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Need advice on travel after fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,899
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone,
I just had a multi level spinal fusion at L4 to S1 just over two weeks ago, the 23 will be my exact three week mark since the surgery. I have a very important decision to make and I need advice desperately. I was told by my surgeon before the surgery that traveling three weeks after surgery would be okay and gave the go ahead to buy the plane tickets to travel, so we did. On the 23rd I am booked for a flight that with a layover will be almost five hours long, with an hour drive from the airport at the destination.
My instinct is that although I still have the all clear from my doctor who I saw on the 17th, is that my body may not be ready to handle the trip. The tickets were bought by family and cost them almost 700 bucks. This is also the most important christmas that has come along in almost a decade and I would bear the burden of breaking hearts and ruining christmas for most of my family if I cant make the trip. I am in the middle of the lesser of two evils as my family does NOT want to even hear me out when I mention my situation as to what I am capable of. I can sit for twenty minutes tops, and stand for thirty...as a sit stand combo I last about an hour.
I am doing well and recovering well here at home, I have dropped to one pain med and muscle relaxer a day, at night to help with over night pain and stiffness. I dont want to jeapordize my recovery. Is there anyone who can help me with this decision as it needs to be made very very soon. My family is not understanding and I dont know if travel is in my best interest three weeks post op. PLEASE HELP. Any advice or experience in travel would be helpful. Thanks so much and happy holidays to you all, I hope I can say the same for myself right now as it is keeping me stressed and awake at nights along with bouts of crying over the decision. Any insight??? thanks :)

Extreme Holiday Distress, wahini202


  • in regaurds to my drop foot, i am having more pain in my left leg as it comes out of its year long coma and occasionally my knee will buckle a bit. thanks again.
  • for you. However, as the queen of co-dependence :D , I can totally understand what you are going thru. ~X( So ask yourself this "Who is more important, me and my health, or the feelings of my family members?". :? I know you know the answer. You need to decide if you think you can make the trip. Will you have fun? Will you be in pain? Do YOU really want to go? Or are you just going because your family wants you to?
    You say you will bear the burden of breaking hearts if you don't go. But will they bear the burden of a broken heart watching you suffer in pain? =((
    You need to follow your instincts on this one. Not what your family wants you to do. If the $700 is non refundable, most airlines will give you a credit for that amount for up to a year.
    I'm so sorry you are faced with this, and that your family is not more supportive. :(
    Do whats best for you, not for everyone else.

    Big hugs >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • thaaaank you for your comment, it made me tear up. Finally i feel like someone gets it. My instinct is to say no, and no I dont feel I will have fun, I will be sleeping most of the time, I am only going to please them and they just dont want to hear that I dont feel I can do this even with the all clear. I need to talk to my doctor and explain that for me I dont feel ready. Yes lol I am codependent as well and all this is to please them. Im so glad that this forum is here because we all understand each other to what degree we can. thank you for your response it made me tear up not out of sadness but relief that someone gets it. >:D< I hate to be selfish but this is my health ya know, and my gut is telling me...plain and simple no. Ugh, had I known I would have delayed surgery till after the holidays. I hope that I make the right decision and that if I do choose not to travel that the airline will give credit and we can make the trip when I am a little more healed up. Three weeks just feels too soon after this kind of surgery. Again thank you, you support is much appreciated
  • Also, you may want to check on refundability due to health issues. You may have to play the game--but it could be worth it. I had fusion at one level 5 weeks ago. I have been up and down. I would not want to travel right now. However, I have also been doing more and more--went into work for 20 or so hours this past week--however, I love my work which helps. I am still on a boatload of drugs. I am wondering if the more active you are the better you heal, but the worse you may feel in the shorterm? So...is it better to be working your way through an airport--possibly running into a several hour delay...or sitting in your bedroom watching TV with your back stiffening up? I think 3 weeks post-op is way too soon. However, everyone is different. It would have been way too soon for me.

    I also think there is something to be said for matter of factly telling everyone you wno't be there and basically asume they will understand (even though they won't). In this case, you almost don't give them an option to react selfishly. I would also say if you don't really want to do it and see it as one more thing to deal with in addition to recovery, then don't do it.

  • IMO - Chuck is right, there IS something to be said for telling everyone you simply will not be there versus asking permission (and no they probably will not understand). Everyone heals at different rates, and when your surgeon said you would likely be fine to travel, he's probably quoting a law of averages.

    I can't tell you what to do, nor will I - only cough up my $.02. Risking a setback is a scary prospect. YOU should come first. YOUR HEALTH should come first. Family - will be there when you are ready, I should hope. There, I said it, that's it, $.02.
  • by virtue of the fact that you even have to say you're sorry if you're being selfish (again I totally get it), but you are so NOT selfish. It's your body, your pain, your fatigue, bla bla bla. :D

    It sounds to me that your mind is already made up. If your instinct says don't go, then don't go. I always tell people when I have to turn down plans that I wouldn't be much fun. They usually understand, and can't argue with that.

    As far as the support from this forum goes, it's unmeasurable. This is really the only place I can turn, where people totally understand what I am going thru.

    I have feelings of guilt myself when I have to miss out on things. A really good girlfriend of mine just celebrated her 40th birthday. They got a limo up to Los Angeles, had dinner and drinks. I would have loved to go! :''( But I just couldn't. And telling her I couldn't was so hard to do. But I did, and she understood. =D>

    Finding this website was such a relief. I'm glad you found it too! Any questions you may have, or any support you may need, you will surely find it here.

    Good luck with your decision (I mean telling your family you're not going :D ). Let us know how it goes. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.

    >:D< >:D<

  • I'm sorry your flight is laid over for 5 hours that's too long if it was a straight flight it may be better. Perhaps you'll see your family next year. I'm also not going to be with family except my mentally challenged brother who turned 50 today. And is on the same meds as me. He already has hardware in from a 3rd story fall 25 years ago. Me and my husband will include him over for xmas because my Mom's in Florida. Distant relatives have forgotten about us oh well. It's nice if you have a computer camera and you'll be able to see everyone or even a fast phonecall. 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
  • I can't imagine even thinking about traveling 3 weeks after surgery! Do you remember how uncomfortable it is to sit in the airplane seats? And climbing over people if you don't have an aisle seat? Or using the bathroom on the plane? Not to mention the 5 hour lay-over! With all of the bad weather everywhere, the lay-over will most likely be longer. Ya can't get but so comfortable in the airport seats!

    I know it will be hard to be away from family for Christmas, but your recovery is much more important. As others have said, your family will probably not get it at all. If people who see us every day or every week don't understand, it's unrealistic to expect long-distance friends/family to get it!

    Hey! You're a grown up and get to make decisions for yourself, right? Stick to your guns and do what is best for YOUR health!
  • As others have said, we can't make the decision for you, but I can't imagine making that type of trip at 3 weeks.

    Prior to my surgery, there was an outside chance that I may need to go to New York at 4-6 weeks after my surgery (didn't happen). For the 2-hour flight, my surgeon said it would probably be okay to do it, but he said only if I really had to more because I would really not be in condition to make such a trip.

    Even though I am doing better, for Thanksgiving (at 3 months post op) my mother wanted to go out for dinner. I can sit for longer periods of time, but have found many chairs, especially those in restaurants) are still tough on me. Even our kitchen chairs are bad, even if I use pillows.

    I told my mom she was welcome to come to our place, but we were going to get food on Wednesday night and reheat it. At first she dismissed my issues, saying it would not be too long. However, I thought of it this way - an hour round trip in the car, possibly standing in the restaurant for a bit (even with a reservation), sitting in an potentially uncomfortable chair for 1-2 hours. It just wasn't worth it to potentially have a setback just to make my mom happy for Thanksgiving.

    Chances are you would not damage your hardware or cause any problems (except pain). You may do alright on the trip, but I get the feeling after the plane flights and layover, you will spend the next several days recovering from that and regretting the decision. And then you will turn around and do the same thing again to get home!

    You will not "bear the burden" of breaking hearts and ruining Christmas. Don't do that to yourself. Perhaps your family does not realize just how serious a surgery this is. They may not understand, having not gone through a spinal surgery themselves, but that is their problem, not yours.

    Despite the time of year, it really is time to think of yourself first. If you don't take care of yourself, who will?
  • Hello,

    I had a one level fusion on 12/9 I will be leaving on the 26th to fly to watch my son play baseball in AZ. I have a direct flight so I do not have to worry about the layover. I cant imagine a five hour layover.

    I too am worried about how this is going to go for me and I have pondered the thought of sending my family with out me. I agree with the others that you should just "tell" your family that you won't be there. They will be sad but I would hope that they would understand.

    Your trip sounds much more taxing on your body than mine. Good luck with everything and take care of you!
  • Follow your instinct, intuition, still small voice, whatever you want to call it. If you really listen it will not steer you wrong. Take care of yourself, and the rest will fall in line, or fall away.

    One Love,

  • for responding to my post. I appreciate it very much :) I understood before I wrote that no one can make this decision for me, except me, but your input is very valuable and comforting as I feel very alone in this process. I am glad that I can come here and know that you all have been in my shoes to some degree as we are all different and recover different, and your opinions on my situtation do matter to me as they have been helpful. I should clarify one thing though the layover is not five hours, Im sorry if it sounded that way. The trip over all after recalculating will be the standard hour and a half pre flight, hour in the air, hour or so layover (god forbid a delay which I hadn't even thought about because I am actually going to a colder climate that has been having bad weather so its likely) and then about another two hours in the air, the getting of luggage and an hour ride from the airport so all in all if it goes as planned it would be five to six hours total. I have tested my out of house endurance and it peaks at approx. an hour and a half stand and sit combo with most of it being standing. My walking endurance is about half an hour at best with plenty of breaks. So yes, I have made the decision in my mind, the follow through however...makes me sob every time I think I can attempt it. I had acl surgery in 99 and because of meds I was delayed physical therapy for a week and it set me back an entire month in recovery, so although different and unrelated I know a week can make a huge difference and right now I am recovering well. I can see day to day changes, endurance level inching slowly up etc, and don't want to compromise that and I think everyone who has responded understands that I dont want to jeapordize anything with my health. And yet I still fret over what they will think when I have heard from only two family members since the surgery asking how I am doing. Somehow its my responsibility to inform them of my post op status (and i have been told that #o ). So as you can see I dont feel that they care how I am doing =(( , and this year well...they are wrapped up in making this the most glorious christmas ever. I just hate to be the one that blows that up. But your all right, I have to do whats best for me, follow my gut instinct, regaurdless of what holiday it is. Thank you all, wish me luck, I feel totally alone and your input really has helped me feel less alone in this. :)

    Caityc I will more than likely take you up on your pm >:D< >:D<
  • at my age (51), "it's every man for himself". I really don't have the time nor desire to worry what other people, family included, think about my healthcare decisions. With something as potentially life-changing as a failed fusion would be...too bad...I'm just not going to take any chances. When it's all said and done, I don't think I'd see anybody lining up to take me in to care for me the rest of my life. A person that truly cares about me would NEVER want me to jeopardize my health, for WHATEVER reason. And if they don't like it, then they can lump it...now this is just my opinion about myself

    good luck dealing with the selfishness and I hope it all works out the best for you
  • My husband's brother who is very close to our entire family - probably one of the most wonderful people in the world - has unexpectedly been told that he has less than a week to live. All the family has been called to his bedside in Houston (MD Anderson) to say final goodbyes (we live in Atlanta). I am 4 weeks out from PLIF/decompression and not able to drive yet, much less travel. I've had to send my husband without me and it is so very difficult! I've cried for 2 solid days. But I can't take the travel.

    I can't imagine the burden you must feel being "responsible" for your family's Christmas being successful but the type of travel you describe can't be positive for your health! Life isn't always fair and that's just the way it is. And besides that, the only person you are really responsible for is yourself in the long run.

    And just remember one big thing. Imagine HOW TERRIBLE your family would feel if you experienced a serious setback just because you tried to travel???!!!!! It sounds to me like they really don't understand how absolutely hard this surgery is and how critical it is to your future. That's not necessarily their fault. I didn't even know how tough this would be until I went through it!!!

    I couldn't go to Houston to "say goodby" and I won't be able to go to the funeral. But I was able to send my brother-in-law a letter telling him how much I love him and how I wish I could be there to give him a hug and kiss. Perhaps you would feel better if you composed a letter expressing your feelings and letting everyone know that if there was any way you could physically endure the travel, you would be there with them and how much you look forward to next Christmas to be able to celebrate with a strong,new back.

    Best wishes to you. You have lots of courage. Keep your chin up and do what your "little voice" tells you. Always. Kathy
  • Im so sorry to hear about your situation, your family will be in my prayers. Trust me when I say I understand the uncertainty of travel and the effects of it. I have cried, gotten angry...so many emotions I didnt expect to feel, Ive even spited myself at times to just suck it up and do this so I wont pay the penalty of my codependency and the way my family is treating my situation. ~X( its exhausting. Thank you for your post and you and your family are in my prayers >:D<
  • I am really surprised that you got the OK to travel so soon after surgery Wahini. My OS told me even before my fusion that he does not allow his patients to travel by air at least for three months after surgery. As far as car travel, I took my first 3 1/2 hour long trip three months after, and even then I got tired on the way back.

    All the best to you,

  • Wahini--

    I would advise you in the strongest possible terms not to go. Sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves. I have found a useful exercise is to try to stand outside of yourself when it comes to these type of issues. For instance, pretend you are me when implementing the decision. I know it sounds wierd, but I counsel people all the time and have tested these methods. So...if I were in your shoes...I would be totally detached from your family, because I don't know them from Adam...so if you pretend you are me, you shouldn't have a problem! So...I would tell them nicely that there is no way in you know what that I am flying...that they can webcam me or call me if they'd like...and I will be spending Christmas at home hopefully with some good friends or local family...and that would be the end of it. Don't you wish it were that easy? Well, it can be if you role-play. I have done this before with my own children. So many times we can't discipline our kids because we love them so much and don't want to hurt their feelings or whatever--so...I just pretend they are my neighbor's kid who is a brat...then it becomes quite easy.

    I hope that makes sense. My brother lives like this and is one of the happiest people I know. He doesn't care--he is just happy go lucky and does what he wants when he wants. To ask you to fly 3 weeks after this surgery is downright cruel and stupid. And I don't accept that they don't know what the surgery is--they can google it and find out quickly that the surgery is major, and the recovery is painful.

    One more thing---many times we cause more problems for ourselves in these situations because we allow emotions to enter into it in the course of our conversations with family members. Instead, you call your family and say in a breezy way, "Well, as it turns out I'm not going to be able to come out this year...the pain is just too much and I don't want to risk the surgery...so how's the job going?"

    Well...there's my advice...

  • Well thank you everyone who has posted your thoughts, your ecouragement, support, understanding and opinion. It is what I asked for in the beginning and thank you again all of you have been great. I told my family today that I would not be coming this year, and that I would travel when I felt ready to do so but at three weeks post op I did not feel comfortable putting my body through the strain of it all. It went better than I thought it would but then again I really didnt pay much attention to the remarks fired back at me at first until they had calmed down enough to halfway understand. I was a mess this morning, crying, getting angry, getting irrational...and I just thought, why am I putting myself through this, so I went for it. I admit I am sad I will miss christmas with them but I am confident in my decision and I have relief now knowing I made the right decision for me and MY health. So thank you ALL, you have all helped push me to in a sense grow a pair and take care of myself first. no more of this ~X( now i can do this =D> because for me it took alot of "guts" to face them. What was I even thinking, there is no way I can travel yet #o Emotions, they can grip ya, what can I say. >:D< hugs to you all for all your input and advice. Happy Holidays to you all
    Erica #:S ;)
  • Good for you sweetie! I knew you could do it!!! ;) ;)

    >:D< >:D<

  • So....take your right hand and put it on your left shoulder. Don't ask, just do it! Now, take your left hand and put it on your right shoulder. And give yourself a hug not just from yourself but from everybody else on this post.

    You made a very difficult decision. And we are all proud of you!! :-C Kathy
  • Thank you so so much everyone, this was difficult and I appreciate all your encouragement. >:D<
  • Well done for putting yourself and more importantly your health first!

    Dawn x
  • For putting yourself first! ;))
    Now to call the airline to get a credit on those tickets... :<
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