospital. We still have a long way to go for the bones to fully heal and muscles to get used to this new position of his spine but we are so blessed that everything has gone so well! Ryan was pretty stiff when he woke up in the morning, it is great that today was his first massage appointment because he really needed it! The massage therapist came in the afternoon and after doing his initial assessment he was pretty amazed at how tight and knotted his muscles were. He said about half way through the massage that he needed stronger hands. Ryan has to sit up for the massage since laying on his stomach is not an option right now but it still went really well and he definitely felt a big difference after. This was a bit much for him so we didn't end up walking at all today. 

The days following mostly involved similar events as Wednesday and Thursday - and so I am just going to highlight a few special moments from Thursday Nov 28 until Thursday Dec 5 when we returned home.

On Saturday Ryan had another massage and felt a big difference immediately after and even though things tighten up by the end of the day it was still one of his best days. This lead to a great sleep for him, one of the first nights he didn't wake up several times, when he woke up Sunday morning he was quite stiff but after breakfast he did some hall walking and things loosened up a bit! I had fallen asleep and I was so amazed to see when I woke up Ryan was sitting at the desk writing! 
I have not seen Ryan sit at a desk by choice in several weeks leading up to the surgery because it was just to painful for him. So to see him doing something he loves to do, write, again was a blessing. He only could sit at the desk for about 10-15 mins at a time before his neck got to tired but WOW for him to be able to do that is truly a sign that things are just going to keep getting better and better. God is good. 

On Tuesday we went to meet with Dr. Illerhaus for our final appointment to go over how Ryan is doing.  It went very well - he spent a lot of time answering our questions about everything from posture to physio. His x-rays post surgery looked amazing, and so based on the fact that his symptoms of pain and discomfort were in the normal range - if anything was wrong with the procedure Ryan would have felt it already. This was great news because it meant that Ryan is past the crucial part of the healing where he is safe to go home and they would not have to re-enter to fix anything. We thanked him for his excellent work and for literally changing Ryans life. 

On Thursday we started our trek back home to Winnipeg, it was a very long day but we were blessed that Ryan did well overall. He has a neck collar that supports his neck, the doctor recommended for traveling, which helped a lot. The flights were both quite turbulent but we made it safe and sound. We were welcomed with open arms by our parents at the airport and experienced our first winter drive in the snow - boy its cold here! Germany doesn't even have snow yet. When we finally walked through our door and into our kitchen we felt so good to be home! I gave Ryan a hug and just put my head on his chest and cried because I was sooo happy to have him home safe and sound. God put on my heart that everything would be ok and that strength carried us through these last three weeks and will continue to help us these next several months.

Finally most of you will want to know how Ryan is doing now. I have to say he is in good spirits, and up to his usually shinanagings again though he moves a lot slower and his voice is still not back to normal just yet. His scar is healing well. His neck and in between his shoulder blades still ache with all the new hardware and healing that is taking place. His shoulders, traps and front of his neck are still quite swollen and tight which causes muscle pain. His throat has seen improvement for eating and breathing but still quite uncomfortable to talk a lot. With all this being said he is managing well, and the greatest joy in all of this is that the chronic grinding pain he had before the surgery is gone. 
Ryan has been working on an update for you all and he should be ready to post it tomorrow. 
Thank you all again for your love, prayers and support!

Posted on November 27, 2013

Posted on November 27, 2013

Thank you all for your patience! Here is my update from the last few days,

Thursday Morning
Ryan had just gone into the elevator and the doors closed and he went down into the operating room, and will be sharing his perspective on this in a later update as I feel it best to come from him. I posted earlier about my experience during this time, and it has been quite a whirl wind since my last post so I wanted to update you all on these last few days.
At almost 1pm they finally wheeled Ryan on his hospital bed back into his room. He was fairly disoriented from the anesthetic but it was wearing off enough for him to talk a little the nurses had him hooked up to an IV with pain killers and out of his neck was a small tube that ran to a bottle holding some blood. This was to help the site of the incision drain while it was healing. 
As they were getting him settled he grabbed my hand and held it tight and said I love you...I missed you. Then he also reached out for Eldons hand and gave it a big squeeze. He looked quite nasseous and then he told me he was going to throw up. I told the nurse and she quickly switched the bag of pain killers to an anti nasseant to help settle his stomach. As the drip started working I just kept encouraging him to try to keep from throwing up and like a champ he managed to fight it off. He was in a lot of pain because they had to switch out the drip but as soon as the nurse switch the pain killers back it started to at least take him from an 9 pain level down to a 6. 
Over the next few hours he would wake up ask a question and then fall back asleep, sometimes just to wake up a few mins later to ask the same question. I did my best to answer him "how long was I in surgery, how much can I move my neck" and one of the questions he kept asking was how did the surgery go? At this point the surgeon was still operating on his next patient but I knew if there wasn't a doctor in the room chances are it went well. His pain was still quite high so the nurses gave him a tablet to swallow which was difficult but he managed. 
About 4 hrs later Ryan was staying awake for a few mins at a time and we were able to talk a little. He hadn't let go of my hand at all and I couldn't believe how hard he was squeezing it since he was asleep for most of that time. Suddenly he felt quite nauseous again, I think the medication had worn off but later the nurses explained it is very common to throw up after surgery. I managed to get him on his side and help him brace his neck so he could throw up in these special plastic bags they have for such an occasion. I just kept rubbing his back and saying its ok your doing good just keep going its almost all gone. A few tears streamed down his cheeks and once he had finished throwing up he started to cry. I asked him if he was ok and he said these words that I will never forget "I am in so much pain right now, more pain than I have ever been in and I am laying here so grateful...so thankful because even though I just had a surgery - I can not feel that same grinding, chronic pain I have had in my neck these last 4 years." At this point I had not cried yet today because I just felt Gods strength and peace and I had to be strong for Ryan, but that was it for me, and I cried.  
Eldon shed some tears with us and then prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for this miracle.
In the next few hours Ryan slept again and managed to drink some water, although this was difficult because for the surgery he had been intubated but more importantly the surgeon had to cut through the front of his neck and move everything to the side to get to the spine. The nurse gave him an "ice lick" which we now know is a freezee! Coca cola flavoured :) These ice licks became very important to Ryans recovery because they actually help reduce swelling in the throat. 
Then at about 6 hrs after surgery to our amazement the nurse came in and was going to help Ryan sit up. And he did by himself! This allowed him to get a bit more comfortable on the bed but also made him quite nauseous so he threw up again. You'll see this is pattern.
Much later on the surgeon, Dr. Illerhaus, and our liaison Ken Hiebert, came to Ryan's hospital room to discuss the details of the surgery. 
Ken had his iPhone with him as he had been taking pictures of the surgery. So Dr. Illerhaus went through the surgery which was quite incredible until he said "this part will be a bit bloody" and before I could look away there was a picture of Ryan's neck wide open blah! I managed to keep it together which I think is another miracle we can jot down from this whole ordeal! Dr Illerhaus basically said they were able to accomplish everything they wanted to with no complications! He even said Ryan could try standing tomorrow! This was an even bigger miracle! Ken, jokingly said "seeing what he did to fix you he can fix anything!" 
I stayed overnight with Ryan to make sure he was ok. The nurse was so sweet and brought me a pillow and blanket - and that is when the blue reclining chair in the corner of Ryan's room became my home. He did well through the night until about 2am he woke up - we talked for about an hour while I rubbed his feet. I told him I was so proud of him, he was so strong and courageous. He fought through the pain and let his faith lead him through it all. 
Friday morning Ryan woke up in a lot of pain, at about 5:30am so I pressed the red button and the nurse came to give him his pain killers. Ryan's throat had really swollen up as well and was very sore which caused his voice to change. After she left he insisted on standing up and going to the bathroom on his own rather than in the bottle thing they game him. I cautiously helped him stand and he shuffled to the bathroom and shut the door. Well he got back to his bed safely and then promptly threw up again. But he said and I quote "success! It was worth it" apparently peeing in a bottle is worse than throwing up. 
Around 8am the Head Doctor for that wing came to check on Ryan - he was full of smiles and very personable. He asked Ryan a series of questions and then came to the conclusion after reviewing Ryan's chart that the anasegiologist had been " a little stingy with the painkillers... Because how do you say... You are a whole lot of man" And upped the painkillers to every 4 hrs instead of every 6. Ryan was very pleased with the doctors comment :)
Over the next several days Ryan had shots twice daily to fight infection, as well as blood tests for inflammation and infection. The nurses always did their best to make sure this wasn't to uncomfortable for him. 
The rest of Friday went ok, he was able to eat a little bit and sat up a few times. His stomach had settled down up until the nurse came to take him for his post surgery X-rays. He was wheeled to the X-ray room in a wheelchair and was doing pretty well until she had to backup the chair and the motion was a bit much and up came lunch in front of 6 people. But again Ryan just stayed positive and didn't let it get him down - though he ll admit he was rather embarrassed. 
But a couple hours later Ryan had one of his proudest moments when the physiotherapist came in to give him a light massage on the surrounding muscles and help him start to walk. Much to our amazement and joy Ryan stood up and started taking his first steps out of his hospital room and into the hallway. He walked all the way around the ward and back to his room as I walked in front of him to try and get some video footage of this grand event and the physio went over the things he should do when he walks. This was by far the SLOWEST i have ever seen Ryan walk, which as anyone knows he always speed walks everywhere but by far his proudest walk. On completion of this 2min treck he did NOT throw up! Yeah :)
Friday night was ok, I stayed over at the hospital again - we both slept a few hours at a time and he was able to sleep ok because of the adjusted painkillers and sleeping pill. 
Saturday morning came with a lot of discomfort for Ryan but also the news we had been wanting. The head doctor was back with his big smile and big hand shake having just reviewed the post surgery X-ray from yesterday. He said it was perfect! When he left the room we just held hands and thanked God for all he has done for us. 
Later in the morning since Ryan could stand fairly stable he took his first shower! He felt so much better after being cleaned up, had his "blood bag" that was draining his wound taken off and a fresh bandage put on. 
The rest of Saturday he did a combination of eating, sleeping, relaxing and walking - 
Saturday night Eldon offered to stay with Ryan for the evening so that I could have a night sleeping in a bed. The boys had a bit of a rough night as there were some loud noises and Ryan wanted to try sleeping without a sleeping pill. He ended up doing a few laps listening to music and praying at 5:30am which was actually a peaceful time for him. 
Sunday was a great day for Ryan - not necessarly pain wise but because him and Eldon figured out a way to get NFL network on his tablet - this was a praise report and much needed miracle of encouragement for Ryan! God knows our needs ;) later that evening Eldon had come back from the village market with some pizza and visited with us before he said an encouraging prayer over us and said his good byes. Then he headed to the train station to begin his adventure back to Winnipeg. 
Sunday night I stayed with Ryan again. The swelling in his throat causes him to gasp for air in his sleep which wakes him up, I discovered that day if he sleeps on his side he is actually more comfortable and doesn't choke on the air. I stayed up most of the night gently helping him move back onto his side if he started to gasp and he managed to sleep for almost 3 hrs at a time during the night and early morning. He was looking a lot more rested on Monday morning, and had a lot less discomfort in his throat than previous mornings. 
Monday was good, he did a lot more walking and was able to watch the Broncos Game. I slept for a couple hours in my chair in the midafternoon which was great. Then we got to meet with Dr. Illerhaus - the surgeon who performed Ryan's surgery - which was great. He stated he was very pleased with the results and speed of recovery so far and suggested Ryan be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday. He also went over a few things necessary for Ryans recovery and a few cautions specific to movement and suggested a neck collar for traveling ect. 
Monday evening I went to the hotel and Ryan had his first night on his own. 
Tuesday Ryan was released and we said our good byes to all the amazing staff there. We are currently waiting to hear more details regarding Ryans recovery  plan for massage while we are here. It is very important to Ryans recovery that he continues to rest, manage his pain and practises walking. The hotel is perfect for this as it is very quite here, they have nice hallways for walking and are located very close to the village square which is also nice for walking. The staff here is so helpful and sweet, and they have a wonderful breakfast and a little fridge and stove top so I can keep food here for meals. Tuesday evening after a much needed 3 hr nap we walked into the village to look at the Christmas Market which was beautiful. 
Ryan's prayer request and update is he is currently still experiencing a great deal of muscular pain from the waist up, and structural pain - because they have reconstructed his whole neck causing his body to have to create new muscle memory and stretch farther than they ever have these last 4 years. Some other symptoms Ryan is battling are numbness of the under chin down along his throat, as well as a good deal of difficulty breathing, swallowing and talking. His voice is off by just a few notes. The doctor says this should return to normal in the coming months but prayer would be appreciated. 
Another major prayer request for Ryan is dealing with his ability to stand and walk. Currently he can walk and stand but proper posture and balance take a great deal of concentration and discomfort which causes him to tire quickly. He also has to be conscious  of moving his head to quickly or frequently as this can potentially loosen the screws that are holding things in place while the bones fully heal and adhere to the titanium. 
We are so blessed by everyone who has been supporting and praying for us. Thank you all for being so understanding of my delayed update and I hope it gives you hope that your prayers are working and we feel Gods hands surrounding us and an immeasurable strength to not just survive these last few days but to grow. 
I will leave you with this, we have been able to experience everything we had hoped for from no delays to our flights, to wonderful nurses to the perfect results of the surgery and even the days that followed though extremely difficult his recovery has been better than the doctors expected. Hope is what we started this journey with and we have been blessed with that! 
Will update again soon!
Love Jennifer & Ryan

Posted on November 21, 2013

Posted on November 21, 2013

Thank you for all the prayers they have been felt all the way to Germany!

This morning I woke up after a peaceful sleep and just felts Gods joy and peace. Ryan was also in great spirits this morning as I walked into his room he had a big smile on his face and had had a good nights sleep as well. We took some time to chat and pray together, and we were both excited and at peace with the upcoming surgery, and could look past it towards Ryan's full recovery! The nurse came in to put some stockings on Ryan, she is so full of smiles and we had a good laugh about it! She then wheeled Ryan over to the elevator right in his hospital bed and we held hands, I gave him a kiss and he left with a big smile on his face and a thumbs up as I sort of sang one line from "He's got the whole world in his hands" just amazing to see God's perfect love for us has given us both the strength we needed for this morning! 

He is now down in the OR prepping for surgery and most likely has started already. I am quietly sitting in his hospital room so I can spend sometime praying and just be in his presence. I wanted to quickly update everyone on how the morning went and I will post again once Ryan is out of surgery!

Love Jennifer

Posted on November 20, 2013

Posted on November 20, 2013

Guten Abend (good evening) :)
Today's main goal was to meet with the surgeon, get a few pre-op tests done as well as get Ryan all settled into the hospital. The day started off with a great breakfast at the hotel then it was off to the ONZ clinic which was about a 40min drive to a near by town. When we were at the ONZ clinic we met with one of the surgeons and got another x-ray for Ryan. Then it was back to Hattingen to the hospital for the remainder of the tests which of course Ryan passed with flying colours!
The nursing staff is so helpful and friendly and made it easy to feel comfortable with them! Ryan has his own room with a bathroom, little sitting table and a nice big window! Oh and of course a little tv - which basically is all German but the BBC Chanel! 
Ryan was in good spirits when I said my good nights, we prayed together and just talked about how excited we both were for this surgery to finally be here. What an answer to prayer to know that tomorrow he will have a new neck! Yesterday we were reading Eph 3:14-21 and was such an encouragement to us. Feel free to look it up when you have a moment. 
Ryan's surgery will be at 7:45am German time which is midnight in Winnipeg. He will be in surgery for approximately 2.5 ish hours then will have to stay in the operations holding area for about an hour as he wakes up and they regulate any medication he needs. He will then be brought back to his room around noon to start recovering! We thank you all in advance for your prayers during this time! I will try to send out a brief update once I have found out how the surgery went! 
Thank you all so much!

Posted on November 19, 2013

Posted on November 19, 2013

Ryan and I would like to start off this update by saying Vielen Dank which means thank you very much and if it doesn't then we need to throw out our German phrase book. :) Our coffee and dessert fundraiser went off without a hitch and we were so blessed by everyone who was able to make it out as well as all the people and businesses that donated time, food and prizes to make it such a success! Following that we had a bud spud and steak night to finish off the fundraising efforts and again a huge thank you to everyone who helped organize the evening and who came out!

We have been able to raise all the funds needed to make this trip a reality, and even cover some unexpected costs that have come up and for that we are extremely blessed!

Now to top off what an amazing experience this has become seeing Gods hand at work we were given one more blessing before we left! As most of you know Ryan has been the defensive coordinator for the Elmwood Giants High School football team for last 2 years, but has been working with this group of young men for the last 3 through YFC as well. He has had the privilege of seeing these boys turn into men over the last three years, working hard at their skills and weight training but also on playing with character and leadership. They had just won the semi-finals and were on their way to play in the Bomber stadium for the Championship final. I had the privilege of hitching a ride on the team bus so Ryan could drive me home after the game and heard several of the boys saying they wanted to "send coach dueck to Germany with a championship" Well let me tell you they did just that! They played hard and with character leaving it all on the field holding the other team to just 1 touch down! With the clock winding down the last 17secs the other team threw up a Hail Mary but to no avail and the Giants stormed the field cheering!! A few days later in the mid morning the team and Ryan received their medals and Ryan wore his until he went to bed that night!

On Saturday Nov 16 th Ryan and I were able to have an amazing time of prayer with both our families led by Pastor Randy and his wife Leona. We both have felt a peace and strength about the upcoming surgery and these feelings were only echoed by the words and prayers of our families which was just what we needed before we left!

Now in a whirl wind since September 4th we have finally got to Nov 18th ... The day we leave! All packed and ready to go we boarded our first flight and 14 hours later and a hair raising taxi ride at 180kms we arrived at our final destination in Hattingen. A huge answer to prayer was our travels went smoothly with no delays and Ryan is feeling better than expected after such a long day! We took a short 3 hr nap and then walked into the village square for dinner and browsed a few local shops. It was a beautiful evening and the fresh air was perfect!

We are heading to bed now - and tomorrow we start the day at 9am as we taxi into the city to check Ryan into the hospital and get his pre-op appointments started! I will update again tomorrow and will let you all know the exact time of the surgery on Thursday when the doctors tell us. oh and we will be adding a few pictures so please take a look at the gallery as well!

Gute Nacht!!
love Jennifer & Ryan

Posted on October 4, 2013

Posted on October 4, 2013

We received our final quote for the surgery itself today! 30930 Euros.  I checked out the currency exchange rate this morning..... our final grand total to cover the operation is 43,426.37 Canadian dollars. Our goal for this website was to cover the surgery cost completely, it is incredible how close we are to that goal!  (Our Coffee Social Oct. 18 and Bud Spud and Steak event Oct 28 will go towards covering travel, lodging and rehab). Thank you so much for your gifts, words and prayers! Physically I have had a rough two weeks, but I have been so encouraged and lifted up by each donation, prayer and kind word! Thank you for that gift! 

This whole experience is another reminder of the fact that we were created to be in community with each other, what an incredible feeling!

Bless ya!


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