Wanted to write everyone and give an update, even though I have been talking to most of you throughout the time. This is failry long, but it really explains MY process.
As most of you know, I had a multi-level fusion of my lumbar spine with instrumentation and cages. The back issue is something I have been fighting with for over 17 years and it finally just got to the point about 21 months ago that I could no longer stand it. I underwent the first surgery in September of last year for a Lamenectomy and decompression (basically the removal of the boney process on the back of a vertebra and removal of disk and bone material) which was creating pressure on the spine and nerve roots in my lower back. That was a relatively simple surgery and I was back to work in a couple days after it. I benefitted greatly from that surgery for about 3 months and then it began to worsen. By January this year, I was back in a pain clinic getting injections and on pretty strong medications.
In March a new MRI was performed in which the spine was now unstable and multiple nerve roots were compressed. Almost all feeling was lost in my Right leg and my left leg was beginning to have radiating pain. By May, I had lost 15% of my muscle mass in the right leg from atrophy; the nerves were no longer firing to some of the muscles in the right leg and the left leg was in constant pain. At this time I decided to undergo another surgery; a multi-level fusion. On June 16 at ~ 10:30 AM I had the surgery.
I went into the surgery with a very determined path to recovery and relayed that to my Surgeon and his assistant. I informed them of when I would have tubes and such removed and when I would get out of bed. eat real food, and leave the hospital. It was a very aggressive plan; but I met it and actually left the hospital 36 hours earlier than I had planned. I did overdo it the first night by walking way too far and long and wound-up having to be restricted a bit and put on morphine and major muscle relaxers. By noon the next day I was off those meds and walking, eating, etc. I was discharged Saturday morning at 8:30 AM (46 hours after surgery).
My at-home instructions were walk, walk, walk, walk....... but not too much -- lol. I was down for about 14 days at home; walked to the kitchen, bathroom, outside, up and down the street; it was a tough road to walk for this time. Everyday was massive muscle relaxers and narcotics. During the first couple weeks, I was able to get down to reasonable amount of drug; enough to handle break-through pain, but not totally impair my mental functions. except memory.... that's still a problem. After this time. I began to really want to get out of the house and do something; I found an old hobby, photography, and began taking hundreds of photos in the backyard and the field just up the block. I found macro-photography to be a strong capability and liking, so I pursued it heavily. I spent ~ 2 hours a day at first just shooting birds, insects, flowers, and so on. By the end of the first 30 days I needed something else, so we bought an annual pass for the zoo and biopark.
I could not, and am still restricted to, drive, so my wife would take me to the zoo with our daughter. Thee trips were normally about an hour or so and then I just had to get home and lay down. Over time I have built up to a 2 or 3 hour trip as long as I really watch myself and have my meds with me. We have now gotten to the point where I can go out for dinner or lunches, run an errand or two.... but that's about it. I still have to be able to get to a bed when it is just too much.
Currently, I have found my happy Neurontin dosage via titration to 2400mg/day. It took a few weeks, but I found a good level last week and was able to stop taking the narcotics; a very good first step. This med does not manage breakthrough pain, so I still have a supply of the narcotics that I normally carry with me just in case. Also, the drug has a known side-affect; loss of memory, especially short-term. This has already caused quite a few arguments at home as any of you can well imagine. The muscles in my back are healing pretty well, but I am still not allowed to really use them. The restriction is called a "No BLT". I am in a hard and very rigid brace that I wear at all time, except for sleep. I also have a device called an Orthofix which goes around the waist as well. This device induces and EM field to the bones which evidently causes bone growth between the vertebral spaces where the cages are. I have to were this device a minimum of 4 hours per day; it has a timer and memory so the docs can tell if you are doing what you are supposed to.
My last appointment , about 2 weeks ago, XRays were taken to see if the hardware has shifted and too check for bone growth (fusion) of the vertebrae; there is none yet. This is concerning because there should be some by now. My next appointment in November 13 and I hope there is marked difference. Now, a new, but temporary issue. As you can see in the photos, I have a pad around my neck. Well, because of the past year of my posture being disrupted, I have agitated the nerves in my neck. There is nothing serious, but I am in PT for that and have many, many, many wonderful stretches and treatment things I have to do throughout the day for it. It's getting much better and should resolve within the next month or so.
As many of you know, I am working remotely now. I am doing all things I was doing, with the exception of physical hardware work, prior to leaving and am almost up to fulltime hours now. I am able to monitor myself well, adjust to needs quickly, and just lay down when I need to from here. I do not know when I will be back on-site at this time, nor would I even hazard a guess. I just wanted to touch base with you all and let you know that things are relatively good, and I am available for any issues you may need me for, except things that require BLT; that may be a year or more still.
I still have my bad days.... it is too be expected and I just deal with them as they happen; yesterday was one of them. I extended to far and actaully fely the vertebrae move at the fusion site. That REALLY hurt and it put me back in bed for the rest of the day; but here I sit writing you guys now while working -- mad-multi-tasking skills are returning rapidly :> . The best news about yesterday is that I did NOT take any narcotics.... I too a flexiril and put heat on, layed down and remved gravity. I awoke this morning at 6 and started to work feeling great. The photos at system-monkeys are fom this morning, so you can see my environment and how I will most likely function for the rest of the year.
I have posted some photos for you guys; nothing disturbing, but just some recent things. http://www/system-monkeys.com/images
Also, the hobby thing is at: http://www.wildlife-paparazzi.com