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nursedina001nnursedina001 Posts: 235
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all. I am totally new at all this. I am a 40 year old mom of three teenage boys and an RN by trade.

On Sept 28th I developed some sciatic pain down my left leg. Got a little better after two day and I returned to work. On Sept 30th I was bending over a patient ad blew out my L-5/S-1 in a big way. The pain was UNBELIEVABLE !!

Since that date I have had the MRIs the Xrays, steroid shots etc..I am now scheduled to L-4/L-5/S-1 fusion (PLIF) on DEcember 10th. Due to numbness drop foot on left side.

I am soooo scared and very unsure about what to expect. I have been doing lots of reading and trying to inform myself.

Any words of advice ? Big day is in 3 days!!

--Take Care,


Surgery sched for Dec 10th 2008 = PLIF l-4/l-5/S-1
Meds: Percocet 10/325, Zoloft 100, and Triamterene/HCTZ 37.5/25



  • I have L5-S1 herniated disc and tear and I had foot drop and with excercise & injections it's better but it's taken 10 months. I haven't had surgery but if the pain is still bad then in January when I see my 2nd opinion Ortho I'll go for surgery maybe. I'm an RN too and it's tough more Nurses are getting back injuries because of cutbacks. Well that's why I'm sure my back went out anyway. There is a section here preperation for surgery. I hope all things go well for you and we're with you. Keep us up to date on your progress. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Hi Nurse Dina, I am an RN as well. I had PLIF L4-5 in August. I went back to work 2 weeks ago, so far so good :) This is a very big surgery with a long slow recovery. I was terrified as well, but knew it had to be done. I think being a nurse almost makes it worse, cause we know too much. I almost changed my mind a hundred times. I would say expect a lot of pain post-op, but it is controllable with meds. I was on Tylenol #3 a couple times a day pre-op and needed Norco 10 X 2 every 3 hours post-op (once off dilaudid PCA on day 3). Of course everyone is different in their recovery, but reading here can give you some insight. You might look back for the August/Sept recovery thread for some insight. Also at the top of the surgery forum look under post-op must haves for some ideas to prepare for surgery. This is a long list compiled by various Spineys. Of course much of it isn't necessary but pretty much gives you a vast array of things that helped others. For me things began to get better at 2 weeks out, just as my surgeon predicted. Now I have occassional sciatic pain and a tightness in my spine, but thankfully I no longer limp and my spine no longer crunches with every slight movement. Just be prepared for a slow recovery. Often the surgeons underestimate recovery. Mine said 6-12 weeks. I was off 15+ weeks and am still recovering. It really is more like 1-2 years from what I hear until we feel somewhat normal. I do not regret the surgery at all, and I have hopes for a healthy spine future. Take care and let us know how your surgery goes when you are able. >:D< Cali-Sue
  • Thanks Charry :)

    Seems like this is a regular thing for nurses. ..we use our backs too much!!

    I do have DDD throughout my entire spine and worse through the lumbar area.

    I am so scared of surgery. I am worried about pain levels, recovery time. If I will be able to go back to work doing my old job? Should I have someone else besides my live-in-boyfriend help me? ugh..so many questions!!

    Since this happened at work, right now I am on Workman;s comp...I am sure there wil be WC problems to follow ..
  • Thanks Charry :)

    Seems like this is a regular thing for nurses. ..we use our backs too much!!

    I do have DDD throughout my entire spine and worse through the lumbar area.

    I am so scared of surgery. I am worried about pain levels, recovery time. If I will be able to go back to work doing my old job? Should I have someone else besides my live-in-boyfriend help me? ugh..so many questions!!

    Since this happened at work, right now I am on Workman;s comp...I am sure there wil be WC problems to follow ..
  • The only advice that I can think to give you is to take a look at the post op must haves that is listed at the top of this subject. It is amazing how limited you will be with no BLT (bending, lifting, twisting) Things will go much better if you have everything that you need and are prepared. Good luck and please keep us posted.
  • Hiya >:D< Welcome To Spine Health :D I hope we will help you through your recovery :D We will share all your highs and lows, as we understand your pain and what you are going through O:) . GOOD LUCK FOR WEDNESDAY :) , LET US KNOW HOW YOU ARE GETTING ON :H .

    Angie >:D<
  • Good luck with your surgery.....
  • Just wondering if you tried any alternatives before surgery, it seems you were just diagnosed in Sept,have you had shots? or physical therapy?i had an L-4 L-5 S-1 back in nov 06. i got hurt in 2004, tried everything, Surgery was a last resort,
    I mean the Surgery was a sucess, i started walking and driving right away, But now worse than i was before , I have to do a revision with a 2 level fusion... The pain is getting worse can hardly sleep, my hip the burning ect ect, a yera and half later after all kinds of testing I have to have now a reconstructive Surgery, it was nothing i did, but i am sure there was error on the Surgeon part but no doc will say that exactly.. good luck and most of all be positive
  • I went through two cortisone shots but no physical therapy. They (two neurosurgeons) and a neurologist all agree that I need surgery as quick as possible. There is apparently a VERY big piece of the disc that blue out and is resting on my nerve. I have a persistent left foot drop with numbness and loss of feeling on My left thigh, calf, foot and toes. They are not even sure if this will resolve the drop foot since it has been three months and it may have done permanent nerve damage already. Also, my L-4 is totally out of line with the rest of the vertebrae.

    I had the EMG done and it showed not only L-5 on the left, but also S-1 bialterally and L-4 on the right.

    I have also developed soem serious neck pain and limited movement that has also come out during this time and have had an MRI and ofcourse I have a herniated disc there too but that wil have to wait till after this surgery.

    Good thing I do not have a lot of pain anymore in my leg. Mostly back aches but according to the neurosurgeon and the neurologist, they are surprised I can walk at all and are surprised that I have not lost any bladder/bowel control.

    I am going to make a little table today for all the post op stuff so It will be ready when I get here. Although I love my boyfriend, I don;t know good he will be to take care of me.

    I hope he comes through, because I have a feeling that I will need lots of help and usually I don;t get it when I need it.

    thanks for everyone's support !!

  • I know how nervous you feel. This is a big undertaking and I wish you all the best and that you recover well so you can go back to keeping up with your teenage boys @) I appreciate your profession and you will find there are a good amount of nurses and doctors here. I know you'll do well and get back to doing what you love. :)
    I had a TLIF/Laminectomy on L4-S1 six months ago but unfortunalely it was the second surgery that didn't work out for me. I sincerely hope you will be a success story and there are some you will find here.
    Here is some of my advice on prepping.
    - Stock up with food, esp. easy prep ones and healthy snacks. Have someone that can P/U meds and run errands.
    - There is no such things as too many pillows
    - Buy a grabber, invest in a walker, cane, and raised toilet seat
    - Have only comfortable, easy to put on clothes like sweats
    - Ice packs and heating pads are crucial
    - Arrange for someone to stay with you for a least 2 weeks, Do enlist your sons to do chores because you will not be able to
    - Get a shower seat if you can. You won't be able to shower for a few days so have cleaning wipes handy
    - Get a cordless phone. Keep doctor's numbers handy

    Well, that's all I can think of for now. On your ride home, make sure you go in a spacious, comfortable car. It's common to have pain flares, but always keep your surgeon posted. Take care
  • You will find this forum to be a wonderful source of information and reassurance. I had a PLIF at L4-5 plus decompression after developing very progressive neurological issues such as your drop foot within just a few months of my first "pain" episode. It is a slow recovery and if you are a control freak like me, prepare yourself to be "ruled" by your body. You won't be able to "will" yourself to be better - your body will let you know. Still, a positive attitude is imperative. In my case either I got the surgery or faced the inability to walk. I don't know about you but for me, that's an easy decision to make.

    My biggest surprise from my surgery - how much the bone graft incision hurt. It was worse than the primary incision for the 1st 2 weeks.

    My most valuable pre-surgery purchase was my EZ Grabber.

    The two purchases I wish I had made before surgery - PJ's with drawstring pants or pants that were one size too large so they wouldn't rub my incisions. My hub got them for me after surgery. Number 2 - a toilet seat extender.

    The best thing I did to prepare the house - get plenty of meals in the freezer.

    The biggest problem I had outside of pain (which was controllable but you have to keep on top of it!) was good old fashioned constipation. Prunes have become my best friend and I don't even like them. I've been cutting them up and mixing them into my priobotics yogurt for breakfast every day.

    I wish you much good luck with your surgery and do keep us up to date with your recovery. All my best! Kathy in Atlanta

  • Thank you so much advice!! I am slowly getting my stuff together, I ordered a toilet rise with handles and a shower chair, I do not have a grabber yet, bu tI am told that they will provide me with on in the hospital.

    I am getting together books and video games to play in bed...lol..

    I have lots of sweats etc... so I think I am covered there, and she will not be using my hiop bone for grafts - she said that she uses the same bone that she scrpaes off the spine for grafts, so I guess I will see how that goes.

    Another question : how long does surgery usually take for a two level fusion?

  • Jumping into fusion this fast seems unbelievable. They can do a Discectomy to remove the pressure from your nerve and fix the drop foot... I don't think I have ever heard of someone having a Fusion only 3 months after being diagnosed with anything. That's crazy. I mean, hey, to each his own, but I just think that's jumping the gun wayyyyyyyyyyyyy too fast. Starting small is a much better idea. There is no reason to go through a major surgery right off the bat... Especially when there is a much smaller, easier, and more reasonable alternative. I would be weary of a surgeon that would do a fusion that fast. Just my opinion, my thoughts. No need for anyone to pick them apart.

    It's your body, so if you really believe that your surgeon is doing the right thing, good luck with that.
  • Hi Lo,

    Thanks for the concern. I have contacted two neurosurgeons, a neurologist and two ortho docs and they have all said the same thing, the surgery is the only way to get my foot back to working. There is a significant amount of nerve damage and they were all hoping that it wouldn't progress to the point of loss of bladder/bowel control before we had a chance to do surgery.

    I trust my NS conpletely. After all the individual responses I hve gotten from all the doctor I have seen, there has never been anyone (not even one) that did not feel that this required immediate surgery. AS a matter of fact, after the injury two different docs told me I needed IMMEDIATE surgery but I took the chance on trying the cortisone shots to control pain and relieve any foot drop.

    As of now, I am not allowed to do any driving, lifting or sitting. I am only allowed to have very short walks or laying down, I am not even allowed to hold my pocketbook!...

    Anyway, thanks for your comment and concern - It is so nice to hear everyones responses, I learn all kinds of new things from this board every day!!

    Take care everyone !!
  • Dina, you and I had similar situations. The only difference is that I had spondy level 2. The docs tried pt for about 6 weeks with me and I got so much worse that I was ordered NOT TO DO ANYTHING until they could get me into surgery. The only thing I might add to that is that since my surgery, especially when I sit too much (pressure on my spine) my neurological symptoms (not foot drop but burning, tingling) tend to come back temporarily. At first it scared me but my doc reminded me that it takes a good while for the nerves to heal themselves.

    Oddly, regarding the nerves, I had another surgery that would confirm that the body does take awhile to recover. I had to have a "lumpectomy" under my nipple - doc had to lift my nipple, do the lumpectomy and then reattach. I wasn't prepared for the loss of sensation but it did occur. Now, after a year, I have mostly regained the feeling in that nipple. I guess since I had that experience it has made it easier to understand that I have to be patient when it comes to my spinal nerves healing.

    Again, good luck. Keep posting. Kathy in Atlanta
  • I never said you should just leave it alone... But Fusion is not the only way to get pressure off the nerve. I also had foot drop, I also had severe sciatica, etc... You don't have to fuse the disc space to remove the chunk of disc pressing on the nerve, is what I'm saying. If you have weakness or numbness then yes, surgical intervention should happen ASAP, but not necessarily a Fusion. That's generally a last resort, not a first resort. I've just never seen it before, can't imagine opting for that over a much less serious surgery, when both surgeries do the same thing... Take the pressure off your nerve to decompress it... That's all I'm saying. And honestly... If they are so concerned they really should have taken you in for a discectomy ASAP. When I reherniated my disc after a Microdiscectomy, they sent me in for my Fusion 12 hours after seeing my doctor... But my Fusion was already scheduled, and not for Sciatica or a pinched nerve... They were going to do another MicroD the next morning and get the pressure off the nerve, then wait 6 weeks and proceed with the Fusion because I needed it from the DDD and other issues I was having. They only did the Fusion the next day instead of a second MicroD because both surgeons were able to switch up their schedules, so they sent me for one surgery instead of two. I'm surprised they all felt it was so important but yet none of them made room for you right away. Especially since it's a PLIF and you don't need a second surgeon; Vascular, to do that... And a Discectomy is a small, quick surgery that they could have done outpatient for you right away. Well, SHOULD have. It's just an odd situation to me. Never heard of anything moving to the last option so fast, instead of the typical option, and not doing either one ASAP when it's indicated. Just boggles my mind. But who knows. All doctors are different and they all do whatever they want and maybe it's a new way of handling things, I dunno!

    Either way, it's your body, your choice, and you've made it so I wish you the best of luck & I hope you can still enjoy the holidays!
  • Hey Lo

    The fusion is being done because there is also severe degenerative disease and I also have psoriatic arthritis and the vertebrae are slipping out of place.

    Actually, I have read a few posts on here where people were getting surgery within a few months, Im not the only one.

    I am also a nurse, and have some basic knowledge about what is going on. I do appreciate your concern, but it seems like you are very judgmental about my situation without knowing a thing about me or what I have or have not done,

    Besides for the DDD and three disc that are out, I have some severe spinal stenosis and there is cord compression. I have also suffered from chronic back pain since I was 18 years old and I'm 40 now.

    Just because I am not doing things your way, and you say you have never heard of this before, (I have ready at least 4 -5 other people on this board who had "fast" surgeries) does not make me ignorant to my situation,

    Thanks for the advice but I am ok with my decision.

    Have a good night :)

  • Hiya >:D< Just wanted to ask you :) , do you have psoriasis? :?

    Angie :H
  • Yes, Unfortunately I have psoriasis also. It covered about 90 % of my body and now I get Remicade by IV every 6 weeks to control it. It is doing a lot better now. The remicade has been my life saver but there are so many risks with it, but for now, the risk is worth the benefit.
    8} 8}

  • And I will say a prayer for you tonight. Like I said in my PM We can't afford to have one good nurse out of commission for long so I wish for you a speedy recovery!
  • Im a nurse by trade too, and have been in healthcare for 20 years. I think the straw that broke my back was doing EMS on the side, major lifting there but I loved it. AS you can see, mine 3 level was 9-23-08 and so far recovery has been good so far. There are advice forums on this board, but there major things is a toilet seat riser, bed rail,shower chair, walker and a reacher. The first 2 weeeks will be the worst after dischage at home, make sure someone is around to help you. Keep things at waist level, cause there will be no bending, lifting, twisting and your surgeon will give you a pound lifting restriction, mine was 5 pounds at first.
    You can do this, remember, its one day at a time, and dont try and do to much too soon!! Good luck to you tomorrow, and we will be here when you feel like typing at home. Ill say a prayer for you, im sure things will go well!!! :)
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