Dennis underwent spinal fusion surgery May 11.
On May 15, he posts to Facebook:
I finally have the strength to personally write about my situation.
In 28 years of broadcasting I think I missed more than two consecutive days due to illness only once. So for me to miss a week or more is a huge deal. But the truth is I have been through a huge deal – considerably bigger than I realized in advance.
I don’t want to bore you – but on the other hand, I assume anyone following me on Facebook has more than a passing interest in my life. So here goes in brief detail.
Last year I had two surgeries to remove the parts of two discs from my lower back that were protruding onto nerves and causing terrible pain in my sciatic nerve, the nerve running from the spine to the foot. Those surgeries allowed me to leave the hospital the same day and go back to work two days later.
But both before and after the sciatica problem, I had pain in my upper back and lower neck. As it went away about a year and half ago after a serious stretching regimen, I was hopeful that it be might gone forever. But it returned a few months ago worse than before, and a month ago I ceased being able to lift my left arm from the shoulder. It became obvious that without surgery, I could permanently damage nerves to that shoulder and never be able to raise that arm (preventing me, for example from ever conducting again – not to mention do daily things like shampooing with both hands). The MRI, meanwhile, showed degenerated discs in my upper back, which along with growths on the vertebrae, were contributing to compression on my nerves. I even learned that I was born with a narrow spinal canal. That made the other factors much more likely to cause pain, immobility, and nerve damage, resulting in the need for surgery.
So my excellent neurosurgeon at the excellent USC University Hospital explained to me that my only choice was to operate immediately (because of the likely nerve damage) and to remove three disks from vertebrae in my upper back and fuse those three levels with titanium to hold the vertebrae in place. They fuse, incidentally, with specially processed human bone – here I have benefited from something I have long advocated — registering as an organ donor in case of fatal accident.
The surgery lasted seven hours and was performed – to my initial surprise — through the front of my body. Access to the spinal column is much easier through the front but it comes with a price – the patient’s esophagus, vocal cords, and trachea are all pulled aside for the length of the operation. They are likely to become inflamed, and in fact did become inflamed — my vocal cords as well, making normal speech, not to mention the especially energetic three hours of talk radio speech, impossible at this time.
You could say that I feel beaten up. I am. My body devotes all its efforts to healing.
So that is the briefest I can be to explain why I am not returning on Monday. Wednesday is the earliest, and I will keep you up date.
My general attitude is quite upbeat. I am doing well, all things considered. And I never assumed I would live a life free from pain – whether emotional or physical—so this is not a shock to my emotions or psyche. It is a shock to my body, however. But I remain as grateful as ever for all my blessings.
Those blessings include living in a time and a place where such sophisticated healing is available, the love and support of my family and friends and, not least, your support, which I read with immense gratitude.
It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to to avoid working on themselves to change their habits of needless compression. Lessons with a good Alexander Technique teacher would likely have rendered unnecessary Prager’s years of pain and three back surgeries.
Most people just want to get fixed by somebody else. They don’t want to look at their own habits that are causing their own misery.