Arroyo to undergo risky spine operation

Surgery needed
to avoid paralysis,
says doctors

TAGUIG CITY — Former president and now Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to undergo a surgery Friday to treat a pinched nerve in her spine which doctors said could leave her paralyzed if left untreated.

Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, Arroyo’s attending physician at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, the “risky” cervical spine operation was to be conducted at 7 a.m. on Friday.

Gopez-Cervantes said the operation will take from four to five hours, after which the former chief executive will be placed in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to give her time to recover before she will be transferred to a regular room.

Bringing patient to the ICU after a surgery is part of their standard operating procedures, she said, adding that Mrs. Arroyo may be able to get out of the hospital 10 days after the operation.

“The operation involves putting implants in the former president’s cervical spine to arrest the weakness in her limbs,” the doctor said in the medical bulletin issued at noon on Thursday.

She added that Mrs. Arroyo, her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, and other members of the family have discussed the procedure with the doctors who will take part in the surgery, including orthopedic surgeon Mario Ver and Joven Cuanang.

Ver and Cuanang were part of the 10-doctor team that will conduct the surgery on the former president.

Ver said Mrs. Arroyo’s pinched nerve affects the nerve roots, adding that though they never had any mortality in such type of surgery, there is always the risk of an infection and other effects because the surgery is a delicate procedure.

Gopez-Cervantez earlier described the operation as risky since it involves the spinal cord as well as the nerves that enable movement of the hands and breathing.

Mrs. Arroyo was brought to the hospital last Monday after she experienced neck pains while visiting her constituents and inaugurating projects in Porac, Pampanga. The same problem caused her to be hospitalized in June and wear a neck brace for several days after the incident.

Mrs. Arroyo had skipped  President Benigno Aquino III’s second State of the Nation Address (Sona) to be with her constituents. She attended, however, the opening of the session of the House earlier in the day.

Malacanang, through presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, and Mrs. Arroyo’s supporters said they will pray for the successful operation and her speedy recovery.

Malacanang called on the public to pray for former President  for her recovery.

“We wish Representative Arroyo well. We hope that she will have a successful surgery and we ask the people to pray for her,”  Lacierda said in a regular press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday.

Other leaders of the Senate and the House also joined in prayers for the former President.

Mrs. Arroyo’s supporters also appealed to her critics for a ceasefire, saying this is what she needs at this critical stage.

Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, who had earlier undergone major heart operation, has been at her bedside since Monday.

Mrs. Arroyo’s attending physician, Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, earlier told reporters Tuesday at the hospital that Mrs. Arroyo was  undergoing pre-operation procedures for “multi-level cervical spondylosis radiculopathy with kyphosis.”

It was the same problem which caused her to be hospitalized in June and wear a neck brace for several days after the incident.

“When she was admitted, we advised her to rest completely and not receive visitors,” Dr. Cervantes said.

“ We have advised her that she should be operated on immediately since her disease can lead to paralysis,” Cervantes said.

Cervantes warned that the surgery to be conducted on Arroyo was “risky” because it involved “very sensitive nerves” in the spinal chord that are responsible for the movement of the upper extremities like hands and arms, as well as respiratory muscles and breathing.

The doctor said the surgery could take up between three and five hours, and after that, Arroyo will still have to remain in hospital from one to two weeks.

Cervical spondylosis is described as a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck, and is caused by chronic wearing away of the cervical spine, including the cushions between the neck vertebrae and joints between the bones of the cervical spine.

Cervantes said Mrs. Arroyo’s condition could have been caused by continuing stresses.

“We suspect that this attack was probably induced by her continuing to work countless hours despite her stresses,” she said.

“We also suspect that this was probably the same cause of the similar acute pain attack which also hospitalized her at St. Luke’s last month,” she added.

Supporters of Mrs. Arroyo will offer Mass in Pampanga for her Arroyo’s speedy recovery.

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