My 1st back surgery was in Aug of 2007. Prior to this surgery I had suffered with back & leg pain for 3 years. After trying conservative measures to try and alleviate the pain, I was referred to a neurosurgeon and eventually had spinal fusion surgery of L5, S1. I was out of work for 3 months on temporary disability. I saw improvement in my condition on a daily basis, and for 2 years I had felt the best I've felt in a long time.
Fast forward to August 2009... I was feeling great, I had no restriction. I was working full time as a staff nurse at a community hospital on their Observation Unit. One day while at work I had just finished making a pot of coffee, I bent over to return some coffee creamers to the refrigerator I immediately felt a sharp pain, the worst pain I’ve felt in several years. I felt like I was struck by a lightning bolt. I went to my supervisor, filled out an incident report, and then went to employee health; they referred me to the Emergency Department. The ER Dr told me all the hardware “looked good” and that it was probably a “pulled muscle”. However, Lumbar spine X-ray had revealed that the titanium hardware in my back was not intact and had fractured in several areas. CT scan also revealed that only part of the fusion had taken. For some reason it had bonded to the L5 vertebra but not S1. 2 months later , October 21, 2009, I would have a second surgery; anterior & posterior fusion, removal of old hardware, implant new hardware, and revise the fusion. The surgery took 13 hours.
My Dr said he has never in his 19 yrs of practice had a patient that has experienced this (failed hardware & fusion) before. He is unable to answer why only part of my fusion had taken and not the other. He did inform me that the fusion was eventually to be stronger that the titanium rods & screws and that I believe. I do not have the old hardware as a morbid souvenir, but I do have all of my films. There is something that is concerning me and causing me to have sleepless nights when I dwell on it. I don’t know how to approach my Doctor with my concerns without offending him. After my 1st surgery I had an L spine x-ray done 3 months post op. During my convalescence following surgery, as I mentioned I was seeing progress daily I felt great, the best in a long time. I had over extended my self one day while reaching for a pair of socks and felt a "pop" in my back (This was late October, early November, 2-3 months after surgery). I immediately called my Doctor. He told me that, “If I could have seen the hardware in my back and the time spent securing the device while in the O.R., he could have hung me from the rafters, that’s how strong & secure they (the hardware) are”. “That stuffs not going anywhere”. He felt it was probably a facet joint and wasn't too concerned but would do an x ray to be sure, and planned on doing a CT scan at 6 months post-op. I felt confident in his assessment. He ordered a standard PA & lateral view x-ray of the lumbar spine that was completed in November 2007. There was one view that was kind of offset and not very clear, but you could see the hardware.
At the time I didn't think much of it....
Fast forward to my August of '09 x-ray and you can clearly see a screw that has pulled through the rod and another screw that was completely snapped in half. When I compare this 8/09 x-ray to the 11/07 x-ray it looks like one of the screws may have pulled through the rod, but no mention of it on the official radiology report. The CT scan I had done in September 2009 did not mention any broken hardware either but there obviously was, and neither did my 6 month post-op CT scan mention any hardware malfunction.
October 24th, 2009 I was discharged from the hospital. I'm home now on temporary disability following the 2nd surgery (why it was not processed through workman’s compensation I don’t know since the injury happened while at work). I am currently out of work for 3 months. The pain I have this time is a lot different compared to the pain following the 1st surgery. I feel the pain in; my back, my groin, my hips, my legs, my feet, my buttocks. It is not all of the time, and not always severe. [And] sometimes it's just a dull ache, other times it's a severe, sharp, stabbing, debilitating pain that will take your breath away. I am contemplating filing a lawsuit for the first time in my life to further investigation into why the hardware had failed and why only part of the fusion took after the 1st surgery. My guess is that when I heard a “pop” back in 2007, it was the screw head pulling out of the rod and it had off set the fusion at the L5-S1 level and that is why only part of the fusion had taken and not the other. I am also concerned that now as a result of having had to have a 2nd surgery will I now have to endure a life time of back pain and limitations.
I have a wife, 3 kids, a dog, 1 motorcycle, 2 cars, & a mortgage. We love our life together and our current lifestyle. If disability is in my future this will more than certainly change things for us. I am not looking for permanent disability. I want to work. I have never filed a lawsuit. Frankly, going to court kind of scares me. I like my Doctor. He made me pain free after 3 years of suffering with excruciating back & leg pain. After the first surgery his office called and asked me if I would talk to some of his patients who were reluctant to have spinal fusion surgery, and since I was doing so well, I was more than happy to do so. I never want anyone to have to suffer the way I did. To me he was a miracle worker. I felt it was the least I could do. Was I wrong? Did the radiologist miss something on the x-ray? Did my Doctor miss something on the x-ray? The ER Doctor missed what was obvious to me. We are all human and make mistakes. Is this one that I will have to endure for the rest of my life? Do I have a right to compensation for pain & suffering? How much would be fair? I would give anything not to have to be going through this. One surgery was enough for me (so I thought).
If 99.9% is good enough, then . . .
12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.
114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped/year.
18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled/hour.
2,000,000 documents will be lost by the IRS this year.
2.5 million Books will be shipped with the wrong covers.
Two planes landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport will be unsafe every day.
315 entries in Webster's dictionary will be misspelled.
20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year.
880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect
cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly during the year.
5.5 million Cases of soft drinks produced will be flat.
291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly.
3,056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the