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Extremely fit RAF Officer 12 days post L5/S1 TLIF fusion Surgery

martynbowdenmmartynbowden Posts: 19
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi everyone,

Prior to my surgery I was constantly on this site looking for information and advice on how I would feel after my operation and so thought it was only fair that i repay the kindness of everyone who helped me by giving an account of my experience. I am now 12 days post TLIF surgery!

My story began when I was driving home from the Air Force base when I was involved in a major car accident in September 2010. Initially I had lots of superficial injuries and muscular damage which all healed quickly, however I continued to have chronic pain in my lower back and down my left leg. This continued and after MRI scans and numerous xrays I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, bilateral fractures to the pars interarticularis and severe disc degeneration at the L5/S1 level. Being in the Armed Forces I had the best physiotherapy services at my disposal and began an extensive 8 month, 5 days a week rehabilitation programme which included swimming, pilates and gym work. My core stability improved incredibly however despite this the pain in my back worsened. Eventually my surgeon at QMC Nottingham decided that surgery was necessary.

I won't lie and must say that waking up from the surgery was the most horrific experience of my life. The surgery lasted 3 hours and I was kept in recovery for 5 hours while the doctors and nurses tried to control my pain. Eventually I was allowed onto the ward where I remained for 4 days. The first day I could not move at all and even the slightest attempt to adjust my position was agony, despite this however a physiotherapist did manage to get me up briefly to a standing position. On Day 2 I had my drain removed and this was more painful than anything I had experienced prior, any women who argues that childbirth is painful should try having a tube yanked out of your spine with no pain relief. The nurse simply sat me forward and yanked it out, causing me to scream louder than I ever have before. On day 2 I also had my catheter removed which is also an extremely unpleasant experience. Once i was free from the tubes connecting me to the bed I was able to move around more freely and on day 3 I was fitted with a brace and I could make short walks around the ward. On day 3 I also had an assessment by the physios to confirm I could walk up and down the stairs and an xray to check that everything was ok with the screws and rods in my back. On day 4 the nurses checked my wound, which was healing well and discharged me from hospital.

Getting home on day 4 was difficult as I found it extremely uncomfortable to sit and getting into the car was even harder. My advice to you all would be to get someone with a very large car pick you up. Once I was home I instantly felt better and my recovery seemed to improve dramatically. Without the unbarable noise of other patients snoring and the constant alarm calls for assistance from the nurses I was finally able to sleep. Without the complicated and time consuming paperwork necessary for the nurses to administer pain relief I was able to remain pain free through self medication. To administer morphine the nurses needed 2 signatures and it was kept licked away, meaning often you were waiting hours for it. At home it is immediately available on my bed side table prescribed to me by my doctor. My advice would be escape from hospital as soon as you can.
Day 5 I was able to walk around the house easily, sitting was virtually impossible and extremely uncomfortable but laying on my back provided relief. Each day after I have become stronger and my pain has decreased. On day 10 my dressing was removed by the nurse and has healed fantastically. It is now day 12 and I am walking 3 miles a day and despite stiffness in my legs, glutes and quads, I am virtually pain free. I still can not bend or twist but by squatting I can reach anything low and pretty much do everything i need to. Tomorrow (day 13) I intend to give driving a go.

Overall I am extremely impressed and happy with how quickly I have managed to return to most activities. I still have a long way to go but I never thought ibwould feel this good so soon. All my pre-op pain in my back and legs has gone and all I currently have it what feels like the minor pain from the surgery. I'm certainly not going to count my chickens already, as I know the bone fusion will take a long time to fully fuse, however I am extremely happy to feel like I'm finally getting my life back again.

If anyone wants to ask any questions please do, I just hope my experiences help others as much as others have helped me.

Kind regards to you all



  • Martyn,

    It's so good to hear the success stories, thanks for sharing! I hope that the rest of your recovery goes as smoothly and you start to fuse quickly!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Driving already Martyn ?
    I had a much lessor procedure than yours on the 1st and the doc's said no driving for 6 weeks.

    Good to hear that, I shall raise it up with my doc.

    Recover well.
  • Hi Sam,

    Day 14 now and yes I did venture out for a short drive, but only with a very close friend sat in the passenger seat ready to take over if necessary. If I'm honest I think it is a bit too soon as I can not turn or twist and was completely reliant on my passenger for this. So I think I will be leaving it a while longer before I take to the car again.

    As for the rest of my recovery, I am now walking 3 miles a day and very mobile about the house. Sitting is still a little painful and awkward but it's definately getting easier.

    I've started taking Osteocare vitamins containing calcium and magnesium plus vitamin D. Any good suggestions on vitamin supplements to help the bone fusion would be really appreciated.

    My legs are really stiff but I know that this is largely to do with the fact that I must be doing thousands of squats everyday to reach anything below Waite height.

    I hope everyone else is doing well. Xxx
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