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Trying not to panic! Surgery set 11/11.

stormy742sstormy742 Posts: 14
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello Everyone,

As you can probably guess, I am new to the forum. I am a 36 yr. old mom of 4 children with a wonderful husband. I am also a chronic back pain sufferer. I have DDD, grade II isthmic spondylolisthesis at L5/S1 and my spine is 'unstable'. I have more good days than bad. I have seen numerous doctors and specialists. I finally went to a spinal specialist surgeon in May of this year. He told me then that I would need surgery but I chickened out and felt I could live with the pain.

I finally had to breakdown in Oct. and go back to the surgeon to find out if there were any other options. He told me I had two options - live in pain or have the surgery. I am set to have PLIF w/instrumentation on 11/11. I have every confidence in this surgeon. He's explained the procedure, post-surgical info, and answered all my questions. I feel I am as informed as I can be on the 'technical' end of things.

However, I am terrified! How did that happen?! I know how badly I hurt now, how I have to have help walking/getting out of bed/getting out of sitting position, etc. now, so WHY is this so difficult? Did any of you have doubts? I'm scared that I am not prepared enough for the post-surgery things. Scared of being such a burden to others. I have so many fears. I am sure you all have read/heard this a million times! Any advice about the anxiety prior to surgery? Helpful hints/tips for post-surgery? Thanks in advance!


  • really offer you any advise as I am presently awaiting surgery (l5/s1) myself. I just wanted to wish you all the best with your upcoming surgery. Make sure to take it easy after and take things slow and let yourself be pampered early on in recovery. We will all be awaiting your updates on recovery post surgery.
    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012

  • You have found a great place to learn information and also a great place to get support from people who understand the pain and fears that you are going through.

    Have you taken a look at the useful things for post surgery, at the top of this thread? Don't be overwhelmed by it, but there are some very good ideas of items that will help you while you recover after your surgery.

    I am older than you, with 3 grown up children, but also had grade 2 isthmic spondylolisthesis at L4/L5. I had endured pain since my teenage years, but tend to be someone who 'just gets on with it'.

    Well, a few years ago, my life started to really get affected until while we were in Madrid for a long weekend, and with all the walking, by the last day, all I could do was sit in a cafe and drink coffee. I made an appointment with the doctor as soon as I got home, as I decided that there must be something wrong with my back. My doctor was amazed that I had gone through 3 pregnancies and had not been diagnosed. I did have pain, but thought that was normal during pregnancy.

    Anyway, once I realised what my problem was, and that the way to deal with it was surgery or suffer, I decided I would do everything that I was told to try to help. There was absolutely no way I was going to have spinal surgery. I was petrified of the thought!
    A couple of years later, things were getting worse and my surgeon told me if I didn't have surgery, I would end up in a wheelchair, and eventually incontinent. I had very severe stenosis. That helped me to decide!

    I was dreading the surgery and prayed for God to take care of me.
    I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I had read some very tough stories here on Spine Health about the recovery and how long it is.

    Well, I was pleasantly surprised. I had been expecting terrible pain, and it wasn't as bad as I had feared. In fact, I would say that the anticipation was worse than the actual surgery. Don't get me wrong, there was pain, but I could cope with it. The recovery has been long, with complications (transfusion, infection etc.) along the way, but now at 7 1/2 months post surgery, I am so much better than before surgery. The awful sciatica down both legs has gone. I am having some issues in my thoracic (mid) back and neck, but there were problems there before my surgery.

    If I was in a position to make the decision again, I would definately go with it.

    You will need help with you at home for the first couple of weeks, and you need to rearrange your kitchen/house with everything that you need to use, up at waist level. My hubby took a couple of weeks off work to help me. I even had a bed in the lounge for a few weeks, to use during the day, so I could be with the rest of the family. You will definately need a grabber! I didn't have a raised toilet seat, but lots say they couldn't do without one. I did have satin sheets, which helped me to turn over in bed more easily.

    If you have any other questions, do ask them. We are a very friendly bunch who will be very happy to try and help you as you prepare for this.

    While you are recovering the emotional support you will get here, will be a great help too. :H

    Looking forward to getting to know you better. :-)
  • >:D< Fear of the unknown is normal. I was so bad I had a panic attack. Try to stay calm and get some rest >:D<

  • I appreciate all the input. I am glad to know I am not the only one that has had fear of back surgery. It always helps to not feel alone. I did take a look at the pre/post-op list. In fact, I printed it out yesterday but I did get overwhelmed by the things listed. I know it is just a guide and I may not need everything on there. So, I am going tomorrow to get a few things that I know I will need.

    It seems the grabber/reacher tool, raised toilet seats, and a recliner are the most helpful during recovery. We're going to hopefully find a recliner tomorrow. If any of you had a 'Top 3' most helpful post-op tip/item, what would they be? Thanks again.
  • to be scared. Surgery is a big deal, but you can make it through. I used to sit in my recliner all the time before surgery. Aftwards, I could not sit in it, so don't spend a huge amount on a recliner in case it's not a comfortable option for you. The grabber and the raised toilet seat are great. You might want to get slip-on shoes and a long-handled shoe horn. I couldn't squat or bend to tie my shoes for about 18 months after surgery.

    Best of luck to you.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.

  • I found that I needed to lie down regularly, which is why we had a bed downstairs for daytime use.

    I couldn't sit in a recliner either for about 3 months.
    I can now with cushions to support my lumbar spine, but certainly not soon after the surgery.
    If I wasn't up walking or lying down, I would sit in a dining type chair with a lumbar cushion. I used to look longingly at the soft recliner and sofa.

    I loved my ipod touch, so I could keep in touch with all my spiney friends. I also used it to listen to music to help me to relax, both in hospital and once I got home.

  • I understand your fears..I am 28 yrs old, had my first major back/neck surgery at age 26.

    I am a pretty good person dealing with pain and with the hospital scene...really dont mind needles, or emg tests, or anything.

    But my first surgery really scared me. Never thought I would be balling when they were about to inject my sleepy meds...but I was.

    Before my surgery, I was unable to pick up a coffee cup with my left arm/hand. It was very weak with burning pain. Did all i could with pain meds, physical therapy, traction, ect. But after surgery, I woke in recovery....with my doctor standing there he gave me a hand shake....and i could already tell the difference. By day 3-4 it was 75% better.

    I have DDD and its progressing rapidly... Started having back pain next....went through all the phys therapy and injections again...Six monthes later I had a micro discectomy at L5/S1. That surgery Has since failed and now am scheduled for thursday 11/11 for the same procedure as you. ALIF

    Doctor is using a cage and bone graft.

    I am scared again...I always get myself worked up so much, and it is NEVER as bad as what i make it out to be...like others said, there is pain, but so far for me it has been tolerable and well worth it.

    I wish you the best in your surgery, and glad this forum is here to help with all of us. Good to have other people that understand what your going through.

    What are your symptoms?

    Take Care-Brian

  • I will have to look into the long-handled shoe horn. Any suggestions on where to find one of those? I may have to grab some slip on shoes as well. I think I only have flip flops that are slip on and it's getting colder here (Kansas City). So those are good tips. It looks like I am going to have to find a medical supply place to get a toilet riser and possibly a walker. The orthopedic nurse I met with at pre-registration said I would probably need one for the first 2 weeks. I'm not sure that the hospital provides that kind of thing. As for the recliner, I just assumed that would be better than a couch/sofa. The devil is always in the details!

    I have my laptop, plenty of movies, and my husband works from home. So, other than not being able to get out and about, I should be fine with the boredom thing. I am very fortunate in that respect.

    Brian, I am having a bone graft as well. They told me I had to be very careful the first 6-8 weeks since it's trying to heal. I guess you and I will be 'surgery buddies' since we're having our procedures on the same day! lol Do you know how long you'll have to stay in the hospital? I have been told my stay will be up to 3 days. Is that norm for others with this type of procedure?

    How about stairs? Did any of you have to climb or go down stairs? I've noticed that folks on here have mentioned having to be turned over in bed. I assume that I will not be able to do this on my own. I'm sure the nurses/surgeon will let me know all this at the hospital but I'm one of those kind of people that has to know ahead of time. Thanks again!
  • i actually had this really cool contraption that had a string on this curvy plastic thing for putting on my socks! you simply curl up the plastic part enough to stick your sock around it. then you hold the string that is attached to both side of the plastic device and throw the device with the sock on the floor, stick your foot in and then pull up on the string and the sock will pull up as you pull out the plastic part. the sock fits on it in such a way that the sock doesn't just fall off, it is kinda "locked in" do to speak. it was very cool, and very, very helpful! you should see if you can get one! you'll have fun with it for years! kinda makes interesting party conversation too. lol

    i also had bone grafting with my two level fusion. i managed to turn my own self over in bed on about the third day. my total stay in hospital was 5 days. once i went home i could roll over myself and get my own self up. i had lots of experience getting up in a log roll maneuver with my other surgeries so pretty much had it mastered.
  • Welcome to Spine Health.

    It is really common to get nervous and scared prior to surgery, especially if you happen to have a good day or two pain wise and start second guessing the decision. Glad to hear that you have a surgeon you feel comfortable with and confident in. That is really important.

    Yes the list of post op must haves is a bit extensive, but it's a culmination of everyone racking their brains for what little things made life so much easier. Since your husband will be home, that will make it nice if you discover that you need something that you thought you could do without. Just keep in mind that as you begin to feel better, there's a tendency to over do it and make yourself hurt.

    We are always here, so no matter what time of day or night, if you need to find someone, you can find one of us. Best wishes to you for a speedy recovery.

  • My top list.

    2- 4" memory foam topper for mattress (I had a 2" and upgraded to a 4")
    3- satin sheets or satin pj's
    4- raised tiolet seat
    5- shower head with hose
    6- basket and notebook for medications

    Things I did before the lumbar fusion.

    Duck taped a shaver to the opposite end of my scrubber. Then I invested in NAIR. LOL

    Hung hooks in the tub/shower to hang things on at arm level so I didn't have to bend over.

    Had hubby hang a bar to steady my self.

    Loaded up on gel ice packs (the big 8X10)

    I just used long handle kitchen tongs to help with the socks and dressing and slip on shoes. If we went some place and I had to dress up I had help.

    Good Luck >:D<

  • Welcome !! I agree it is scary the thought of spinal surgery !! I had mine done 4 weeks ago on tuesday ! You will need help the first couple of weeks and it then gets easier. My top 3 items was my husband , a raised toilet seat and a grabber ,also a V shaped pillow has proved useful. I was 4 days in hospital with my L5 S1 fusion which was done posterior and I had a bone graft. They won't let you go home until you can do stairs and teach you how to do log rolls etc , good luck with it all and please let us know how you got on xxx
  • I just want to say Hi and wish you both much success and quick and easy recoveries as your surgery date is quickly approaching. I also wish you peace and serenity.

    I am almost 11 weeks post L4-5 ALIF with, wedge, peek cage & screws. I also had bone graft, illac crest. No back augmentation, so my brace has been a big part of my post op life.

    You also need to get in your mental & spiritual zone, all the preparations as previously posted by our wonderful group are essential. Nesting time.

    I put off my fusion since 2005. When its time - its time. I was done suffering, taking meds to live, epidurals and being miserable. I remember the night before my surgery, I couldn't sleep. I was the first case in the morning and had to check in at 5:00 am, my husband was so scared and by that point and all I had been through leading up to this day, I was oddly calm. I was ready and in my zone. I was reassuring my husband and I had to laugh, who's having the surgery?

    I guess my point is, in all the hast to gather & nest all the post op necessities, don't overlook YOU. I prayed and my friends & family prayed for me, I willed myself to mentally prepare and it for me was so helpful. (like the QB on Super Bowl day - i was ready)

    Now about that comfy couch & recliner, I have been looking at mine for 10 weeks.... I miss it, but soon! For now my mattress with the heating pad is my best friend! Along with my Droid phone, keeps me connected! I have one chair in my whole house that agrees with me, so when I sit, I sit there, and only for very short periods, sitting and me are barely on speaking terms right now LOL!

    Brian, on an ALIF I was told NO reclining, check with doctors office. A few things are different in our healing process vs. more traditional "back" surgery. (plif & tlif)

    Again, you are in my thoughts & prayers.

  • Hello Stormy Welcome to the site...I had L4 L5 fusion done Oct 21st and I to posted How nervous I was and the people here are awesome and made me feel better
    My surgery went very well I was up walking 30 min after I got to my room the nurses were amazed they
    never seen a plif walk so soon after surgery however
    I was not comphy laying there and felt better to walk
    so I walked every 2 hours..Try not to worry to much
    I know easier said than done lol but had i known before going in I would not have been so nervous
    the pain has been very manageable for me I am pleased so far..Just keep your sense of humor with the nurses
    my nurses were awesome and even told me when I left
    that they did not know how I kept so positive and it was easy because of my fiance who is so supportive
    and loving I knew waking up she would be there for me and the nurses made it easy for me so just keep in mind it sounds like your husband is supportive also so just go in guns blazing sense of humor and you will do fine girl keep us updated please
    I will pray for you ....and I am going black fri shopping this year lol woooooo hooooooo
    My reply was MISTAKENLY addressed TO JellyHall & Brian surgery partners of 11/11.

    I replied way too late & way too tired, I am a bit embarrassed :S,

    I have YOU in my prayers for YOUR surgery on 11/11.

    Embarrassed, Virginia
  • You all are amazing! You really know how to make a gal feel welcome! I never dreamed I'd find such positive, helpful support. I must admit I have been in such a negative mind set over this whole procedure that it's nice to hear it may not be as bad as I've made it out to be. I know some have had problems but on the whole I'm sure this isn't as bad as I am making it out to be. You know the 'what if' or the 'shoulda, coulda, woulda' thinking. Ugh! Sometimes I wish I could shut my brain off..lol

    Anyway, you don't know (or maybe you do) how much all these tips/advice are helping me. I forgot to address Brian's question on what symptoms I am having. I have always had a dull ache/pressure in my lower back/buttocks. Over the years it would come and go sometimes becoming 'acute' where I wouldn't be able to walk for a week or so due to the sharp pains in my lower back. As the years and falls became more frequent, my pain moved and increased. Summer before last I started getting shots in my back (the docs had been trying to get me to go for years but I'm stubborn). The first one worked for about 3 mo. then they just stopped working. A little over a year ago I had numbness/tingling/pins and needles in my left leg. Then, came the shooting 'electric/searing' pains down my left leg and the constant burning in my hips/lower back. So, THAT was what finally took me to a surgeon after 6 or 7 (again - I'm stubborn) docs told me I was going to need surgery. I thought when I went in to the surgeon I would only need a minimally invasive disk surgery. So finding out I had a more serious injury and needed a more involved surgery had me feeling like the rug was pulled out from under me. I went to the surgeon in May of this year and I was a grade I spondy then when I caved and had to return in Oct. he ordered new MRI's. I had progressed to a grade II in just 5 mo.!! They told me at this rate I would end up in a wheel chair with permanent nerve damage by the time I was in my early 40's.

    Sorry to be so long winded but I haven't had anyone to talk to about this that understands. I am tired of having pain meds and coffee for breakfast. I'm ready for a change.

    From what I'm gathering from most of you bed is the primary place to be post surgery (when you're not walking)? Babyruth, I found that sock thing online that you were referring to! Sounds pretty neat and I think I will order it once I am back home. Today's goal is going to be to find a toilet riser, shower chair, walker, cold packs and reacher/grabber. I already have one but I don't think it's nearly long enough. Thanks again my new fellow spinal pain/surgery friends. :)
  • :H Sounds like you are getting prepared I was in your shoes not long ago scared nervous and ready at the same time .You sound positive now good girl lol
    I was negative and then found this site A month before
    my surgery and it helped me so much to get ready
    and it made this surgery so much better for me
    with all the tools I got prepared my room and did my meals all was prepped when I got home and it was a god send believe me ....before you buy the sock helper
    call your hospital thearapist I received a kit
    there had all I needed sock helper long shoe horn
    toilet helper which I am glad I did not need lol
    but everything you need they had for $25.00 was awesome and they show you how to use all of it
    anyway you will do great keep positive girl :))(

  • I thought I was to be having a surgery again, that no-one had told me about!! =))
  • We all know how helpful all the hints are.
    They helped each of us so much when we were at the stage you are at.
    Before you know it, it will be you giving advice and support to other very nervous patients. :-)

    I popped in to say that I also found a shower chair very useful (saw that you are on to it :-))
    Also, I had a suction handle to grab onto when getting into and out of the shower (ours is over the bath). I also had a beaker to spit into when cleaning my teeth, as otherwise you will dribble all down yourself because you can't bend!! 8}

    It does sound like you are feeling more positive about your surgery now, and putting your energy into preparing your house for the recovery. This is the way to get your life back on track. You CAN do this! :D

    Having the right equipment to hand and getting everything in an easy to use place, will mean less pain after surgery and you will get your independence back quicker.

    We will be here to support you and listen to you as you vocalise how you cope with this surgery. For me, talking about the experience helped me to accept what had happened and made me stronger to cope with it all. There is nothing like being able to share it with others who have been through the same thing. Welcome to our gang! :H >:D<
  • Does sound like we are having similar surgery. Here is what my order says:


    From what my Doctor says it will be a 2-3 day hospital stay. Told me as long as Im out of surgery by 4pm, they will have me up and in a back brace for my first walk down the hall. They already fitted me for the brace and I have it here at home.

    With my other surgeries....I only stayed one night and was gone in the morning, and my lower back one I left the same day.

    My symptoms are...extreme pain in my butt, left hip and down my leg. Numbness in foot and lower outside of leg. Now recently i have bad pains in my left foot...hoping this is all tied in with what I'm about to get "fixed". It a line of pain right across the top of my foot to my big toe. Tens unit and Ice and heat seem to help with getting me to sleep.

    Where are you from stormy? Ill keep in touch on here before and after surgery....so we can see how each others doing.

    Take care.
  • I can't add any more to what others here have recommended, but wanted to wish you all the best for the 11th.

    I had an ALIF 12 months ago and it was the best decision I made because I don't have any leg pain and L4-5 feels very stable. I even gained half an inch in height!

    Recovery takes a long time, and at times you think, when is this ever going to end, but when you get to 6-7 months out, you realize that you're starting to feel good.

    Looking forward to hearing how you're going.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008

  • I am just over 7 months, and today I was telling someone at work that I am starting to feel 'normal' again. :D
  • What a great thing to be able to say! Well done you!
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • I hadn't seen this thread until today so I hope I'm not too late to contribute. First off, best of luck tomorrow for your surgery, we'll be waiting to hear how much better you feel! :)

    This thread has a lot of good information, it's a sticky in this section:
  • Thinking of you - prayers for tomorrow :D
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • Thanks to each and everyone of you that have contributed your input and your thoughts/prayers. It means a lot to me. Hopefully, by tomorrow afternoon I'll be out of surgery and on the road to recovery!

    I'm taking my laptop with me but I have no idea how 'with it' I will be BUT if I can, I will certainly check in here when I'm able!

  • Hope it all goes well and that you will be telling us that you are doing better than you expected, very soon.

    I dictated a message for my husband to post on the evening of my surgery, which caused quite a stir as people thought I was posting myself. He then printed off the replies, and brought them into the hospital for me. :-)

    When you are ready, we will be so pleased to hear how you are doing.

    See you on this side of surgery! :H
  • Another one wishing you all the best and remember to push that button !!see you on the other side !! It feels funny saying that now as I am on the other side !! Take care xx
  • Good luck stormy....I hope the very best for you!!

    I am hoping to be in recovery by afternoon too.

    Take care and get some rest tonight.

    Best Wishes to a flawless surgery and a speedy recovery.

  • And sending lots of good wishes your way for a sucessful surgery and speedy recovery!
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