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Recovering from fusion surgery

maybaby05mmaybaby05 Posts: 23
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in New Member Introductions
Hello all,

I am 34 years old, married with one child. I was diagnosed with scoliosis as a young girl. The dr's all said that is was mild and at the base of my spine and it may or may not cause me any problems. When I turned 30, I noticed changes. I started to have pain in my hip and back when I walked or worked out for awhile. I chalked it up to muscle strain due to my left leg being shorter than the right. Gradually I had to give up doing certain things I loved (kickboxing, pilates) as the pain made these things impossible. About a year ago, I couldn't walk through the mall, grocery stores, etc. Pain was a part of my life. I pushed through it to accomplish everyday activities. By the first of the year, I had a pain in my heel that hindered walking, I couldn't sit/stand/walk w/o severe pain. I also had tingling and numbness. I went to the dr's as I am too young to have to live with this level of pain EVERYDAY! My dr sent me to a foot dr. The pod was great & evaluated me. He said that he couldn't help me and that I should see a spine specialist. I did some research and my stepmom asked the dr's she works with. We found a highly recommended spine surgeon. My dr seemed impressed that I asked for the "big gun".

After a few tests, evaluations, & conversations, my surgeon recommended a spinal fusion. The scoliosis had curved severely. I now had a 50 degree curve. The thorasic had rotated. I did notice discomfort in my rib cage and differences in my breathing but didn't think it was related to my back. I also had disc degeneration, nerve damage and compression. My dr advised that my left leg was very weak and I had lost quite a bit of function. I also had "drop foot". He recommended surgery and suggested that I do it soon. He said while there are risks to having the surgery, there were also great risks to not having it.

I decided to go ahead with the surgery. It was to be 2 procedures in two days. My family & I prepared ourselves as much as we could. My dr was great at listening and answering questions.

The 1st surgery was on a Monday. The procedure was a DILF, it lasted about 5 hours. There were 2 incisions on my side about an inch long each. When I woke, the pain in my heel was gone! Amazing!

The 2nd surgery was on Wed. This was the fusion of T10-S1. This procedure lasted about 12 hours. The incision is long, just under my shoulder blades to the pelvis. It went well, the dr was pleased as he said he was able to fix so much more than he thought he would be able to. I lost a lot of blood and the trac tube had to stay in for about a day due to all the swelling I had. I don't remember much of those 1st few days....lol. I remained in critical care for 9 days. During this time PT/OT worked with me. I was not prepared for how hard simple things were. Sitting up was so hard! I was moved to a non-critical floor and went home after 12 days.

Going home was scary......I was still very weak and couldn't move very well at all. My insurance thankfully covered all the equipment needed
to help keep me comfortable @ home. I did develope an infection. Part of the incision on my back popped open and started to drain. I had to have 2 rounds of antibiotics. It finally cleared and most of it sealed. I now only have a small hole that he wants open to allow for drainage. It should close on it's own in the next month or so.

I am now almost 90 days post op. My dr said this is the most critical time period. Next month, my restrictions will relax a bit and I start outpaitent PT. I still haven't been cleared to drive or work. The pain is still there but so much better than when I first came home. I still take pain meds.

The dr really wants me off work a full 6 months but I cannot do that so hopefully I can go back in the next month or so.

My biggest fear is that because so many levels were fused that it will not succeed. My dr did order a bone growth stimulator so hopefully that will help. He said he will do a scan at the 6 month mark to see how the fusion is progressing. He can then focus the bone stimulator on areas that need more help.

While all went well I would not wish this on anyone. I do not have the pain I did pre surgery but am very fearful of what the future holds. Will I need revision surgery? Will the pain go away completely? Will I really lead a pretty normal life? I am very emotional about all this and very few people actually understand. This was a huge event in my life and will change me in many ways I am sure.

I apologize that my post is so long, just wanted to tell my story.

I hope to meet people on this site that can lend a shoulder to cry on, to help answer questions, etc. I also hope to be able to provide the same to others.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    Wow! What a story! You certainly have been through a lot. It's not surprising to be somewhat emotional.
    You have a lot of worries and concerns...all legitamate..but so much on your mind.

    Sometimes I find it helps my anxiety if I try to focus with what's at hand...trying to save my energy for healing today, so tomorrow can be more comfortable.

    Kickboxing and pilates! Sounds like you more than kept in shape and had fun doing it :) I can only imagine the frustration you feel with your body dictating limits now. But one day at a time.

    Hopefully, as you are healing, you will be able to find something that pleasantly surprises you or makes you smile everyday. Being gentle to yourself is not just a mental and emotional benefit, but physically,too.

    Right now is probably not the best time to even think about getting back to work. Cooperating with doctor... and with your own body... is crucial. There's no way you want to risk all of the success of surgery and all your work at recovery by prematurely reentering the work place.

    This site has been a lifesaver to me on a variety of levels. It's the best! It's good you are here. You are not alone!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • hi and welcome to the forum! we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. focusing on your recovery right now is so very important..please follow all your doctor's orders. two surgeries in one week is alot to handle.. good luck with your recovery! the forum is a terrific place to visit during your recovery!!it can make a long day go by alot faster.. please feel free to drop by anytime!! be sure and stop by the "Recovering from Surgery" forum for more input.. Jenny :)
  • Thanks savage and jenny. Recovery is slow and long. My employer is getting anxious to have me come back so I just hope that I am not at risk of loosing my job if I don't go back soon. At the same time, I cannot risk hurting myself by going back too soon. We shall see. I don't go back to the dr until mid next month. These past couple of weeks have been great as far as movement and such. Pain level is low, more achy than sharp. Good luck to you as well on your journey.
  • Welcome to spine health. Wow, what an experience you have been through.Glad to see that everything went well for you and you are on the road to recovery. Please take your time going back to work, as you have been through a very large surgery that takes a long time to heal from. Your health is number 1, and you don't want to risk anything that may set you back.

    I know it is hard when your employer wants you back. I had surgery in July and am now scheduled for a coccygectomy and also need a fusion. My job is very physical (nursing) so sadly I don't expect to be able to go back to it, which is very hard for me to accept. However I hope to find something new that I will be able to do, that will also be rewarding, but easier on my spine.

    How is your drop foot now? I also have drop foot, and hope to regain more movement in it.

    Wishing you all the best in your recovery and solid fusion on all levels.

    gentle >:D<
    >: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
  • Hi Maybaby,

    I totally understand everything you are talking about, but I was older than you when I started having my problems...48. I went thru the stage you are in with your spine opened up; however, I did not develop an infection.

    As far as work goes, I had my surgery in May and tried to set up my upstairs classroom in August of that year. We needed my income with two children in college. I lasted two weeks teaching and had to take a leave of absence until January. My advice is
    try if you can if at all possible to follow your doctor's advice and not do too much. I know with a child it is hard. I have found that physical therapy helped me the most in getting back to work. Then they did water therapy with me that was the most helpful.

    I also found that the least I lifted the better off I was with the healing process. Just know most of us on this board have gone thru what you are experiencing. Private message me anytime you want. I retired from teaching three years after my surgery, so I am retired at 57. It is hard when life
    throws us unexpected curves. I just joined this board and have met some very sweet people.

    Venting to people that understand is important. Welcome to a special place and I will be praying for you. Many hugs are being sent your way! >:D<
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