My Spinal Fusion surgery, Dr Suat Gűnsel University of Kyrenia Hospital

By Chris Elliott….

Tina King recently wrote a very good article for us about Health Screening in the TRNC, “Guidance you have been looking for”  and I would like to confirm to our readers the need to investigate fully the options available to you when you need an operation or treatment for a health issue.

A few years ago I had an accident which resulted in me having a replacement hip joint fitted at the Girne State Hospital and in a follow up consultation with my surgeon, I told him I was getting back pain so he promptly sent me to have an MRI scan in Lefkosa and the result showed I had a thickening in 3 vertebrae which was compressing the spinal cord.

Did I do anything about it? No! I carried on with my life until late last year when I was suffering with increasing pain and also loss of mobility to the point where I starting to think about using a walking stick.

2019 started and my New Year resolution was to try and find a cure so I went to Dr Suat Gűnsel, University of Kyrenia Hospital in Karakum and met with Neuro and Spinal Surgeon, Prof. Dr. Halil Ibrahim Seҫer who, after looking at my old MRI scan and other medial notes, explained in great detail what an operation and treatment would do to relieve my condition and sent me to have a new MRI scan etc and said the hospital would write and confirm full details of what was proposed.

As promised 48 hours later I received a quotation by email which was valid for one month so now I needed to seek further advice as this planned operation was far from a simple one and I spoke to 3 friends who all have had similar operations at this hospital and they told me of their experiences and gave advice as well.

So now the task of seeking advice from other hospitals began with friends saying speak to this or that hospital.  I had a CD with my latest test results and started visiting hospitals, and in the case of hospitals in Turkey I emailed my test results. Fine you may think, but trying to get a written proposal proved to be a nightmare with me sending emails and getting the briefest of replies with the exception of one Turkish hospital who gave a very detailed proposal/quotation.

By now my quotation from the University of Kyrenia Hospital had expired and I now needed to wait due to a visit by family planned for a few months later.   I went back to see Dr Halil who was very welcoming and arranged further X-rays and MRI scan to check on my deteriorating condition and then a revised quotation was given and accepted with a part payment made and an operation date set for 10th September.

On the 9th September I went into Dr Suat Gűnsel hospital and was taken to my assigned room and after various other tests I settled down and waited for the operation the next day.

Let me talk about the day and night shift of nurses and others who I will refer to as Chris’s Angels, they were brilliant and attentive and wanting to help which is not my experiences of hospitals in the past when the family was expected to do everything except give medication and do the blood checks etc.

D-Day or operation day came and early in the morning, Dr Halil arrived with his usual beaming smile and confidence building manner and between jokes between us said I am going to the theatre now to prepare with my team for your operation and we will see you at around 9.00 am.

Very soon nurses arrived with orderlies and pushed my bed out of my room and I was greeted with lots of smiles and waves from the rest of Chris’s Angels and then we arrived at the operating theatre where a number of people, including Dr Halil, were talking to me from behind their masks and then it was lights out.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the intensive care unit with Dr Halil complete with mask telling me the operation went well and was completed by 2.00pm with the decompression of my spine and the fitting of rods with 8 screws into 4 vertebrae and that I would remain in intensive care until they were ready to return me to my room.

Photos of Xrays of my back after operation showing the implanted rods and screws.

Later that evening I had a surprise visit from Margaret Sheard dressed in a surgical gown and mask, she had been told she could visit for a short time after 5pm, but it took quite a bit of persuasion for her to gain entrance to intensive care, but again the evening staff on duty at that time of the day were very kind and cooperative.  Being in intensive care is an experience which is somewhat hazy and all you are aware of is nurses constantly attaching fresh bottles containing pain killer and anti-infection fluids and it seemed the hourly squeezing of your arm with an automatic machine checking my blood pressure.

Day 3 arrived while in the Intensive care unit and then after a flurry of activity I was wheeled out and taken up to the 2nd floor where I was greeted by more waves and smiles from the Chris’s Angels on duty as I was pushed into my room and put back on the bed. After a while my good friend and saviour Dr Halil arrived with his big smile and words of encouragement and with help from himself and nurses I was helped to sit up (ouch) and after a brace was put around my waist I was helped to stand up and take a few steps away from the bed and return and then it was time to rest.

I have thought about that first pain and the continuation over the next few weeks as the level subsided and, when you consider the 15cm incision in my back, cutting of bones and muscles etc. and fitting of the rods, and screws, pain was inevitable but with pain killers, it was controlled and manageable. There was also a large dressing held in place by strong adhesive tape and I am convinced this also stretched when my body moved and was causing discomfort.

Later on the third day Margaret came and spent time with me and my breakfast arrived with a dinner for Margaret (part of the package for the carer).

Day 4 and 5 came in a continuous process of nurses arriving to check my blood pressure and temperature and change the various intravenous drips and also Dr Halil came and had me getting out of bed and walking along the corridor with his help and words of encouragement to the point where I was then able to hold onto a rail along the wall and take control of my walking and then also sitting in a chair for a short period.

As there was still a slight blood drain from my back it was agreed I should remain in hospital over the weekend and early on Saturday Dr Halil came again to check on me before leaving it to Chris’s Angels to check my condition, feed me and have me walking in the corridor. What could be better than holding hands with 2 lovely young ladies?              

Monday 16th arrived with Dr Halil arriving to check me out and change my dressing before releasing me into Margaret’s care when I was taken outside in a wheelchair and then helped into our car for the drive home.   Margaret removed the dressing after 5 days at home and has been keeping an eye daily on the scar which has healed well and is looking fine and very neat.

Just over four weeks on as I write this report, after spending short periods of time sitting, walking in the house and sleeping for the first 2 weeks, I have been walking further and longer around the house and outside in the garden for the second 2 weeks under Margaret’s eagle eye and feeling so much better about it.

During the recent rest periods I have been watching many Youtube videos by people who have had Spinal Fusions of various degrees and their experiences over varying periods and it’s clear to me that recovery time is an individual thing but I am probably looking at three months before I am getting back to normal and even at my vintage age be able to do most of those things I did before and I will write about my progress in due course.

At this point I would like to thank the Dr Suat Gűnsel, University of Kyrenia Hospital for their great health care and also Neuro and Spinal Surgeon, Prof. Dr. Halil Ibrahim Seҫer who delivered an operation result I had hoped for, but then as a Turkish surgeon who came from the Konya area and studied and taught at the Gülhane Training and Research Hospital (GEAH) or former Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) I was very happy to have been in his very safe hands.

This was a major operation and taking Dr Halil’s advice to start swimming, prior to the proposed operation, to enhance the recovery process I would like to thank the Dervis family of Paradise Holiday Bungalows, Çatalköy who encouraged me to swim most days in their swimming pool for around five weeks and I think the benefit of this mental and physical conditioning prior to the operation is now becoming apparent to me as my recovery continues..

Finally, when I reflect on my experience, I know Northern Cyprus has some fine hospitals and are contributing to the development of health tourism and this was proved to me by Dr Suat Gűnsel, University of Kyrenia Hospital.

Picture of Chris and Dr Halil in his office having a control checkup.

4 replies »

  1. This is really encouraging as I’ve been putting off spinal surgery In the U.K fir many years living on painkillers.Routine surgery of a new hip was messed up by a local surgeon so spinal surgery is not at the top of my wish list. I move to TRNC in a week so have been thinking I would chat to surgeons there when settled.
    This positive result is a good thing fir me to read.
    Thanks Chris x

    • Hi Suzi I am glad my report has helped you think about not living with continued pain. I left it for far too long.

  2. I to had chronic pain from my spine and had a hole drilled into three of my vertabrae and filled with a special bone cement by Prof. Halil. It is now 2 years since the operation and I am 98% pain free.

    • Great to hear your news Sheila and long may you celebrate the treatment that you had