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Pending ALIF---nervous!!!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am having L4-L5, L5-S1 ALIF Aug. 21 and am extremely nervous. I'm a healthcare professional (Cat Scan technologist) and they say we are the worst patients! Had laminotomy/discectomy in Jan. '08. Subsequently got hurt @ work and now am going this route. Had my Pre-Admission testing today and meet with the Gen./Vasc. surgeon next Monday. Like I said, I'm extremely nervous. I really don't know what to expect even though I had surgery 1 1/2 years ago. Sounds crazy I know. How much difference will I encounter postop? I have a wonderful, supportive family that is going to help out. I don't know what it is though. Just in the past day or so I have become borderline terrified. I guess it is getting closer and is now becoming a reality. Any suggestions or recollections will be greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone!


  • Yes, I have heard that medical personnel make the worst patients...especially when it comes to following post-surgical restrictions and instructions!

    I'm afraid you will find that the fusion is a bigger surgery than what you had previously, and for most people, the recovery is quite a bit longer. But keep in mind that we all heal at a different rate -- there were a couple people on the board who were up and around and feeling good in a matter of weeks. For the majority of us, it is more like many weeks or several months...and you cannot count on your fusion to be strong for at least a year.

    Also if you have had nerve compression, the nerves take a LONG time to recover, again, in many cases...longer than any of us think it should take.

    You will be more tired and "wiped out" and it will take awhile to get your energy back.

    That being said, I had read various forums for a couple years prior to my fusion and I was expecting THE WORST EXPERIENCE EVER. Compared to what I was anticipating, it wasn't bad! I was kept comfortable in the hospital, and was given plenty of medication after I was released. The first two or three days are bad, but after that, you'll probably start feeling a bit better little by little.

    Did you see the "sticky" note at the top of the Back and Neck Surgery page?? It is entitled "Post-op Must-haves" and is a comprehensive list of what people have found useful in recovery. To me the three most important items were a raised toilet seat, a satin bottom sheet for my bed and a "grabber." You will have difficulty repositioning yourself after fusion, and the satin sheet helps immensely.

    There are many things on the list that you will not need...but it does get you thinking along those lines.

    Please post often with your comments and questions. Many people have had similar surgeries and are happy to share their experiences.

    If you are really nervous, you might want to get some relaxation tapes to listen to and practice some deep breathing. It helps, especially if you get stuck in the holding area as I did...waiting for your surgery to begin when both your surgeon and your anesthesiologist are in separate surgeries and are both running about 3 hours late!! I was amazed at how calm I remained as I watched almost all the staff leave for the evening, wishing each other a good-night, and then noticing me on my gurney...all by myself, pointing at me with a quizzical expression as if to say "what's SHE doing here???"

    Use this last time to get yourself prepared for surgery. Organize your kitchen and bath so that the things you use most are at waist level, so you won't be tempted to bend or reach. Eat a nutritious diet; drink lots of fluids and walk as your condition allows. You want to stay as strong as possible.

    Good luck to you. Hope you have a happy outcome and are well on the road to recovery soon.

    xx Gwennie
  • Welcome to Spine Health. I can understand your anxiety, most of us felt that way before surgery. Being a health care professional does not help much either. But by the time you decide to go ahead with the surgery, I am sure you have exhausted your other options. What helped me was tp prepare myself - physically and emotionally - as much as I could. I had a heart-to-heart talk with my husband and requested that he would be my advocate. I tried to eat well, take vitamins (except C and E, that I had to stop before the surgery, got some good books, and went through the surgery list (first sticky) and got together whatever I thought I would need. Other advise, do breathing exercises to relax, and listen to soothing music.Then I just tried to relax as much as I could. Tried to talk to people who were positive, and avoided pessimists at any price. I put my things in order and before I knew it, my surgery was over.

    Good luck, and we'll be thinking of you.


  • and i'm an ex-nurse. I know how you feel, i've had several surgeries but for some reason this one is terrifying me too, when I was not concerned at all about the others.

    I think it just because we know more and have heard all the horror stories.

    I'm sure you'll be fine and everything will go smoothly.

    If you want to PM me and we can compare notes as we are having similar surgeries (i'm having ALIF L5/S1), i'll be happy to try and keep calm with you.
  • Its good to know i am not the only nervous one out here. I have 3 weeks to go (8/31/09)I am having fusion l4-s1 from the back is what they said. I have to much time to think about it. I hope achradiology and immyali will post post op. I hope you feel up to it. I will be looking for your progress, and praying for a smooth surgery and recovery. PM me if you want, i think comparing progress will be interesting since we are each about a week apart.
  • as achradiology and I are having the anterior approach ie. through the front so it would be interesting to compare recovery for different entry points for lack of a better word.
    Although, we're all probably a bit different in our injuries and you're having two levels done.
  • You will fine ok :) It's a very daunting thought but honestly you wont know anything about it because you will be asleep, and it seems like only a second after you go to sleep afor you are waking up in the recovery room. :) . I were same as you and then i had a good stern word with myself and simply told myself to stop worrying because i wasn,t helping myself and quite simply i felt a lot better after that. A calm sort of serenity come over me and i got no more real nerves after that, and i ended up having to comfort my worried family more than them me..lol.
    I had my 360 solid fusion S-L5-L4, with dynesys too just six days ago, i were home next day and am now running my family ragged with requests for cups o tea, toast , coffee etc . I have an extension telephone to the kitchen that they have nick named 'The bat phone' :D. The pain is only moderate now so long as i don't do anything silly , and all in all it is nothing like as bad as i thought it would be. Just tell yourself to relax, and start to look forward to your op because as soon as its done, you can start to heal and look forward to getting your life back again.:)

  • Ooops... edited because i posted same post twice.
  • Thanks so much everyone for the kind words and the info. I'm still nervous but it is nice to know I've now come across others who have already went through this or who are about to. Anyone who has offered...if I see that you are online, I will PM you. Please do the same with me. Not much to report right now. I am donating my second and final unit of autologous blood Thursday. Yes, one of these days I am going to have to just suck it up and get rid of all this worrying. Thanks again so far and I look forward to continuing to check out this board.
  • I'm glad that you have received words of comfort. To tell you the truth, I acted like such a baby when I went in for my ESI, I was ashamed to act up again (even though it was in a different hospital, lol). Actually, I was too ignorant to get too nervous. I didn't know anything about the surgery except that the incision would be in the front. I had way more discomfort from my hysterectomy! I thought that I would have about a six week recovery and be on my way. I actually felt fine after my L5/S1 ALIF and had to remind myself of the restrictions. I still have to remind myself, 2 months out. Feel free to PM if you'd like to chat.

  • is to have a positive outlook and understand what you are about to go through. The fewer surprises the better. I was unexpectedly calm before my surgery 2 weeks ago.

    I have to say that the first week was tough but not unbearable but I had my stitches removed today and I walk fairly normal already and even shopped at COSTCO after my appointment (about 1 hour). I take maybe 4 Percocet (5/325) a day for the last week and walk about 2 miles a day.

    Bottom line is trust your "mechanics" to do their job then you get to start your job (recovery). I think that the hardest part is keeping from twisting, bending, lifting, etc.

    You WILL do fine! I would wish you good luck but all you need are good surgeons and the belief that you have all of the knowledge you need prior to the surgery.
  • Met with the Gen./Vasc. surgeon yesterday. Very, very comforting and reassuring. He really explained things and made me feel quite at ease. One of the biggest surprises...no stitches or staples! At least not on the outside. Said he uses dissolving sutures on the inside and then "super-glue" to close the skin incision. Fabulous! Granted, I'm still nervous, but am just about ready to tackle this and get moving forward again.
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