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My name is Bernie Lo and if you follow business news in Asia you may have seen me on TV
I started in local news in Hong Kong at TVB, hosted a newsmagazine show at Mediacorp in Singapore, and in 1995 joined the start up team that brought CNBC to Asia. After nearly a decade I helped Bloomberg expand its Asian TV then landed back home at CNBC in 2010. In my two decades I was a reporter, stocks editor, anchor, talk show host and even vacuumed the carpet and degunked the microwave.
I couldn't have asked for a better life. I love being on TV and had more fun than anyone should be allowed. But in 2015 problems started that would torment me for the next 7 years.
One day in Spring, I felt a sudden cramping and shooting pain down my leg that crumpled me to the ground. MRI’s showed my sciatic nerve, the biggest and longest nerve in the body, was being strangled by bone spurs at the L4/5 segment and I was scheduled for surgery.
The operation did fix the shooting pain but involved drilling away bone and led to instability and intense back pain. By autumn I was back in surgery for a fusion, a much bigger operation to “weld” spine segments together using bone growth protein. The process takes months or a year or more- in some cases it never grows solid which sadly was my case.
I thought it was just slow healing, but the pain only got worse. I was put on opioids which helped at first but eventually stopped working. Months then years passed but the pain intensified. In 2018 I couldn’t bear any more and began to find new doctors.
I saw several and planned to do what the majority recommended. But after consulting two orthopedic and two spinal neurosurgeons, I came away with four different diagnoses, which only confused me more.
Since the fusion didn’t get rid of the pain I decided on artificial disc replacements - prosthetic discs that preserve movement of the spine where fusions reduce mobility. The surgeon said the discs between L3/4 and L5/S1 were dried out and failed and were the source of pain.
In the OR, he also removed the metal hardware used in the L4/5 fusion, thinking it might be causing pain and on CT’s the segment looked solid. But it was the worst possible outcome- L4/5 never healed inside and once the metal support was removed, fractured apart, causing the artificial discs to collapse .
I was referred to yet another orthopedic surgeon who fused all the levels together. I had gone from a one to a four level fusion, yet still had no pain relief and even less mobility than ever. The problems didn’t stop there. An infection at L2/3 destroyed that level in 2020 and had to be fused as well. And last year the level at L1/2 fractured and collapsed due to the stress load from all the welded spine below.
I haven’t been able to return to work since the disc replacement surgery. The pain and difficulty walking is too great. But I haven’t given up hope despite the fact that the L1/2 is now collapsed from kyphosis- my spine has collapsed forward and I’m hunched over unable to stand straight or even stand at all without terrible pain.
I spent this year doing video consults with the best US spine surgeons I could find. After so many failed surgeries in Hong Kong I couldn't risk any more. I decided on a renowned orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles who is known for helping patients with a history of failed back surgery.
I’m used to being cut open but I’m terrified at the big major procedure on July 13. The doctor will remove existing hardware, remove bone compressing nerves, and realign the spine by chiseling out small portions to correct the curve. He’ll then do a completely new fusion several levels up to T10.
Unfortunately surgery in the US isn’t covered by insurance like previous ones. US healthcare costs are the highest in the world, and I've avoided treatment there until it's become my only option. I've survived the past few years only with family support, but I’ve depleted savings and had to redeem retirement funds. I’m grateful for the tremendous help you're providing and I vow if this surgery succeeds and I finally get back on air, I will donate every dollar of your help back into the community and make sure your gift keeps on giving
The fundraising goal is the total for surgeon fees, hospital charges, airfare and hotel, and nothing else. I have attached a couple CT images and a photo of how collapsed bone protrudes out my back. I apologize if they’re a little graphic. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Blessings to you and your family and please stay healthy.
Update after returning to Hong KongUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 04:04 am
I just want everyone to know I am still recovering 7 months after surgery. A slight complication developed when some hardware came loose and I had to undergo further surgery here in HK but under the guidance of Dr. Melamed in Los Angeles. A set screw which secures metal fusion. . . . .
A Final Thank You and my very deepest most hearfelt gratitudeUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 11:51 pm
Three months ago I had no idea I would ever be able to stand let alone walk again without excruciating pain. Life had absolutely no quality to it at all. While just getting through each horrendous day of high doses of painkillers and trying to get around with walkers and. . . . .
Just waiting for clearance from surgeonUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 04:58 am
Hi everyone!Sorry I haven't updated in weeks. I've been busy with pain management appointments and also accompanying my 84 yr old father who had hand surgery due to a fall which caused fractures in his wrist and torn tendons. While it wasn't major surgery it was under general anesthesia and. . . . .
Six weeks and still slow to recover but getting better!Update posted by Bernard Lo at 07:23 pm
Hi everyone, I've been debating whether to close this fundraiser as the pledges have exceeded the original cost of surgery but I left this up because there've been some complications with pain management and additional radiology and I wanted to stay in touch with you in case you're still following. . . . .
Almost 4 weeks since surgeryUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 04:57 pm
Its been a couple weeks now since I was cleared to leave Los Angeles to come to Seattle where all my immediate family are. It's been a blessing to be with Mom, Dad and my two younger brothers and their families. You can't ask for better family support at a. . . . .
Recovery updateUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 06:50 pm
Hi everyoneThank you for the continued kindness and compassionate contributions. I am recovering very gradually. Spine pain and incision pain are improving daily. I am having some pain in the pelvic area the doctors aren’t sure about. Just had X-rays to investigate. I wanted to share with you a scary
Staples finally come out!Update posted by Bernard Lo at 04:27 am
Today was so exciting! The dozens of staples finally came out. It looks gory but just like a tiny mosquito bite really. It means I can shower again and not have to rag wipe myself. But it also means I have to keep any exercise light and limited to walking. . . . .
Beware scary discharge photo!Update posted by Bernard Lo at 07:32 am
Finally discharged from hospital after five days of being attached to multiple IV lines, and having to bring my own IV bags just to pee. No wonder the urinal became my pal. The inflammation and swelling were at their worst day 2 and 3. I could feel an improvement on. . . . .
2nd day post surgeryUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 05:27 pm
Hi everyone, I want to thank everyone who has been contributing while I have been in preop and surgery and postop. Surgery took from 8:30 to 5:30 and by far this has been the toughest and most painful surgery I have ever gone through. The incision is the entire length. . . . .
The big dayUpdate posted by Bernard Lo at 11:36 am
4:29 am. Well today has arrived fast. Spent yesterday getting pre surgery preparations done. Met surgeon who after seeing new CT scans decided to change the procedure. Originally he planned a two part surgery to implant a spacer in L1/2 but the new scans showed it is now crushed and. . . . .
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