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Surgery Day after Tomorrow!

dlbettsddlbetts Posts: 16
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Ok, I'm TERRIFIED of this surgery. I am having a lumbar fusion at L4/L5/S1. I don't know all the fancy acronyms yet, so bare with me! I have a high grade 3 spondylolisthesis that I've known about for a while. I don't have excruciating pain all day every day, but I am uncomfortable most days. On days the pain is bad, it's bad. I also have weird nerve issues. My legs feel like they want to fall asleep and they get tingly.

Anywho, I need any advice, help, reassurance that you can offer! I have the suggested list for post-op/recovery which I am eternally grateful for.

I've read of others experiences and I guess I just need my own response. My two hugest concerns are 1) waking up screaming bc of the pain and 2) the thought of a catheter freaks me out.

Of all weeks, my pain hasn't been that bad but I am scared that I will wake up with all this new "stuff" and fresh incision and be screaming.

I would greatly appreciate any help or advice you can offer me. I only slept 2 hours last night bc this is all my mind will focus on! Surgery is Thursday!

Thank you!!!


  • Welcome to Spine-Health. By the end of your recovery, trust me, you'll be an expert on the spine like we all are. LOL

    I understand how terrifying spine surgery is. I've had a 3-lvl ACDF and am scheduled for my first lumbar surgery, TLIF, in early January.

    Don't be scared of the catheter. I'd be more scared of NOT having it and having to get up a gazillion times a night to go to the bathroom. LOL

    I can't tell you about how you'll feel afterwards and not just because I have no experience, but because everyone is different. Just be sure to let the nurses know if the pain medications aren't working. Make sure they know when you're hurting or uncomfortable so they can take steps to get you there.

    Try and keep yourself calm by diverting your attention to movies, games, or whatever you can. Deep breaths help as does good music and aromatherapy.

    Although this probably won't help you at all right now, a lot of members have said (myself included) that the anticipation is worse than the surgery itself. Before my ACDF a friend of mine said something that was very simple but something that I never realized: A little while after you get to the hospital, they put you to sleep and the next thing you know, you're in your room and it's all over. For some reason, that thought really comforted me. I won't be tense for the hours during surgery like my loved ones - I'll be having sweet dreams (or just resting very solidly).

    Take care and I'm wishing you a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

  • I would be surprised if you were to wake up screaming in pain. Hospitals are good at keeping the patient comfortable. My lumbar fusion was my first surgery ever and I was in my 50s! I was terrified as well, mainly of the anesthetic, but all was well, and they kept me comfortable.

    I was very worried about two things: one was the catheter and the other was my hair. I turned out to be happy to have the catheter. It turned out to be just another tube coming out of my body and for the first twelve hours I wasn't even aware of it being there...I was pretty much out of it. I also had an IV line in my arm and a drain in my back, so one more line wasn't noticeable!! It was convenient in that I didn't have to worry about having to get up and drag all the other stuff with me to the bathroom. By the time they removed the catheter I was better able to deal with it and had been walking with the PT several times. I can assure you it is no big deal -- I didn't even notice it was there.

    Regarding my hair, I had so many other things occupying my mind that I never gave it a thought. I'm sure this varies greatly from person to person, but I was kept fairly heavily medicated and was fairly uncaring about anything.

    Just be prepared to be uncomfortable for awhile. The first week is tough but it gets better after that.

    I really hope the surgery will help you and that you will have an uneventful recovery. Try not to panic at this point. Find the activities you like to do that help you calm down...and try to relax. Maybe listening to your favorite music... or if you do yoga or something like that, get in a comfy position and practice some deep breathing.

    They make wonderful CDs that I imagine are downloadable that are designed for relaxation, stress reduction and there is even one designed to prepare for surgery -- all designed to focus on the positive and lessen the stress. Something like that might help you to relax.

    I think you have to adopt the attitude that you have done what you can to prepare for surgery. You have selected a surgeon that you respect and trust...and now things will be in his or her hands. You cannot change the outcome in any way by being nervous or stressed or anxious.

    Good luck. Hopefully it will all be over soon and you will be well on the way to a complete recovery.

  • Thank you both so far for your comments and words of wisdom. It really does help to hear not just a sugar coated version of what to expect, but the honest truth as you have experienced it. I am hopeful that I will have a good recovery. I'm not a smoker and I was very active and am pretty healthy. Although this week's extra stress and preparation has made me a little nutty, I'm trying to stay positive.

    Thanks again!
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    The catheter will actually be a blessing. You can intake fluids while it's in and not have to worry about getting out of bed to use the bathroom! The only drawback is that often while it is in you will feel as if you must go to the bathroom - but that's just a bit of irritation as the catheter sits in your body.

    As for pain, be sure to let the staff know when you hurt and how much. The toughest part is when you hurt, they give you a shot or up your IV meds, and it takes a bit for it to take effect.

    I assume they are going in from your back? If so that's a PLIF as it's a "posterior lumbar interbody fusion" and I'm guessing you'll have hardware (rods and screws as well).

    A few weeks after you are discharged as the sugical facility for your operative report. Just a good thing to have for your own records.

    Let us know if during recovery you have any questions!
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • The catheter is no big deal...really!! In fact, I didn't want them to take it out, because I had some previous bladder surgery, and was fearful that I would have some difficulty in that department. I actually don't even remember feeling that it was in my bladder at all.

    Still, it is normal to have concerns, fears and anxiety. I am 22 days post-op, and will tell you that the pre-op, operating room and recovery was a wonderful experience. Everyone there took amazing care of me; they do this job everyday, and have it down to a science.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you...and very hopeful that yours goes as well.

  • I just lost a full page that I typed for you, don't know how that happened. Oh well I'll try this again. My surgery was 9 months ago & just today had my 9 month post op appt. My spine is 90% fused & am released from the Doc's care. I'm doing the happy dance here. :)

    Back last March when I was being wheeled into the surgical rm. I was thinking to myself. {Am I doing the right thing}? I was scared to death & all I could think of was my 13 yr. old son. I prayed & knew I needed to get this done.

    My surgery went well, I was in surgery 2 hours longer than anticipated since they had a lot of arthritis to scrape off my spine. So the overall surgery took over 5 hours. I was in the hospital for 5 days & didn't get out of bed {with help} till the second day after surgery. I don't remember getting up but my hubby said two therapists got me up for a few minutes to stand and walk a few steps & then back to bed.

    My husband was able to be home & do the cooking & laundry since my laundry is in the basement I couldn't do it. I also didn't cook for about a month. This is just how it was for me & everyone is different. I used a walker for about 2 to 3 weeks, but I didn't venture out anywhere till my first Doc's. appt. which was 2 weeks after surgery I believe.

    My recovery was long & I won't sugar coat it, but luckily we have very good pain med's these days. They sure helped. My hubby had to help me to shower & get dressed. I was very happy that I did the aqua therapy & land therapy 3 months after surgery. That was so helpful in getting my muscles back to what they should be. Not to mention I lost a fair amount of weight. :)

    As I said everyone is different, you have to take age into consideration. I'm betting I'm older than you. The type of surgery, the surgeon etc. it all makes a difference in your recovery. Make sure to do everything your Doc. says. Don't over-do-it!!!!!!!!
    Take it a day at a time & you will do wonderful.

    I wish you the best sweetie. Good luck.
    I'll be looking for your post to tell us how you do.

  • but things should go fairly smoothly. Most hospitals have very good care. My first surgery was more complicated than they expected and I had to have a second. I actually wasn't all that uncomfortable when I woke up from my first surgery, and I was also very grateful for the catheter. Believe me, with the medications they give you, you really won't care that you have one. It's really nice to know you don't have to get up and down all the time to go to the bathroom. Admittedly, I did wake screaming from my second surgery. I ended up in the care of Nurse Ratchet, which was basically no care at all, till my friend showed up at the hospital. You'll be a lot better off if you have a friend or family member there to make sure things go smoothly.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Thank you thank you thank you for all of your wonderful words! I do feel a great deal better knowing that I will be okay.

    Jellyhall- My mom never had surgery. She refused despite the pleadings of all of her doctors. She now has 5 different back problems and is just starting spinal injections. Her first one did not go so well- she ended up with more pain in her hip. She was a big part of my decision to go through with it even though she really didn't want me to. My thinking behind my decision is that 1) I can't end up like that and 2) what happens if it gets worse during pregnancy?

    SpineAZ- Thank you for clarifying the acronyms :) I know I am not having an interbody fusion. My doc told me that he isn't really correcting my problem, since I have grown with this problem for many years. He is going to clear the bone away from the affected nerves, use donor bone on each side of my spine, and lock it into place with the hardware. He is only going in from the back too. (At least I know that much)

    Again, thank you for responding! I am looking into relaxation cds and brain frequency stuff for pain control too. I also thought about looking into self hypnosis. I want to be ready for anything :)
  • Hi there,

    I ended up in the ER back in August b/c I couldn't get out of bed. Darn it if I didn't try all day but after 10 hours (+ 7 hours night sleep) not only was I stillin pain, I had to go to the bathroom.

    Aside from not wanting to go in the ambulance, my other fear was the catheder. I couldn't get up to pee. In the 17 hours I had maybe trinkled a small portion of what was in me.

    When I got to the ER, I tried a bed pan and was just in so much pain, I couldn't go. I cried at the thought of a catheder .. .but to my surprise, it wasn't a big deal and quite frankly gave me one less thing to worry about. So, that being said, I don't know about fusions but I do know a catheder is not scary at all. I think it's the thought that is scary.

    You will be fine in that department.
    As for the pain . . .I think they will watch you very closely. Just be honest with your pain levels. They base the meds and your release on whether or not you feel your pain is being managed well.

    Positive thoughts, peaceful music, and if you have a dog . . .snuggle, dogs are very calming!
  • Good luck to you, mine is scheduled for 2:30 pm. I am full of anxiety. At times I think I am going to have a heart attack. I had my pre-op today and it is a go. I will think of you.
  • I have to add something else. :) I have to tell you I had some med's that worked super duper good. I had my surgery on March 4th & when my 20 yr. old nephew came to visit me in the hospital, the day after surgery {which I don't remember} I told him "Happy Halloween".
    Believe me, I wasn't feeling any pain!!! I did & said a few other things that totally surprised me LOL. I honestly feel if you want the pain med's they are going to give them to you providing you are in pain.

    I didn't know I had a catheter, they put it in during or after surgery while I was still under.

    Good Luck to you,
  • I totally understand your fear of this surgery.
    I am also very scared of this prospect and am trying desperately to avoid it.
    Grade 3 is a big slip and it will need to be fused. Hopefully that will take care of it and any nerve irritation, then, after your recovery, you'll be able to get on with your life. You look young, and will hopefully make a full and speedy recovery.
    I'll be thinking of you and look forward to hearing how you get on once you are able to post on here again after surgery.
    You mention that your mom has the same problem. Did she have surgery also?

    Take care.
  • I think you are right to have surgery. Your age will mean that your healing and recovery should be good. Also, if you intend to have children, a pregnancy would really cause problems with your high grade slip. I was told that it was amazing that I had carried 3 pregnancies and not been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. Apparently, if it hasn't been diagnosed by the beginning of the pregnancy, then generally the weight and forward load of the pregnancy will show it up. I did have pain and sciatica while I was pregnant, but I just thought that is what everyone felt like!

    Hope that all goes well and that you will be on the road to recovery very soon.
  • Hi I am a bit late to this, but I had the same concerns as you did. I was terrified I'd wake up in surgery screaming in pain, and I was petrified of the catheter. My L4/5 fusion was my very first time having surgery. Let me just tell you.... you definitely wont wake up screaming in pain. You may hurt when you wake up, but you won't be screaming. You will be on pain medication and your pain will be intense but manageable. As for the catheter, I did not feel them insert mine since they did it when I was 'under', but I was awake when they removed it. It does not hurt one bit. In fact, I'm SO glad I had a catheter because imagine trying to get up and pee right after surgery! In my opinion, ask them to keep the catheter in until you feel ready to get up and out of bed to pee.

    I hope your surgery goes smoothly. Please post and let us know how you're doing asap!
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