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My recent (5 week) experience plus questions

PaladinPPaladin Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I suffered from back pain for many years. When I was 16 I fell two stories and received multiple compression fractures and in the late 80's had two really nasty motorcycle accidents. Being male and in my 20's I was told verbatim that being male I should be able to handle the pain more easily so I should suck it up. One doctor told me flat out that I was faking the pain. I learned to shut up and just live with it after all that. That was even after one morning I lost feeling in my big toe and down the side of my calf. That was three years ago.
I'm 50 now and I recently went to a highly recommended neurologist who after reviewing my MRI told me that I was simply depressed. The(psychosomatic)pain that I felt from my back was causing me to feel depressed which in turn increased my non existent psychosomatic pain further. He further told me that if he picked a random sampling of ten people from the street of my age, both genders and of all occupations that I'd fit in the middle. I guess all 50 year old's have sever back pain, haven't felt their big toe or parts of their leg for three years.
Well, we hastily left and booked another appointment with another doctor who told me that there was very much something wrong with me. I then went to another doctor for another opinion who along with an X-ray reviewed my MRI and showed me that among other things my L4 had dropped and was over hanging (I don't know the technical term for it all)L5 and I also had nearly zero space between L5 and S1 etc. Finally a valid explanation for my pain after so many years. So we were off for surgery. L4-S1.

I went into the hospital scared as heck to be honest because I spoke to many others including a sibling who had had it done and read forums was well. Reading forums was pretty much a big mistake in my view looking back because all it did was freak me out. It's been really very rough but still not as bad as some of the forum stories. My sister did tell me though that there would be times for months when I would really wonder if I had made the right call having the procedure. I really didn't have a choice since I was facing losing the nerve though I can say that I have had those doubts. I just somehow didn't get the message to my brain what a major procedure this would be.

I don't recall going to sleep at all or even much leading up to it but three hours later when I woke I was laying on my right side in recovery and two male staff were trying to roll me over onto my back. For some reason I thought they were trying to hurt me and I became combative until they explained where I was and reminded me of why I was there.
The pain pump they gave me was minimal to moderate in relief and they took me off it the following day. The night in the hospital was terrible, someone in every couple of hours bugging me giving me this or that or checking my vitals, I got no sleep. I was walking and using the bathroom by myself the next morning (I had talked the doc and anesthesiologist into no catheter)and the doc gave me the option of staying another night or going home that day. I gladly accepted the early parole!
They gave me a bunch of Percocet 7.5mg, more than I thought I'd ever need but nope, the pain set in after I got home and I began taking it religiously. The first few nights my wife would wake me to give me one on schedule or I'd moan in my sleep but then I stopped that and the night time meds. They also gave me Valium for muscle spasms.

They gave me the bumble bee suit to wear and told me to ice the area as frequently as I could. It helped quite a bit but you can only take so much ice even covered. 8-10 hours a day.
After a week a took a real bath. I slipped slightly getting out of the tub, it's a deep jetted tub and it hurt a bit and scared me, the second day I made it out in one try and have done so since. I'm just very careful getting out.

The first week I made a goal to walk with my cane to the end of my street and touch the tree at the end and I did it! I'm told that I had a pleasant chat with a neighbor though I don't recall that part at all. Maybe that walk doesn't count after all?

I visited the doctor about two weeks out and he took a fresh X-ray, told me things were great and told me I could do as much walking as I felt like doing until it was too much and I'd know when that was but no lifting etc. Well, I tried to walk around the block and nearly had to call a cab to get home. I still get very tired and sore trying to sit for long. Fatigue is a real issue for some reason. Getting me up, bathed and dressed is usually a huge ordeal and by the time we're done I'm ready for a pain pill, my bed and my ice pack again. Maybe too soon? I really don't know. My sister said she was flat for 8 weeks. Might as well shoot me now if that's the case.

I'm now 5 weeks out and I have good days and hellish days. Yesterday was pure hell with lot's of pain and depression just feeling sick of the pain bed, the room, the tv etc. and today was a fairly good day. I always feel like a Borg now for you Star Trek people out there. I swear I can feel the hardware and want it off so badly! It's foreign and they should prepare you more for that imo.

Some days I don't want the Percocet but I've learned not to get behind the pain, take the meds even if you think you're doing alright at that moment, it can change very rapidly even with something as simple as rolling over. A cough or sneeze is pure hell! Some days like today I felt like trying to mow the lawn but in honesty I am flat most of the day with ice etc except for my little walks along the street. I've learned to keep them close to home and short. That way if anyone finds me face down on the sidewalk they know which house to drag me back to. Even if I really wanted to mow the lawn it's just too big of ordeal still to undertake. I'd be pooped and crawling in pain before I got to the mower.

Now my questions. The spoke to me about a device that is supposed to help promote bone growth and said they'd call me though I've not heard anything. Is this important?
Nobody has told me how long I have to wear my bumble bee suit aka medieval torture corset.
I am able to get in and out of bed, bath etc and I'm even able to sit here and type this and I'm not on any Percocet but bending is a real chore. How long until my muscles recover?
Lastly, nobody has really spoken to me about physical therapy. They said it will come but I don't know when or what to expect. What happens in P.T and how long does it last? I do know they will taper me down from my Percocet before then which is fine by me as long as the pain is also down but does P.T hurt?
My next appointment isn't for another 4 weeks or so and I don't want to wait that long to ask, besides, I keep forgetting.

I now feel all of my foot and leg unless I over do it like sit and type too long here. As soon as I woke I could feel my toe. My lower back pain seems to be at least less though my fresh Borg implant still blocks some of that.



  • HI,
    Well, at 50, (I'm 58) it will take you longer to recover than a 25 year old....that old arthritis is with us, like it or not... This back surgery stuff takes a while to heal..especially the muscles. If you can get in and out of the tub and go for walks, I'd be happy with that for now. But, be very careful doing the tub thing...sounds like a tall tub and standing one one leg, to lift the other can put a real strain on those healing muscles. PT will help teach you how to move, stand, etc. without over stressing your body.
    But beware...you have to get used to doing things in your "new" body, not your old one. Everyone I know who's had back surgery had to make adjustments as to what works for them now, and what doesn't, my self included. Give it time and go slow. It's tedious and boring and your mind wants to go but the
    body says "you're kidding, right"?? I just got SSD and with being as good as I'm going to get, I'm still trying to figure ways to do things...some will work, and some won't.. It's the price we pay for having lousy spines! But hang in there, it will get better in time....the time that moves so slowly.. And those walks...take it slow and short for now...longer walks will work when your muscles are more healed.. I hope you feel better soon..
  • Sorry to say but fusion is a brutal recovery. It sounds like you may be under medicating- don't worry about getting off the meds yet. Stay on top of the meds (including muscle relaxers).

    I didn't have a brce but chose to wear one (turtle shell) when I started wanting to walk. I went to the malls and walked being sure to rest. I had a cane for quite a awhile as well.

    I didn't start PT untill I was released. No Bending-Lifting- or Twisting- until the doctor says its okay..... I remember when I was finally able to get my socks on and tie my shoes. I had to get very creative. If you don't know- call the nurse at your clinic- she can find out and call you back.

    It will get better eventually. These kinds of things are a lesson in being patient. You have been very patient for several years and expected to come out of surgery feeling better- only the surgeon had to break things first- once they heal/knit you will start getting better really :)

    I imagin in 5 more weeks you will feel like a different person :)

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