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advice or suggestions

factoryratffactoryrat Posts: 106
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I had a 360 L4-S1 fusion w/ instrumentation on 1-20-10. I had been suffering with back pain and problems w/ my left leg. I do appreciate what my surgeon did for me. He told me he could fix the leg problems, but could not guarantee that my back pain would be resolved. I have done everything that I could to insure a good outcome. I try to walk an hour a day, even if I cannot do it all at one time. I also have PT 3 times a week for at least an hour. I am on my second PT script, as the therapist felt I needed more therapy. I can only get 5 degrees flexion and extension, but my side to side is better.

At my last visit to my surgeon on 6-10-10 my x-ray looked great! It was hard to tell where my bone ended and where the fusion began. I told the surgeon that I still was having back pain. My back pain is not much different from what I experienced prior to my surgery. I have had a few moments of mild radiating pain in my leg, but for the most part nothing like the pain and feeling of weakness I experienced before my surgery. Unfortunately, I felt the same painful sensation in my leg on 6-8-10. That morning I got up and poured a cup of coffee and went outside to walk around my flower beds. Every step with my left leg radiated pain like before my surgery. This really made me feel horrible, mentally. I have worked so hard, I was concerned with the back pain, but this totally took me by surprise. For one thing I do not understand how this could happen. My hardware is textbook perfect, and I have already mentioned how good my fusion was progressing. My surgeon said he too was at a loss to explain how this could happen. He gave me a script for volteran and made an appointment to see me on 7-15-10 as I have to resubmit my paperwork to my employer if I am going to be out beyond 7-20-10, which will be 6 months.

I have a great PM doctor. He has been my biggest advocate since I have been having back problems. He had cautioned me that I might regret surgery. He had told me he would support me, and that he would not abandon me as far as dealing with my pain. He has been very honest with me about my situation. He unfortunately is very busy and I only see him @ every 3 months. He has mentioned disability to me, prior to my surgery. I made the choice to take a chance with the surgery mostly because my quality of life has diminished so much over the past few years.

I have a very good job that I enjoy, unfortunately it is very physical and involves a lot of heavy lifting and long hours standing and walking. I am also not supposed to take narcotics at work. I have been taking narcotics for the past year or two. Currently I am taking oxycodone, oxycontin, lyrica, flexeril, celebex, and volteran. I have to use ice after every Pt appointment. I also use a tens unit, a heating pad, and a hot tub, and my wife messages my back also. I cannot seem to do any thing physical, without paying the price in pain(i.e. gardening, laundry, vacuuming or even sex).

If you made it this far I thank you! I am hoping I can solicit some advice from anyone who has gone down this road. My benefit representative at work suggested that I need to file for SSDI immediately. He said it could cost me if I did not. I have not yet, mostly because my situation is different from most others in my union/plant. I work in an automotive assembly plant, and it is a extremely physical line of work. If I cannot return to work I would have to sell our home and move back home. We are in K.C. but we have no family up here for support. Our family lives on the Tennessee/Alabama state line. I am not even sure how long I could keep up on the house payments. I did not see this coming and my LTD is quite a bit smaller than my 40 hour check, not to mention the overtime I am use to. We are very close to running out of money. In fact I sold my fathers 442 just so I could have this surgery. Without the funds from the car I could not have made it this far. Don't misunderstand I am so grateful for my benefits, but I have two kid in school and I need to figure out what I have to do. my daughter just got excepted into the gifted program and I am afraid I have screwed that opportunity up for her because I am not strong enough to preserve her chance at something better than I could achieve. I wish i could get this figured out before they go back to school this September. This is very painful for me. I am so glad for my wife. We have discussed the possibility of having to go home and she would have to go back to work. she is an angel! I feel pretty bad about the whole deal. I have a decent disability retirement benefit if that is what it comes down to, it just worries me that it may be a long process and we cannot afford to stay in this house or up here if I can't go back to work. I feel like such a failure as far as being a good provider for my family. I guess as hard as it is to admit, I am a failure as far as a good provider for my family.

This has been a very hard post to write. It is only the third post that I have started. I would welcome any constructive advice or suggestions . I don't know what to do, and the not knowing is the rub, for the reasons stated above. Unfortunately I am running out of time and money. Thanks in advance for any guidance, advice, or suggestions.



  • You are not a failure. If you were you would not care about what happens to those around you.

    Does your union have any sort of program for families that need help?

    Have you looked into possibly refinancing your home at the lower interest rates?

    I wish I had more ideas for you.

  • Norm,
    I am sorry you are still feeling such pain. Truly I am. I am also sorry you are feeling like a failure because YOU ARE NOT. This is just some down time. You are only 5 months out. There is still much healing to be done. I am sure you have heard that injured nerves can take up to 18 months or more to repair themselves. There is still time.

    When I had my fusion they found the nerve stuck down to the vertebra by old scar tissue and the pains ran all the way down to my foot. It was very slim hope that it would heal. It did take almost the entire 18 months but that nerve did eventually heal the majority of itself and rarely do I have trouble out of that particular nerve. I too had a very physical job that required a lot of lifting, standing, walking and 10-12 hour days. I did not return to it until 10 months out.

    Please keep in mind that LTD does not have to be forever. I don't know all the specifics of your job and how long you can remain out on medical leave but many jobs offer a full year. Perhaps yours does as well. As far as filing for SSD. You can always start the process and then return to work and say, "Thanks but no thanks." I'm sure they would love it.

    I realize you are far away in miles from your extended family but maybe they can still be help?

    All dreams are not lost Norm. Your wife and family sound lovely and they will support you as you have supported them. You see, that is what family is all about. It's not all about financial support. Your post proves that you want to do more than support them financially. You want to make sure that you are there for them emotionally and physically as well. That you can still do. If you remain strong emotionally and physically as a family I believe you will find the means financially to make all those other dreams come true as well.

    Hang in there Norm. The road is long and hard but you can do it. Quite possibly these trials and tribulations will only make you stronger and help you appreciate where you have been and those that have helped you along the way that much more.

    You are right where you need to be right now. Believe that NORM. Hang in there.
  • I don't know anything about STD/LTD/SSDI. My back problems started after I left work to be at home with my kids. Haven't worked outside the home for over 8 years, not eligible for any financial help. I regularly have mini panic attacks when I think about having to go back to work: I worry I won't be able to find a job that won't cause me more pain/injury. These darn spine problems can create such havoc in our lives, a very large monkey wrench.

    You are blessed to have 2 great kids and such a supportive spouse. Not all spineys have that support (thankfully my husband is very supportive). In no way should you feel like a failure. You did not ask for this to happen, and you have been very proactive in your recovery.

    Maybe moving in with family could be a good thing, if it comes to that. Extra love and support for you and your family. More time for your kids to spend with grandparents, etc. Of course, I don't know your family, so I am just assuming here. As for your wife: she sounds like an absolute gem! That is what marriage is about, supporting each other in good times and bad. You are blessed to have her, but I'm sure you already know that.

    I hope I was helpful in some small way. We are always around if you need to chat or vent, sometimes just getting your thoughts and feelings out there and have others respond to you can make a difference.

    I sincerely hope things will work out for you, take care,


  • Norm you have some hard decisions to make. So get some more facts before doing that. First I would call your mortgage company. In person would be best. If you go to them first they can do alot to help. It's the ones who just stop paying that have problems. And I'm sure even if you decide to move it will take some time to sell so you need their help.

    You need to figure out what it would cost you to stay where you are and what it would cost to go back to your relatives. Unless you can live with someone it might not be much different. Also where would it be easier for your wife to get work?

    If it is better to move back then check with the school there. See if they would put your daughter in their honors program. Kids are very resilient.

    You might also want to see if the company has any counceling service for this. Usually they do under the EAP program. Not sure why you want to wait to file for SSDI. From what you describe it doesnt sound like you are going back to that job. It's hard but we need to accept the changes that come to us. Don't waste time looking back.. the future has so much to offer.

    And remember to thank your wife everyday for standing with you. She sounds like a gem.
  • I first of all want to say that you are a good man for caring about your family! Second, I want to say that I totally understand what you are saying. My husband was a laborer for 18 years, and was union. He had to stop working, and he had a spinal fusion. The fusion didn't work at all for him. He had to apply for ssd, and thank the lord that we did get it. He was our family support. We had a very rough time before we got help, but we got through it.

    I would strongly suggest that you apply for ssd as soon as you can. You need to have a lot of proof of your disability to get this. For some it is a very long, hard road to wait for them to approve you. We had a long wait. It was well worth it though. You are no less of a man because you can't do the things you used to do. My husband went through a lot of hard times after his surgery. If you start to feel depressed at any time, you do need to get the help of a doctor. I am here if you need to talk! I do know how hard it is. My husband, and I both have "bad backs".
  • I've not been in touch for a while. I'm glad you're past surgery and on the healing end of things.

    Great advice here! Such good people.

    One more thing to think about: Before moving in with family (if you do) make sure you have access to another good PM doc. Review all access to the specialist you need.

  • Norm
    I was an electrician in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for 25 years. I injured my back (not at work) in September of 2008. I continured to work until February of 2009 and then could not do it anymore. I had been laid off so I collected for a while. But then the money stopped. I was living off of my IRA, with 10% penalty and taxes taken out. I applied for Social Security Disability in January 2010. I used a good lawyer and I was very lucky because it only took 3 1/2 MONTHS for SSDI to be approved. Everyone told me it could take up to 2 years and expect to be turned down at least once.
    If you can't work, you can't work! Find a good SSDI lawyer and get started! They get 25% of the settlement and are paid directly out of your settlement, no money up front.

    Good luck!

  • All I can add is what I've learned in how to manage my chronic neck and back pain over the last 20+ years.
    Pain killers help a lot, but don't usually stop all of the pain so you are always in some pain whether awake or or sleeping.
    If you take stronger doses to be pain free you probably couldn't work, and it would be hard on your kidneys etc.
    So, you will not be sleeping well, and your body will never be able to fully relax and rebuild as it should during sleep.
    On top of this is the worry of it all.
    This all adds up to a huge amount of stress and muscle tension, as your body goes into 'fight' mode just to cope with living.
    That then results in extreme muscle tension, and that can cause the most awful pain. That was my problem.
    You many not be able to relieve the stress's that you face, but there are some things that you can do to repair your muscles so that their pain component can be removed from the equation.
    In my case, that was about 90%.
    Muscle problems are very common, probably affecting everybody to some extent, yet the medical profession seems to ignore them, and concentrate on surgical or drug treatments only.
    Keep up the massages, daily if possible. You would be better with a trained masseuse who can tease out the knots, rather than just rub sore muscles.
    i have been having remedial massage every 2-3 weeks for over a year, giving me my first true relief from muscle pain.
    I have now found something even better, and it may work for you also.
    I take 1 teaspoonful of Magnesium Oil (chloride) in a large bottle of water every day, and the result has been amazing.
    I can now go 4-5 weeks between massages, and may be able to go more.
    It took about a week or so to have an effect, but there is no doubting its benefits.
    Have a read about it. You can also get powders and tablets, but the oil is the best and fastest. Rub it into the skin, or drink.
    Start off with very small amounts to test for any reaction.
    Start here: http://www.gtp.com.au/lakecrystal/inewsfiles/magnesium_oil.pdf
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