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Had both neck and lumbar surgery within 7 months.

UrbanspriteUUrbansprite Posts: 22
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Long time reader, first time caller, so to speak. I’ve had a few really bad years, and have read parts of this site in my efforts to climb back to some semblance of a normal life. I finally feel that I’ve reached a point where I can type about what happened to me rationally, thought I can’t promise that it will read that way.

I am a 37 year old woman. In spring 2008, when I was 35, a man tackled me, for lack of a better word. He was drunk, out of control, and acting like a fool. He slammed me down on my head and then landed on top of me, crushing my back. I thought the pain in my shoulder that commenced shortly after was bursitis. It hurt so badly that I couldn’t move. I was taking Advil by the fist-full to manage the pain.

Shortly after that, I started wondering why it was taking so long for a pulled glut muscle to heal and what I was doing that seemed to make it get worse, with pain traveling down my leg.

I went to see an orthopedic surgeon regarding my glut in August 2008. After x-rays, a steroid pack that had no effect and an MRI, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at L5/S1. At first, the verdict was no surgery. I took SOMA muscle relaxer at night, Daypro anti-inflammatory to get through the day, Vicodin when the pain got just too crazy, and had three spinal epidural/steroid shots. By February 2009, I realized that I was starting to feel a bit better, so I tried to take myself off the Daypro and make do with Advil since all of the drugs I was on had begun to affect my work performance.

Almost immediately, my arm began to feel like it was going to fall off. The radiating pain was excruciating. My hand started with maddening prickles before I lost feeling in my fingers altogether. I called my doctor, I was sent for another MRI, and sure enough – two severely herniated discs in my neck, which had been masked by all of the drugs I was taking for my back.

So, this man who decked me popped out three discs in my spine – two in my neck and one in my lumbar. I have never had spine issues in the past, no signs of disc degenerative disease. All of this because a man was a fool.

The orthopedic surgeon that I had been seeing referred me to a specialist in spine surgery. He told me, gravely, that surgery on my cervical spine was not elective. My disc at 6-7 was impinging on my spinal cord so severely that if I fell or was hit or had an accident, I could die. Several of the slices of my MRI were completely black where there should have been some image of white reflecting my spinal cord. The decision was made to fuse 5-6 as well, as that disc was also severely herniated and would get worse once 6-7 was locked into place. Surgery was scheduled early as possible in March 2009.

It went well, as has the recovery. A little more than a year out, and I’m pleased with the results. Every now and then, I’ll turn my neck in a way that it just doesn’t turn any more, and sparks of pain will shoot. But the overall pain relief is amazing and I’m grateful to my surgeon for doing such a great job.

The hardest part of the neck surgery itself may have been the days before. My surgeon required that I go off all NSAIDs for 10 days prior to my surgery date. That was 10 days of not only my arm feeling like it was going to fall off, but my lumbar and leg being in agony as well. In fact, my lumbar and leg probably hurt more than my arm as I went in for surgery on my cervical spine.

The same surgeon looked at my MRIs for my lumbar and sent me for new ones. He reached a different conclusion than the first orthopedic surgeon that I saw. He said that my L5/S1 wasn’t herniated – it was completely blown out. A flat tire, and the only way that I was going to find relief for it without taking heavy drugs daily was surgery. I sought another opinion, which confirmed my spine surgeon’s flat tire diagnosis. At this point, my work situation was getting crazy and I was getting a lot of push back about my work performance and schedule, missed time, etc. The decision was made to have the lumbar surgery as soon as possible so that I could just label 2009 as my really bad year work-wise and try to move forward. My surgeon also advised that the pain would just get worse as time passed, as well as the risk of residual nerve pain post-op.

So, in October 2009, seven months after my cervical spine surgery, I went in for fusion surgery on my L5/S1. He went in through my back, used plastic cages and titanium instrumentation. Recovery from this surgery has been considerably slower. I’m seven months out. Some days I feel absolutely great. Others, I am scared out of my mind because something hurts or doesn’t feel right. In fact, as I type this, I am praying that the pain I feel in my butt is a pulled glut from physical therapy/cardio and not something that’s caused swelling to increase around the surgical zone, or god forbid, another disc issue. My doctor’s advice has been that things will hurt as I start to get active again, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with the surgical site or another disc. If the pain goes away after a little while, it’s nothing to worry about. If it persists, he’ll send me for another MRI to see what’s going on.

After all of the x-rays and MRIs (four so far) that I’ve had, I’m amazed that I don’t glow in the dark.

I’m hoping that as I continue to get back into shape and lose the weight that I’ve put on from basically being inactive after the guy decked me in April 2008, and really out of commission for 6 months of last year recovering from theses surgeries, that the bad days will stop, or at least, I’ll be less paranoid about them. My biggest fear is that with fusions in both my neck and my lumbar, the reduced flexibility of my spine and the way in which it absorbs pressure (or doesn’t) will result in another disc herniation/blow out, and another surgery. That said, all in all, both surgeries were worth it. No regrets on that front. Trying to stay positive, not get too angry, and keep moving forward – which again, is something for which I have good and bad days.

So that’s my story. I guess I felt like I should share it since I’ve read so many of yours while dealing with my issues over the last several years. Thanks.


  • As you know this is a great place and it was nice to finally get to read your story too. Sounds like it's been a long hard road for you. But the end is in sight.

    Sounds like you are right on course for recovery. Seems like the lower you get in the back the harder the recovery is.

    Keep us posted on the rest of your recovery. And keep away from those drunk guys!!
  • You are an amazingly strong woman! It sounds like you are on your way to getting your life back!

    I know the future is scarey. Your PT can be key to teaching different body mechanics to use for the rest of your life to reduce the strain and workload to your remaining discs. The key is to make them a part of your daily life! I'm working on that!

    A similiar thing happened to me 16 years ago! I'm little and petite. A friend of a friend in his drunkenness picked me up. As he lost his balance he fell and I was dropped on my head~literally.

    I was taken to the ER and thankfully a reknown neurosurgeon was there. I had a subdural hematoma, a central spinal cord injury, a fractured skull,and a concusion.
    I was in the hospital for several days, a neck brace, etc, etc,.

    The person who did this, tranfered his money into a hidden account. As the months went by, I chose to stop the lawsuite and it was just too much! I was trying to get my life back and that is where I had to focus....

    I did get my life back. I was able to have a baby, although my body struggled to carry her. And after that, I couldn't carry another. But I have her!

    You are not alone in this! God has given you many skills through this that you will use in the years to come!

    Thank you for sharing your story! You are amazing!

  • You have been through an awful 2 years, but hopefully are on the way to an improved life again.
    The fact that you have posted your story has probably helped you to move forward in the recovery.

    There are an amazing bunch of people here, who will truly understand your pain and frustrations with your back and neck problems.
    Recovering from all this will be hard, both physically and emotionally, but we will support you and are always here to listen :-)

    Glad you have joined us.
  • Wow, you have had quite a tough road.
    I won't even ask about any legal stuff but it sounds like it's just been quite an ordeal.

    I'm glad to hear you are doing ok and am actually quite amazed at how strong you are!

    The lumbar is expected to be a slower recovery from what I've heard from my doctors. Again, I've not experienced it myself but from what folks have told me (patients and doctors), I understand lumbar fusions are much more complex surgery b/c your lower spine does carry most of the body's "load".

    Keep your positive attitude and appreciation for "patience" in recovery. If you are in the US, you should be protected by FMLA if your HR department handled it properly. If they did not, then you need to file a claim to protect you for 16 weeks (federally) and some states actually protect you for longer.

    I wish you well and glad you decided to share your story.
  • Thanks for the welcomes and the kind words of support. It does seem like people don't understand what it is like to live with the pain, complications, and frustrations of spine injuries unless they've experienced it. I can't count the number of times that someone in the office has looked at me and said, "but you look okay" and failed to understand the roller coaster involved in recovering from something like this.

    Never mind the exhaustion.

    Never mind the crazy drugs it took for me to be able to get out of bed and to the office before the surgeries.

    Never mind the 10 screws, 4 bolts, 2 rods, 2 plastic cages containing pieces of my spine that were cut out and ground into a paste, 1 plate bound across 3 of my vertebrae, and 2 pieces of cadaver bone that are now holding my spine together in two places.

    Never mind the pain, about which the only certain thing is that it will be there, at variable degrees.

    And this idea that fusion surgery is a cure -- as if you're going to be good as new after procedures that invasive, leaving hardware screwed into your bones, after more than a year of straight pain, and 8-10 weeks of post-op recovery. Like the surgeries make everything better. Like your entire life hasn't been changed.

    I know I'm preaching to the choir here, and it has been great to read other people's stories. I really appreciate your positive comments in response to my post. Jayhawk, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm trying really really (REALLY) hard not to focus on how angry I am and how unfair all of this is, and as you say, focus on getting my life back. I hope that I'm able to stay as positive as you seem to be after everything you've been through, and have similarly wonderful experiences :)

    Take care, good night, and thanks again to all of you.
  • You are still so early in your recovery! 2 fusions in 7 months! You are amazing!!

    It will get better ~ emotionally! I was very angry when this happened to me. This guy left me laying in the street. He ran off! I used to think about what I would say to him if I ever saw him again! It took well over a year for me to get back to my life, return to work.

    1 year after that I did see him again. Boy did I have alot to say! After that, I had to just let it go!

    My family on the other hand.....they are still angry.

    We are here for you! To listen, share ideas and just to vent to!

    This week has been a difficult week for me emotionally. I don't know what I would do without my spiney friends! They carried me through this week.
    And we will be here for you too!

    Hang in there! You are amazingly strong! sending a gentle cyper hug your way!
  • I too had two fusions in a few months. My cervical fusion went very well and most days I don't realize it was done. I did have trouble with nerve pain afterwards, but that has resolved. I'm still having trouble with my back fusion, and in fact have bony overgrowth there causing stenosis. I will be seeing my NS soon after going through 3 more ESIs.

    Good to have you here. It sounds like you are moving right along.

    Best wishes,

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