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Am I being unrealistic?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm a pretty independent person... so I don't know exactly how much I am going to need my boyfriend to help. I have a 5 year old son, and after the Microdiscectomy, got home at 11pm and the next morning at 7 or so I was up, got down and sat on the floor to change him and get him dressed... I pretty much did everything. I know my doctor told me not to, and it wasn't very smart of me at all... But I have such a hard time asking for help.

This time I'm having a fusion at L4-L5... I think they would call it ALIF/PLIF... Going through the front with cages and BMP, then metal instrumentation through the back...?

How long should I ask my boyfriend to take off from work? I'm going to have to get my son off to school every day, and when he gets home.... I'm on the second floor in my apartment... Not sure how stairs are. I just don't really know what to expect. I'm supposed to wear a back brace for 6 weeks afterwards, if that helps.

Am I being unrealistic to think I'll be able to use the bathroom and shower and stuff alone without any assistance? It's only a one level fusion, so I figure it shouldn't be too too bad.. But I'd really appreciate it if someone could give me some guesses.... My boyfriend has to take time off in advance, he can't call out at the last minute, and he's the only one I have available to help me... Anyone have a ballpark amount of time to suggest? Please and thank you.



  • Yes you are. My experience has been that you will not be able to bend, lift, twist for a good while afterwards. You may want to get a handheld shower massage installed if you do not have one already. A back brush helps to be able to wash lower body by yourself. You may want to get some of those dispoable tongs that hold tissue for after bowel movements ( you will not be able to twist) and one of those grabbers will come in real handy. Everyone is very different but you will nedd help. As for the time frame I think that everyone recovers at different paces.
  • I would say minimum 1 week. 2 weeks would probably be better if he can do it.
  • I had a 2 level fusion... but I can share my experience with needing help.

    I have stairs all over my house. the reason i needed help was because of the meds I came home on. not so much the pain, believe it or not. it hurt bad to do stairs before the surgery. so I was pleasantly surprised pain wasn't really an issue post-op when it came to stairs.

    my husband took off two weeks (that included the 5 days in the hospital) initially. then his mom came and stayed with us two weeks. I think if I hadnt' gotten the MRSA infection, I could have transitioned to taking care of my kids the second week post-op... but not doing too much at all. certainly no baths. (I have an 11 year old who can do his own baths, but I also have a 5 year old who still needs help with her hair)

    I needed help with my own showers... but I also think it was to be cautious. who needs a slip in the shower, right?

    I would hope your boyfriend could help you out for a whole week at least once you're home. I know it's hard to ask for help. but... if you can get it... it's worth asking to avoid setbacks.

    I wasn't asked to wear a brace at home. I only wear a hard one to get in the car. my surgery was through the back only. my neurosurgeon told me my brace was now internal... the rods and the screws.

    I read on this board to get a toilet seat riser with the arms. that was an invaluable tip. Also get a "grabber". I bought mine at walgreens for $20. also put a non-slip mat in your shower if you don't already have one.

    best of luck to you. sounds like you're tough & you will do well. :)

  • How does your son get to school? Do you just walk him out the door and the bus stops outside or carpool or does he need to be driven there?

    I'm 6 weeks postop from ALIF L4/L5. I bought the raised commode at Walmart and the arms for the toilet at a medical supplies store beforehand and my husband put them on before I went in for surgery. The raised toilet seat was great cause I didn't have to bend very much to use the bathroom and wiping wasn't too hard either. I could do it and not twist. The first week home, I was doing pretty good to get a shower each day. I could tell my kids what to do but I don't think I could have put on a 5 year olds shoes and clothes for him. Maybe you could pre-lay out a weeks worth of outfits for him and watch while he dresses himself? I could get my own drinks and food, but I didn't want to get up as much. I had a tv tray near my bed and the couch with the phone,cell,TV remotes and my water sipper glass.

    Do you have someone to watch him while you in there? They kept me 3 days (2 full days and I got out around 10am the 3rd day). My kids are 9 and 15, so they helped to wait on me, which even a 5 year old would love to get mom some water or grab anything they can reach.

    I didn't need any physical help myself from anyone. I shuffled, wore my gowns all day and just existed for about 3 weeks. Then, I started to feel better. I'm still trying to rest when I can, but I've been doing the laundry, cooking, and a little dusting for the past 3 weeks.

    I think if your boyfriend could come over and help with your son getting to school....plus depends on how you feel once you get home...can he take a day or two off to stay with you? Everyone's different...it's just hard to say. The evenings may be hard for you to keep him occupied if you just don't feel really good or get sleepy taking the pain meds. Will he watch TV and play, keep himself busy? You may want to buy some things to pull out as surprises that he can play with on his own and you watch or just be in the room. Mine loved those Knex for that age bracket, coloring books, big legos, drawing pictures for me, being on the computer....I'm sure you can come up with some things that will work for you.

    As far as the store. Make sure you have a lot of supplies bought up front. You won't be able to drive and pick up anything. Is your boyfriend willing to be a deliver service for you each day in case you need something?

    I hope I've helped instead of stressing you more. You can message me anytime if I can help with questions. This surgery has been tough on me, and I consider myself pretty tough. I've had 2 c-sections, a gallbladder surgery, gastric bypass...and this ALIF fusion has been the worst for pain and slower recovery since you can't bend for so long.

  • just re-read your post. they're going through the front and back? I am thinking for sure you'll need help two weeks at least.

    and talk to your son. when the help is gone... you will be very tired for a while. let him know you're gonna need to rest a lot. but that doesn't mean you aren't getting better. just so he knows what to expect.

    I had a laminectomy two years ago. compared to a fusion, that was a piece of cake, and trust me, I hurt bad after the laminectomy. this was just a whole different beast. the meds were much stronger for me. the level of fatigue much more intense.

    not trying to scare you... I just think you need to plan to find help for at least two weeks. I know it sucks to ask... maybe your boyfriend can ask for you if he knows your friends?
  • You guys are quick :) That's awesome! I appreciate your responses very much, thanks a ton for taking the time to read and reply :)

    My boyfriend and I live together... Which definitely will make things easier. My son is Autistic... He talks a little bit, but he can't convey all of his needs. He can't dress himself, is still in diapers, and can't really get his own food. My son is pretty much what I am worried about... I have a high tolerance for pain, so I'm not so much worried for me as I am about being able to care for him. Luckily he LOVES my boyfriend very, very much. Listens to him better than he listens to me!! Lol.

    That is a good suggestion; getting some new toys and things to keep him occupied. With his Autism it gets rough sometimes trying to help him understand new situations.. He gets anxiety and has tantrums and melt downs. He is on an anti-psychotic (Risperidone), which helps somewhat, but of course there is no cure for Autism. My mom works full time and is always soooo busy... But she is taking the day of my surgery off to come with me. I may be able to ask for help for the first week or two, maybe coming to take my son for a little bit... Luckily his school doesn't get out until 3:30pm, and he takes a bus, so he won't be home til at LEAST 4, and my boyfriend generally gets home between 5 and 6 or so.

    No worries about scaring me or stressing me more... These are the kinds of answers that I need. I want the real side of things, so I know what to expect. Doctors usually are not up front with how things will be after. I think they tell you it won't be bad so that psychologically you won't be pessimisstic and doom yourself before you even get home.

    My boyfriend is going to watch him while I'm in the hospital. They said as soon as my stomach can digest food (since going through the front kind of messes it up for a few days), go to the bathroom, and can take pain pills and feel okay, then I can go home. When I had my son, I had a csection and stayed 3 nights. They wanted me to stay another, but I toughed everything up so I could leave as soon as possible. We also usually shower together anyway to save water... Lol... So we've got a system down there, except he may have to do the washing my back and legs and what not. Haha.

    I think my mom may have a grabber thing! I hope so. With my boyfriend taking time off of work, money will be REALLY tight. I've been out of work for over a year now, and we just barely get by every month.. Part of the reason I want to get the surgery done now so I can start working again, even though everyone tells me not to do it since I'm only 22. Gotta do what you gotta do!

    I think I'm going to ask him to take a week off after i get home.. Maybe when I'm in the hospital he can work while my son is in school, then be home for him. I don't know how nice it's going to feel having an incision in the front and in the back at the same time. I have an 8 to 10 inch scar on my stomach from my csection, and a small 1.5 inch scar on my back from the MD.. Trying to imagine a somewhat combination of the two. Anyone have theirs through the front and the back?

    Again, thank you guys so much for your responses.. They are greatly appreciated!!! :)
  • Lo, I would recommend you have help at home post-op for at least a week, preferably 2. You will not be able to bend, lift, or twist for probably 6 weeks or more. I had PLIF on Aug. 5. The hospital ordered me a walker and a raised potty seat for home. I only used the seat for 1 day, and then removed it, as it was uncomfortable and harder to wipe with those arms making it narrow. The hospital had an occupational therapist come see me and she gave me a whole kit with reacher, tongs, long shoe horn, scrubby on a stick, sock putteron-er, etc. I did not have to pay for any of these things as were covered by insurance. I got a better reacher at Home Depot prior to surgery for $20. I use both. I do use my walker more for outside walks, just in case I trip or something.
    I needed help to shower for the first few days, mainly someone to stand by as was dizzy from meds, and to help dry my back and legs. Fusion is a big surgery and you will be very tired and need to rest in bed mostly with intermittent walks. Good luck with your surgery, and keep reading around on these boards, as they are full of a wealth of information. Sue
  • Hi LO,
    I have a step- brother who is autistic and so I understand your concerns. What you really need is to get him into respite for a couple of weeks while you look after yourself.
    In Australia we have respite centres for parents with disabled children, simply to give the families a break every now and then. They are run professionally and I'm sure your local Dr could recommend somewhere near you that is similar.
    I know that emotionally that would be really really hard for you but you have to remember that for you to look after him in the future you need to look after yourself NOW. :D

    At the very least then home help as has been suggested for when your boyfriend is not around. But remember that especially if you have a high pain tolerence that you need to be aware of not doing too much. It is a big op to go through and you dont want to stuff it up by trying to be heroic. Not worth it! :))(

    Blessings Sara

  • Thanks for the other suggestions :)

    I am pretty much a bum and generally only wear sweats and stuff.... Haha. I am prepared in that area! Sweats and hoodies! :)

    I have much less anxiety, hearing the experiences of others. Gives me more comfort & less stressing over it.

    She said it would probably be end of September, beginning of October, but we're waiting on the date from the Vascular surgeon. I just want to get it over with. I don't want to be a boring old cripple for the holidays. Lol. That may be horrible to say.
  • Just a thought...but I read all the things people told you to buy but I would wait if I were you-they provided everything at the hospital for me to take home. I got a 3 in 1 toilet seat -with handles, grabber, long handled sponge for the shower, a contaption to help me get my socks on, and walker.... The only thing I needed to buy on my own was the hand held shower head. Good luck to you!
  • Hi, I am a 54 yr old dude and I had my surgery a year ago when my two daughters were 6 and 1 year old....yeah, late in life I know....I was playing rock 'n roll guitar all my life, what can I say.

    I had my surgery mid week and yep, as soon as I had walked around and gone #2 they let me out. I also had ALIF and PLIF. My surgeries were a day apart. The ALIF was interesting pain-wise when I came out of anesthetic until they finally gave me the morphine and then all was well with the world again. The PLIF next day was not so bad as I was in a morphine fog.

    I went in on a Tues and was out on Sat morning.

    My wife went to work on Monday morning and I looked after myself mostly from then on. I hobbled around and made myself snacks and within a week was doing light laundry, tidying up and cooking dinners for the family.

    I was Harvey Houseboy right off the bat.

    Not to say it was easy.....bending, stooping are a no no. You will not be able to do a few things. You will be pulling up your sweats with the grabber and yeah the potty is interesting for a week or three.

    What I hated was no shower for 2 weeks, no hairwashing.....you cannot get the incisions wet, bad for infection.

    Before you go in, set yourself up a nice station next to your bed. Have all your chargers up high and tied off so they do not fall on the ground...this way you can charge your laptop, iPod, cell phone etc etc easily. If you dont have wireless internet get an ethernet cable near the bed so you can surf while in there. Setup a TV in the bedroom and buy lots of healthy snacks you can munch on like dried fruits and nuts and Jello etc have some canned soup and stuff that is easy to digest and pass.

    Go now and stock up on Fleets and stool softener...you are going to need it.

    Yes, the biggest issue that bothered me was not being able to pick up my 1 year old and her not understanding. My 6 year old was easier.....but after a while your BF can bring your son to you to hold and cuddle and before you know it you will be off the lifting restriction.

    My advice is also to do what you can before surgery to get fit......go out on walks and do whatever your back will allow. Start eating well too, the better shape you are in before, the better your recovery will be.

    They will make you walk before you leave and plan on walking every day after you get out....you should increase a little every day as you go. I got a pedometer to measure my progress, it was like $14.

    Walking is critical to faster recovery and very important for the actual fusion. There is a study that putting some load on bone is good. It is under Wolffs Law.

    "Wolff's law is a theory developed by the German Anatomist/Surgeon Julius Wolff (1836-1902) in the 19th century that states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads it is placed under. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading. The external cortical portion of the bone becomes thicker as a result. The converse is true as well: if the loading on a bone decreases, the bone will become weaker due to turnover as it is less metabolically costly to maintain and there is no stimulus for continued remodeling that is required to maintain bone mass."

    Anyway, good luck, you'll do well and my last point is super important....maintain a strong positive attitude throughout...see yourself having a successful fusion in your mind every day......create that circumstance.

  • They're doing both mine in the front and back at the same time... She said when I wake up from surgery everything will be done. I suppose I'd prefer that.

    How has your sciatica been since surgery? My issue with walking right now is my sciatica. Have a hard time walking, bending, sneezing, coughing, using the bathroom, moving certain ways. I've lost 20 lbs in the last 2 months without even trying.

    Thanks for the suggestions :) Thankfully my bf and I have a big tv in our room, and wireless cable internet for our laptops, video games already plugged in, 5 disc dvd player which comes in handy... I can load it up with discs in the morning and be set for a while... No need to bend and search for new ones! Lol.

    I don't think I'll be picking my son up anytime soon, or ever. Lol. He's 68 lbs. He's over 4 feet tall... Solid, strong kid.I just want to know that if I ever NEEDED to, I could. I generally don't attempt to, though. Lol.

    I'm worried about the pain control, only because I have such a high tolerance to oxycodone already. Take 15mg in the morning, 10mg, then 10 mg again, then 15mg at night. Have had to for 5 months now. Can't do much without it. After the MicroD the valium, percocet, and morphine didn't make a dent in it... They had to load me up with Dilaudid to control the pain. Thankfully it worked. Hope that will be enough this time!

    What instrumentation did they use for your surgery? And what pain meds do you take now, at home?
  • eating healthy is such a good idea! I read about that...

    Thankfully my fave foods are chicken breast, soup, and salad. I am also in love with vegetables. Sometimes I may have a couple cookies or a snickers bar... But I've already had my oatmeal and grapes and grilled chicken. Lol. Hehe.

    So you were good to go, helping yourself? I want to attempt to, for the most part. After the MicroD I walked out of the hospital a few hours later, no wheelchair and didn't stay the night like they wanted me to. 6 hours later I was up dressing my son for school, changing his diaper, and taking care of myself. Only thing my BF had to do for me was lift heavy things and shave my legs. LOL. Scared he'd cut me, but if he can shave his face, he can do my legs. Think he'll be doing them a little longer, this time around. Hehe.

    So you can't shower for 2 weeks??? I wasn't told anything about after care instructions at home, yet, but from what I've read most people have to have it covered for a few days, then they can shower as long as the water doesn't hit the incision directly. Does it depend on what they do surgically? I am neurotic about showering. Even going two days just makes me soooo uncomfortable. I also shave my legs every single day... Can't stand stubble. Maybe I should get used to it now. haha.
  • I started showering the day after my surgery. I had a PLIF L5-S1. I had to shower as the nurses almost pushed me out of bed to do so...lol.
    I showered every day after with my husband changing the dressing after each shower. After about 5 days of having it covered we left it uncovered as per doctors orders. The incision still had steri-strips on it and they told us just to let the water stream hit and run over the incision and that the strips would fall off on their own.
    I love my showers and that clean feeling you get afterwards. Especially after wearing a brace all day and sweating under it.

    Good luck with your surgery, Im sure everything will go perfect.

    Best Wishes,
    Christina :)
  • I too tolerate pain very well - but - think about this:

    The reason we do not bend lift or twist, is so we can HEAL. If you accidentally move your screws from bending or lifing or twisting, you've just negated the whole surgery and you be in a worse place than before your surgery.

    Can your BF take the time off and just go back EARLY if you don't need him - or partial days so you are not alone for long periods?

    I did not need any of the extras everyone thought I would need, but then I only had a PLIF, even if it was a 2 level.

    Best of luck
  • The incision from PLIF is much easier to deal with than the ALIF one.Well it was for me. I had no issues at all from the PLIF. My front incision was another deal altogether...it hurt quite a bit at times and I don't know what other doctors say but mine forbade me to get the incision wet. He said the number one problem people get is infection and it can cause serious problems. I guess it can be internal and you might not know it until it is well advanced sometimes.

    So go ahead and do what ever you want as far as getting the incision wet and all....I chose to listen to my instructions to the letter. What I did was use the moist towelettes they gave me and a washcloth..carefully, to keep fresh but my hair really bugged me. I tried the dry shampoo they gave me but it sucked. I am actually thinking about shaving my head this time so it is not an issue....a little easier for a guy. Then again my shower head is on a hose so I also think I will be able to use that while kneeling in front of the shower and that way not get my incision wet.

    lo419 I am using Oxycodone....for about a year now. I am hoping after the hardware removal I won't need it anymore so I can taper off. I only use about 3-1/2 tablets a day.......10/325's.

    My hardware is screws and PEEK rods.

    Yeah I did well looking after myself....with the two young girls, my wife had a huge extra load as I could not do much and certainly could not drive for a while......so she was doing everything as far as the kids. So what I did was do my share and help with dinners, their laundry, getting up early to help see them off to school, pack their lunches, make them breakfast etc etc etc.

    After they left I would do the dishes, have some brekkie and then go chill until around lunch I would take a walk and then eat and chill again until around 5 I would make dinner for everyone.

    I spent a lot of time on the internet and went in my recording studio a lot to make music....also watched a lot of movies.

    Now that I have been back at work for some time...12 hour days...lot's of brain damage...I miss my recovery days in a way..LOL!!

    I had all kinds of leg pains after surgery....hamstring issues, burning feet, pins and needles sharp stabbing nerve pain....it gets better with time and what I am left with now I am really hoping will go away after the hardware comes out.

    Patience is the name of the game with a fusion surgery, especially with ALIF involved. That is a lot of soft tissue they have to cut through....you sound like a tough young lady, you will do well..just plan on taking it easy for a minute and start ramping up your activity as soon as you feel good about it...it is not a race or anything. Go at your own pace.

    Listen to your surgeon though...you gotta trust her and let her do her job......a big part of that is obeying her instructions.
  • I wish you could come take care of me :( LOL.

    No, you're right, it is very important to listen to her orders. She is awesome, and I love that she will sit down right in front of me, at the same level, and just talk to me maybe a foot and a half away from each other... Never acts like I'm stupid if I don't get anything. She is the best doctor I have ever had of any kind. Maybe I'm being really stupid by not getting a second opinion, but I have never had this kind of comfortability with a doctor in my life. The fact that she is a female, but specializes in BRAIN surgery... In a practice filled with men, tells me she MUST be good. Her patient reviews are well above the national average. I think I'm just kind of attached to her. I feel very safe in her care.

    No no I don't want to go ahead and do what I want regarding showering because then I'll be in there 3 times a day. Haha. I am always terrified of infection. I think I could deal with using wipes and stuff, and I have a shower head that comes down, so maybe my bf could wash my hair while i kneel over the edge of the tub? That would be awesome. I suppose I wont know if I can do that until the time comes.

    Oh yeah, shaving my head is a good idea, too. Damn guys are so lucky. Lol.

    It sounds like you were pretty independent. That will most likely be me. I have pretty much taken care of myself since my dad died when I was 12. Mom went into a major depression, so my sisters and I were making dinner every day, doing our own laundry, watching our little sister, homeschooling ourselves. Had my son at 16, father left after 4 months, so I was working full time, paying rent to live at home, paying for daycare. Moved out at 18, lived on my own. Always took care of my son on my own... My mom took him over night twice.. In almost 6 years. Always supported myself and paid my own bills, never really let anyone help me. So it's pretty much ingrained in me to take care of myself... It is SO hard to need help with anything... I hate feeling useless and like I am bothering someone else. But thats something I'm going to have to deal with and just get used to. You can't change what it is, and if you need help, you need help. I acknowledge and accept that. But I think I'll end up like you; still maintaining much of my independence. I can hope, right?

    Patience, definitely. Luckily for me, my bills are taken care of right now, so I can take as much time as I need to get better before I have to go back into the work field. And also luckily for me, my boyfriend has no problem taking care of the discipline, the meal making, the outfit changing, etc... for my son. Much more than his own father does. Haha.

    Thanks for your replies. I enjoy reading them, and I find comfort in them. I appreciate it a lot :)
  • You are most welcome....all the best with it.
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