I am a 39 y.o nurse in Colo who has had horrible back pain for about (wow, just counting now) 10 years! I have my first laminectomy at L5/S1 when I was 13 wks pregnant w/my daughter (who is fine despite my surgery). Have 5 years of relief. Then, all hell broke loose and I started having more and more pain. It came to a head when I decided to rip out the carpet in my downstairs (by myself-DUH). The next day, I went to work (I was then a scrub tech in OB)and squatted down to pick something up (no bending!)when I was unable to stand back up. Luckily for me, "my" anesthesiologist was right there, finished a labor epidural, and he and 3 nurses put me on a rolling chair and escorted me to day surgery where I proceeded to get more narcotics than ever given to someone my size. NOTHING helped. So, my former surgeon (the orthopedist who did my lami) poked around with an MRI and then a Discogram (to ensure the pain was coming from L5/S1)-MOST PAINFUL PROCEDURE EVER KNOWN TO ME!!! He suggested a fusion within the next couple of days (it was Friday and he needed the weekend of course). I was not up on the idea of having fusion, especially at my age. But, I was in so much pain, I would have done anything. I had an epidural block to get me through the weekend and then on Mon, in I went for the surgery. My recovery wasn't too bad in the hospital. But, in the ensuing months, I had pain that would not relent. My surgeon cut me off of narcs and suggested I see a pain specialist. My surgeon also had done several CT scans and said my fusion was "solid" and he had no idea why I was still having so much pain. My pain MD gave me all kinds of stuff-Lyrica, Oxy, Morphine, Lidoderm patches etc. We finally ended up with a combo of Oxycodone and Oxycontin. But, that pain just wouldn't stay away. My mom is a nurse and the rest of my family all recommended I get a 2nd opinion. I knew this surgery has a high fail rate, so, I was not that surprised. I saw a Neurosurgeon in Denver (A Surgical God who has now moved to WY) and he ordered a bone scan and using that along with the scans my prev md had done, he determined my fusion was nothing like "solid". He said it was like I hadn't even had the surgery for the good it had done me. So, I went in for another discogram (HOLY MOTHER OF COW- my mom heard me screaming while she was in the waiting room). They decided from that lovely test, that L4/5 was ALSO unstable and herniated and wanted to add that level too. So, I scheduled the surgery. Done at Sky Ridge Med CTR in Lone Tree Co (Highly recommend). The FIRST surgery was done from the front (easier access to repair the failed fusion?) and they also found a hernia and fixed that. But, 8 hours later, they were about to start the next level but, they found they had lost the signal from my L Femoral Nerve. The only way to verify nerve damage at that point was to wake me up. No nerve damage, just a loose lead to the machine. They took my to recovery and I received the joyful news that I was going back in the next day for part deux. They flipped me over and added the next level. 18 hours of surgery, 9 units of blood, 6 days in ICU, and NG tube for a paralytic ileus and a central line-I was ready to go home. Surprising the PT and OT folks as I waltzed around the ICU and bounded up and down stairs (well, OK, not BOUNDED), I was discharged from the ICU directly home. When I went in for my post-op, my dr said that they had found 4 loose screws and the "cage" they put in the disc-space from the first fusion was hanging in by a piece of scar tissue. Now, if you have not yet seen the screws they use for these procedures, look them up-they used a 7mm Moss-Miami screw the first time. Titanium. Much bigger around than any deck screw (although shorter). Imagine 4 of those suckers boring bigger holes in my bones day by day. "I don't know what it causing your pain, your fusion looks solid" HA HA HA!!! I asked the dr who repaired me what he thought about the other guy. Of course, being a member of the "Club" he wouldn't use the term "Malpractice" but rather "Bad Doctoring". Ya Think??? So, I did all kinds of PT and stuff to get better and then went on to nursing school.
But, it's not all champagne and roses. Eventhough my pain was significantly improved (especially initially), I STILL have a great amount of chronic pain that will not go away. I have done PT till my eyes are bulging, Pilates, accupuncture and accupressure, massage therapy, chiropractic, and just about everything except voodoo. The only relief I have is from narcotics. It is such a drag b/c my husband thinks my personality has changed (I am a bigger *&%$ now), I sweat like a pig in the summer, I have this gross residue from my patches, I itch and then I STILL don't have pain levels less than 3-4 (and THAT'S when I am not doing anything). Adding working full time as a night shift nurse, taking care of 4 kids and trying (not successfully) to manage my house, I am not a pain success story. But, after enduring much criticism from my parents regarding my medication, having a family member steal it (who consequently went to jail), of course failing every drug test given (but once they got the 'script info it was fine) I have mostly accepted the possibility that I am a narc addict for life. My one, last card to play is the spinal cord stimulator. There is an MD here in Denver who has pioneered the technology and he actually put one in my pain dr's husband (he now takes a lot less meds). I am waiting for insurance to start with my new job so that I can do a trial with that. If that doesn't work, I guess I will hope and pray for new technology to come out before I need to fuse the next level.
I know this is a long story, but I want to offer hope to those of you out there who are in the trenches of chronic pain. People offer me sympathy and I say to them "Hey, I don't have cancer, I don't have MS, I don't have Fibromyalgia and I can still walk, talk and work". What else could I realistically hope for? I say poo poo to those nurses who freely use the term "drug seeker" (as I have been called) as I am not a drug seeker, just a RELIEF SEEKER!!! I think there are good dr's and bad ones. I would recommend a second opinion ALWAYS and would never have another orthopedist touch my spine. I really try hard to not let myself get down, although it happens. I just wrapped up a month of chronic flare-up pain that left me sleepless and in tears. I just have to hold on to my faith in God and remember that it could ALWAYS be worse, believe it or not. I am always interested to hear in new opinions or medical advances and would be willing to be a guinea pig anytime! Anyone know anything about a study done on Pig Relaxin? Relaxin is the hormone produced by a woman's body when she is pregnant and it relaxes all of the joints, and pregnancy was the one time I had like NO pain. I had heard about a study a long time ago with this. Just curious. Thanks for reading my story, and it is good to read other's so that we all know that we are not alone. 80% of our medical dollars are spent on an initial diagnosis of some sort of pain. We have to make this a priority in the medical community-we need a "pink ribbon campaign for pain" (different color though).
Beentheredonethat in Colorado!!!