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Any advice for a freaked out chic having a lumbar fusion this Monday?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Greetings and salutations,
Just thought i would give a lil background on myself before I plead for any input on what to expect from a lumbar fusion L3-5! I am a 35 year old married mother of two wonderful boys ages 13 and 8! I am having a lumbar fusion on March 9, holy *&#! that's Monday, and just wondering if there is anyone out there to give me some hope on a quick speedy recovery! Ha Ha I guess, i have checked out alot of the chats and i am really wondering how i am going to functiion with my boys. i kinda want to chicken out but the doc says that it isnt going to get better on its own imagine that. i am new to all this so if i am being vague its because i really do not know what or how to ask what the hell is going to happen to me Monday and my doc is not really forthcoming with the info, i do not even know if i will have to have a graft from my hip or what the deal is. Most of my knowledge, which is little, has been derived from this website so i figured maybe someone would give me a shout and let me know a little of what to expect. i am reall scared about the pain after reading so many stories, i have been on meds for so long i am scared nothing will work and i dont want my little boy to be scared. wah wah, i know, i apologize in advance, this is all just happening a little fast for me and i am definitley not used to being out of control! Any comments would be gratefully appreciated-like how am i supposed to funcion to when does it get even a lil better? Anything would grate! Please and thank you and hope you have a grateful night!


  • Ok. You will be in a lot of pain. Your boys are the same age as mine, and they will be a lot of help. Not gonna sugar coat it, you will be in a lot of pain for a few days. One thing you need to understand is, this is not something that just came up. They have been dealing with this with you. The short temper when the pain is bad, and seems like it will go on forever. The things that you cannot do because you will hurt yourself. They can deal with it because they know you are going to get better. The first time I had surgery, my youngest some was 4. They will be a lot of help. Don’t try and be Wonder Woman and avoid taking the meds. It will make things more bearable for you, and the others around you.
  • Welcome to the board.

    Try not to let your imagination run wild. You will be fine and that much closer to being able to do things with your boys again.

    Will you be having any help for the first week or two after your surgery? You will not feel up to cooking or supervising the boys for a couple weeks, if you are like many of us!! Your husband will need to pick up the slack a bit until you start feeling better.

    Most doctors are pretty good about giving you meds to cover the pain after your surgery. Usually one criterium for letting you out of the hospital is that your pain is being controlled by oral medication.

    When you first get home you should make a schedule to keep track of your meds. It is important to take them on a regular schedule, even if it means waking up during the night. You don't want to let the pain get ahead of you. Some people are in a rush to get off the pain meds, but there is no point to that. Your body heals better when you are not also dealing with pain...so follow your doctor's orders and do what he says.

    The most useful item for me were the satin sheets, or at least a slippery bottom sheet. Your muscles will be weak after surgery and turning in the bed is tough enough without feeling like you are stuck with velcro. Also for me a raised toilet seat was a necessity, but this may depend on your height. Some short ladies have commented that it wasn't really that important. Depending on your insurance, they will cover things like this, a walker, a shower chair, etc.

    Before you go into the hospital, set up your room, or where you will be recovering. I moved a twin bed into our den because even though I could go up and down the stairs, I wanted to spend my days on the first floor. Gather all the things you think you may want and arrange them on a table near your bed (or whatever arrangement works for you). You will want a pad of paper and pen or pencil to keep track of meds and whatever else pops into your head. You will find that the drugs may make you a little spacey and it is good to take notes. You will want your pills and a container of water, etc. Some people keep a cooler by their bed. Their husband packs it in the morning before leaving for the day, and then you have whatever it is you want close by.

    Your boys are old enough that they should be a lot of help to you. Sit them down and explain that they will need to be your legs for a period of time. Have them do all the fetching. They can also help you pass the time, playing board games, watching movies, etc.

    Don't be surprised if your recovery goes in fits and spurts. I always tell people it is "baby steps." And, sometimes you go two steps forward and then one back. The going back is always very discouraging and sometimes you panic and think you've done something to your incision, but that is just a part of recovery.

    It is really difficult to generalize as we all heal differently and we have all been through different experiences even when having the very same procedure...but most people start feeling quite well by about six weeks. Of course, it takes much longer than that to heal. You really need to be vigilant for about the first year as it takes that long for the fusion to solidify.

    You need to learn to be very patient as healing takes longer than any of us thinks it should!! But after the first 24 hours in the hospital, you will start to feel better each and every day. Keep a positive attitude and remember to find something to laugh about whenver you can.

    I'm happy to answer any of your questions...as is anyone else on the board...so, ask away!!

    Good luck.

    Gwennie :H
  • I had a microdisectomy, so I don't know what it feels like to have a fusion. Check out the the list for PreOp and PostOp neccessities (sp.wrong). It is a great resource to get yourself prepared for the upcoming surgery. I am a teacher and I do agree that your boys can help out. My seconders help me pick up pencils, paper, or whatever left on floor.
  • I can not stress enough that what ever meds you are taking for pain that you cut them down to bare minimums!
    Unless you are in danger of going into withdrawals I would cut way, back. I ignored this advice at my last surgery and it was a big mistake! Any break you can take in the meds will make it easier for them to control your pain after surgery.

    Everyone else has done such a good job and giving you prep advice all I can think to say is relax and let others do for you!
  • Had a couple minor accidents on this. Blood Pressure Meds had Fluid Med in it. Remember when you get home, you are moving much slower. When you first feel like you need to go, start moving. The feeling does not go away, remember it never has before. Add the pressure of trying to make it to the bathroom on top of the back pressure will make you feel worse. I never could go in a bottle.
  • My fusion was in December. I got a hospital like table for my bed to use with my laptop, eating, drinks etc. Walgreens has some ok ones for about 30 bucks. I also got a couple plastic baskets for remotes, meds, small tablet, phone book, address book, and stuff. I have a hsopital bed in my den, and you can maybe get one rented if you have the room. They are awesome, gets you to more comfortable positions while you are recouping. Also get a grabber. Walmart has a great one with little like suction cups for around 10 bucks. You can pick up a pill if you drop it or a can from over head. One thing, clear the top of your dressor, and stack your nighties, underware,socks, and anything else you will wear for the first couple months. It helps cause you cant bend. Also a long handled bath brush is great in shower. You wont feel or be able to get into bath without a bench. The brush will reach where you cant. Good Luck and PM me if you need some reassurace. They will control your pain at hospital. But be prepared , it isnt fun the first few days, but it gets better, especially after the first time you get up . I will be thinking of you and watching for updates.
  • Hardwear and artificial disc replacement. I went home the next day and was happy to have my husband home the first week with me. The first 2-3 days were the worst and then it was all good. The pain went away and I feel so much better now. I am back to work and feel fine. No pain or pain meds for me. I really think those boys will be so helpful especially if you have someone to stay with you when they are at school. Kids are so helpful so allow them to help you, it will make them better husbands in the future. Try to get a toilet tongs to help you wipe your bottom since bending is not good. Best Wishes to you
  • All I can say is yes, it will hurt but I will be praying for you that day. I will be having more test so it will make me think of you. Also, talk to your Dr. about controlling your pain- mine went on a 5 day vacation and I was in horrible pain with a Dr. who didn't know me. Please learn from my mistake. Next time I will ask my Dr. if he has plans.
  • I had a 360 3 level fusion in Sept. Check the old forums for things you might need. What I found most helpful was extra pillows,extra help the first week or 2 if posible, if not your boys will be a big help. Also raised toilet seat, shower chair are the bomb after you get home... and remember to keep everything at waist level.. you wont be able to lift, bend or twist and Im sure your surgeon will give you a weight limit as well. Meals made ahead of time are good.
    The recovery room and getting up for the first time were the worst, but remember IT does get better. They will give you a catheter so you dont have to get up for couple days, you will have a button to push for pain (that helps, remember to use it before the pain gets out of control) and when you get home take the meds prescribed to you... they will help. Remember its one day at a time, ok? Any other questions feel free to PM me, and good luck to you, we'll keep you in our prayers. Keep us updated when you can. I also had a laptop near which helps, or if you like to read too. Keep all close to you when you get home. Take care!
  • No sugar coating here.... I had a three level fusion. You will be in "MEGA" pain!! I have always said, "I'd rather give birth to 10 babies than go through this pain". I was in the Hopital for 5 days, then in a rehab center for 7 to learn how to walk and climb stairs before I was allowed to come home. My first month at home was HELL to say the least. I had a visiting nurse twice a week for one month, which was awesome monitoring me very closely.

    You first are going to need tons of love and support, you will not be you for quite some time after surgery, and everyone is going to have to pitch in, in every way with Mama now. Stock up on real easy meals that hubby can cook, because you cooking is out of the question for quite a while. I couldn't stand or sit for any length of time for atleast 5 months, so I made a lot of stuff ahead of surgery and froze it.

    But the list of things that really helped me through were, a walker, toilet riser (a must!), shower seat (a must) hubby is really going to have to help you with baths for quite a while, (shaving legs is out of the question for a long, long time, unless he can do it for you, get use to being "sasquatch" for a while, it will be the least of your problems. A plastic (hard shell) back brace with velcro, a really large ice-pack (Walgreens has quite a few styles on-line, I bought 2, one really large one, and one that wraps around your surgery area, then fastens with velcro in the front. A heating pad. And pillows are going to become your best friend. Laying on my side I would place one in the nap of my side by my stomach, to keep my lumbar as straight as possible, and one between my knees. However you can keep your vertebra straight, the better cause of the pain.

    A cane. I used my cane not only for stability, but for comfort and security scared I might fall. I used one for about 6 months.

    Make sure before everyone leaves the house, that you have everything convienient in reaching distance for you.

    And as soon as you can, start walking, walking, walking. It helps to heal the quickest.

    And above all, take your meds, don't try to be touch and think you can do this without them, and PATIENCE!!! The most patience you'll ever have to have. You're having a major major surgery!!

    I am 1 year post from my 3 level fusion. I still wear my "Tens Unit" when I go out shopping or whatever. I still take about 3 percocets a day. I have totally convinced myself of my limitations, life is different.... I use to be soooo active. But I've learned to accept it, I cannot lift anything over 20#'s ever. All in all though, I am doing much better than one year ago, but it's been a long, long hard painful road. Good news though, my original sciatica pain is gone!! Oh ya, and you're going to be the "Weather predictor", you are going to have a "built-in barometer", if your having "instrumentation". I have two 6 inch rods, 6 screws and one stabilization bar in titanium. And I have been right in predicting weather 100% ever since it was installed!!! I ache for atleast 2 days ahead of every snow storm.

    I am walking 3 miles a day, jogging a little during that walk, I ride my stationary bike for 2 miles, and am still doing core strengthing excersises. Oh ya, I'm still in physical therapy, but finally down to once a month. At first it was twice a week.

    Good luck, and have a little chat with your hubby and children that they're going to be your whole world for quite a while. It's time they take care of Mommy.

    For you, no bending, lifting twisting, or as they call it, "BLT's". Driving is out of the question for a long time, cause you will not be able to turn around to see in back of you.
  • thanks so much for your reply, you sound like you know me well! I see you just had another surgery, i pray it was successful. It seems I hear more horror stories than happy endings so I hope you will be better than ever as soon as possible. You can tell i have no idea what i am talking about but i do know the despair trying to live life to its fullest when your body doesnt want to cooperate. Much luck and many prayers.
  • Thank you all for your information and prayers. I appriciate the information (good and bad). I will update you all as to how it goes. Good luck to all of you in your healing and recovery.
  • Hi Mellie -
    I had a three-level fusion November 19th and 24th. They went in from the back and couldn't get my squished discs out, so they put the instrumentation in and then flipped me over four days later, took out the discs and put in the bone dowels and BMP. My best advice is to have someone with you in the hospital as much as possible. I was ill-treated because I was alone. After the second surgery, I was screaming in pain and the stupid nurse shut my light out and closed to door on me. NOT acceptable. So, you need an advocate. Also, be prepared for a long slow recovery. Once I got home, the pain wasn't so bad. I did have a bout of nerve pain in my legs that was relieved with some Lyrica. Other than that, the Fentanyl patches and the oxycodone did the job. I had no help. I live alone and did fine. You will have a concern with your boys, but I'll bet when they see the condition you're in, they'll step up, be little men, and help you as much as they can. I am nearly four months out from surgery now and am only beginning to be glad I did it. I still feel a bit like I've been nailed to a board -- you will never walk or move the same way again -- but I have no more lightning bolts of pain down my legs. Set your eyes on the prize -- no more pain -- and you'll get there.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Mellie,

    Prepare yourself for the worst but expect the best! Everybody is different, some people are in agony after their surgery, some endure the pain with the help of pain meds, and some fortunate ones are relatively pain-free after surgery. Since it can not be predicted how you will respond, be positive, realize that you will get through it and will hopefully feel a lot better afterwards. Just remember,there is no need for you to suffer, if you need pain med, ASK FOR IT!

    You are young and hopefully resilient. Have a talk with your boys, explain to them that you need their help, and I am sure they will be helping you in more way you could imagine. Think positive and relax!

    Best wishes,

  • It took me about one week before I stopped asking why the hell I did it, the end of the 1st week was when the pain in my leg finally stopped. Then it took me two weeks to feel like I felt when I woke up from both Lamenectomies, stop using the walker. It took 3 weeks before I could swist (SLOWLY!),and bend at the waste without getting stabbing pain. I am now in my 4th week, and now it is just a bad backache.

    I had an allegic reaction to the steroids put in my IV because of the leg pain. I thought I was only allergic to oral steroids. Hickups. Bad Hickups. That was done about 2 days afer surgery. They stopped them, but it took about 24 hours for it to get out of my system. My wife was trying to help, and left hospital to get me something good to eat, and pick up something to ease the hiccups. It was Maylox, and we did not notice. Needless to say, she was exhausted and feel asleep around 10P. We are very early risers, and the is late for either of us. I went to the bathroom 8 times that night. THAT WAS BAD!!! Add the fluid stuff in my blood pressure meds, and figure that out. It was still better than the catheder. That was the first time I had one, and that was the worst part of the whole thing. If you had one, and know what it is like, you are way ahead of me. I cannot go in a bedpan, or a bottle. Got up to go to the bathroom from the time I woke up after both lamenectomies. I could not have gotten out of bed the first couple of days.
  • It might go better than you think. I am three months out from having my entire lumbar fused (adding to an old mid-back fusion), and the worst is the first few days. But you might be surprised that you may not have it so bad. I have a friend who had some and she felt better and didn't need any pain pills just 2 days out of surgery. She was so happy, and her old pain was GONE. The worst for her is not being able to "bend, lift, twist" for several months--she feels great enough to run a marathon.
    As for me, I had a complication, so the going is tough--but I was out and about (carefully) five weeks after surgery.
    You might be surprised and have a really fine and smooth experience.
    Good luck and let us know! Oh--and get a "grabber" to pick things off the floor--it will be your best friend for many weeks.
  • I was reading through the post here and everyone has given there experiences, thoughts and prayers and thought I would add mine. Im 27 and had a two level lumbar fusion on Dec 2nd. Most find this hard to believe, but my fusion was actually performed as an outpatient procedure. I was in the hospital a total of seven hours and home that night. I know most jaws drop and YES it was a multi level fusion from L4 to S1, I have the hardware to prove it haha.
    I honestly was not in thrashing pain after the surgery, was I in pain yes, but it wasnt unmanageable for me. The first two days were rough pain wise only bc they had me on the wrong pain medicine and once that was resolved I did relatively well and was off pain killers by the second week and started Physical Therapy by mid third week.
    The hardest part for me in the beginning was moving my hips on my own if I was lying down, my husband would have to pick my legs up and move me as I just didnt have the strength to move them. I slept relatively well, and always on my left side (you will find your comfy spot to sleep in its different for everyone).
    In regaurds to the bathroom, I found it hard to "start" going pee in the first two weeks. But that was just my experience. Patience is soooo vital in the first couple of months and especially in the first four to six weeks. When they say dont bend lift or twist DONT, let someone do that for you. DONT compromise this surgery by trying to over do. Please take a look at the thread called "post op must haves" as they have great advice and tips for recovery.
    You will find what works for you very fast, and let that guide you. Just stick to the limitations you are given until such time your doctor tells you it is okay to start bending, lifting, and twisting once again. For me that was at week eight. It is a roller coaster ride of emotion, also prepare for that the best you can or tuck that away somewhere, you will experience alot of physical and emotional things in the first few weeks to come. ITS NORMAL :)
    I am at three months now and still attending PT, my success has been about 95 percent and most pain tends to reside like a dull ache in the spine where the surgery was performed and that has even started to ease with time.
    It does come at you fast, and now is the time to prepare, get the laundry done, have clean sheets ready on your bed (that feels so good trust me) and get your family and friends prepared on how they can help you as you recover. Stay positive and PATIENT throughout this recovery. Keep us updated as you will be in our prayers. Best Wishes,
  • Noone mentioned a recliner. I was much more comfortable in my recliner than my bed for the first three weeks after surgery.

    And after being a caretaker for so long, I really learned to appreciate my GF and my kids. They've been a great help during my recovery.

    Fusion surgery is a tough one, but we all seem to make it through. Just keep picturing all that pain you have now going away eventually.
  • I think everyone else has covered just about everything I would say, except one little thing.

    I really don't know if anyone else does this, but I have a "food ritual" when I come out of surgery. I always pack my own food to take to the hospital and when I'm finally awake and feeling well enough to eat, I eat my food instead of the hospital food.

    If you're an emotional eater, DO NOT turn to your favorite comfort foods in the few days immediately following the fusion surgery.

    When I had my fusion, I developed an infection from the urinary catheter and about 2 days post-op, I started throwing up. The amount nausea and dizziness from the infection combined with the level of pain from leaning over a commode throwing up so soon after surgery left me unable to eat some of my favorite comfort foods to this very day. Anytime I see or smell those foods, it all just comes flooding back. :&
  • I wish I would have seen your post sooner, I suppose your having your operation at this very moment. I hope everything goes well for you, I too am going to be having lumbar fusion but just two level unlike your three story job. Keep those spirits up and keep fightin, I really think attitude has a lot to do with how well we do with our rehab and general well being.
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