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help for my mom

LeslieiamLLeslieiam Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Recovering from Surgery
My beloved 74 yr old mother has severe scoliosis and just had an L2 to S1 9no, it is not a mistake, it was that big) laminectomy with screws and ??? to stabilize torqued vertebra.

She was in severe pain for many months pre-surgery and was not able to go anywhere except for dr appointments etc. Prior to that she was a high functioning person, gourmet cook, master gardener.....

Based on watching her walk (before and after) and climb stairs, i believe the surgery worked; however, she had multiple post-op complications (one examle: low BP precipitating massive IV infusion resulting in 'wet lungs' and breathing issues, precipitating panic attacks, requiring lasix, resulting in low sodium resulting in .......you get the picture. she was in ICU for about 10 days and then on a regular floor for 10 days.

She was released from the hospital after 3 weeks and I flew home to take care of her, but she is SO DEPRESSED. She cries all the time and wishes she never had the surgery and feels that her life is over. She lost about 10 lbs (now 110 lbs) and has no appetite. She is emotionally, physically and psychologically exhausted. i am feeding her ensure on ice, crackers, oatmeal (made with ensure), cream of rice, anything she can tolerate....but she needs to build up her strength and resting all day is not going to do it. I have to push her so hard to get her to walk and do the PT exercises and eat and do ANYTHING.

Her husband, my dad, has bent over backwards to make her happy, run every errand, bought every food she likes, and will do ANYTHING for her, but he simply can not handle the depression and 'negative attitude'.

Any advice on how to help her see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel? I am so poorly equipt to help her as i have never experienced depression or prolonged recovery.....i just don't know wht to say or do and neither does my dad.

We need your help and advice on how to help her see that there is a new day and that she is on the road to better days, she needs to eat and work on the PT and try to find a little space in her heart for gratitude and happiness and a light at the end of the tunnel.....

help, please! it is so hard to see a loved one suffer and not know what to do!



  • first let me say that your mum is very brave but people at her age take a lot longer to heel .and in general they don't do as well as someone in there 20s/30/or even 40s/.all you can do is make her as comfy as possible and support her .its very hard for you to watch a loved on suffer and even harder for an active person to be stopped in life and have to change the way they now live .spinal surgey is never easy and recovery is always a long task .i wish your mum well and i hope that between you and the family doctor you can keep her comfy and as out of pain as is possible .it wont be easy .but you have to be strong for her
    tony {uk}
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Leslie

    Your note brought tears to my eyes. I am much younger than your mom (50), and had to have a redo of a failed fusion that was done a year ago. I am now 8 weeks postop.

    What your mom has been through is extreme stress, enough to induce post traumatic stress or depression at the very least. I am also fortunate to have daughters just like you, without whom I would never have made it through the surgery and post op phase.

    For me the months before surgery and the first 4 weeks after were just horrible. I felt as if I had lost my active life, had become a burden to others and would never be better. All because of a decision I took to have surgery in the first place.

    A couple of things have helped me over the hump

    1.My family. My friends.
    2. The increased mobility so that I know and see that I AM better
    3. A positive attitude

    Having a positive attItude is very hard when you ache and are essentially an infant again. Others feed and dress you. You feel worthless. I can say that having someone patient, like you, that sticks the course makes a HUGE difference. It may not feel like it now to you, but I assure you it does.

    I know that one of the painkillers I use ( Tramadol) works like an antidepressant. I believe that helped me a lot. I can also remember that when my dad had a stroke and simply gave up on life, his mood and motivation came back hen he was started on Citalopram.

    Yoy msy want to discuss antidepressant treatment with your mom's GP and keep on giving her the wonderful support you have been.
  • Sorry to hear your Mom's having a hard time adjusting and you may want to let her Surgeon know how's she's doing psychologically or her Family Dr. so he can do a Physical and she may need blood and urine tests.

    In hospital we try to have the patient have a little control over things and even having the call bell will give her some control.

    Ask her the best time for her to go and walk and do her exercises. Ask her what she wants to wear and give her some of her independence in certain areas so she'll feel more in control of things happening to her. Find some time for her to sort through mail or do some phone calls. It's a difficult recovery for someone especially at her age but she must have felt she had the strength to do this.

    It's good you and your Father are there helping her and let her know she will get through this. I hope she takes her meds before doing anything like walking or bathing and you may even be able to get someone to help her. Wishing healing thoughts and praying she will get strong again and best wishes for you also for caring so much for her. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Your mum is very lucky to have someone who loves her and is trying to reach out on her behalf to get some help. You caring attitude will help her, but it won't be instant.

    How long ago did she have her surgery? You say that she has just had it, and with such a long fusion, this is going to be a long journey for her, with ups and downs along the way. Your father's and your support will be crutial to her making it through all of this. Although you might not feel that you are making a difference, you most certainly are.

    Others here have given some good advice. I particularly like Charry's ideas to make her feel that she has some control. We do feel so helpless after a lumbar fusion, even with only one level done, so 4 levels must be horrendous.

    I certainly found that walking each day was an important part of my rehab; both physically and mentally. The movement helps keep the nerves free and to stop scar tissue attatching to them. It also gets the blood flowing around the surgical site which brings with it oxygen to aid healing. It gets the mucles working again, so strengthening the back and legs. This is the best way to help to get the healing under way and to speed up the recovery. The more you do, the sooner you start to feel that it is easier. My physiotherapist said that if I do nothing else, walking is the key to recovery.

    I also found that getting a walk outside was a real morale booster. It made me feel part of the world again; with the sun and wind on my face and seeing and hearing all the living, natural things around me.

    I think it is a good idea to let your mum's doctor know that she is suffering with this depression. There may be some medication that will help her to start to feel better.

    I personally found that writing a list of the things that I hoped to do once I felt up to it was helpful by giving me something to look forward to. I listed things that were going to be possible quite quickly and other things that would be more demanding, and I knew were a fair way off.
    Slowly, I have been able to tick them off, which makes me realise how much progress I have made.

    There will probably be others with ideas to help too, but I hope that this gives you something to work on. Please tell your mum that there are lots of us here, who understand how difficult this recovery can be. Perhaps she could make a post herself. If not, you could write one for her. We are a friendly bunch who will be happy to cheer her on through this difficult journey. =D>

    She is over the surgery now and on her way to getting back to a more active life. This is a long road, but she is on her way and on the horizon things look brighter. :-)

  • We will cheer her on and if there was a little smiley that had a cheerleader I would put it up. You're doing a good job Leslie. Take care. Charry O:)
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Thank you for your comments and support.
  • Thanks for your advice.

    I spoke with my mom's primary care about referring her to a councilor - we found two women that specialize in post-op stress and PTSD. We got her on an antidepressant / anti-anxiety meds. Unfortunately, she's not doing well. She has a terribly negative attitude, can't seem to recognize the improvement she's made and refuses to go to the PT ot to see the councilors. The PT is great, a spe ialist in post-spinsl surgery rehab, and very encouraging and nice, but I csn't force her to go!

    She's having panic attacks and crying fits, often between 5-7PM. I can get her out of the panic attacks with breathing meditation etc, but it is very difficult.

    My ever-optimistic dad is starting to feel discouraged. Things are spiraling down. If I csn't get her up and moving and stronger her worst fear, not being independent, will become a self-fulfilled prophecy.

    Her GP is not much help, frankly. This is harder than helping a friend through breast cancer treatment!

  • All great ideas - from day 1 I ser her up with a bedside table so she can reach all her 'stuff', phone etc and set up the bathroom so she has access to all of her washing and grooming supplies so she can do as much as possible independently. She wants everything handed to her, even if it is in reach. I keep encouraging her to move and reach for things, and walk and the rest, but she's so fearful of pain she won't do it. In fact, she's had little pain -except what seems to be muscular pain from the 2 PT sessions she went to, which were mostly walking and some mobility exercises.

    Now she won't go and is walking less and less each day. She's getting weaker every week. I wish I had a way to help her see the positive in something!

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