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Back fusion all by yourself??

cactusredccactusred Posts: 46
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi all, I'm trying to get as much info as I can to make an informed decsion.
Quick background, I work in Houston, have a house, spouse and a few close friends in the area. My family, what's left of them are in Phoenix, and that is all as of this moment, however...

My house just went on the market, wife wants to live her life by herself in Florida. My physical job as a mechanic, is getting very difficult for me to continue doing. Promotion to office position I put in for was denied, partially due to sick days I took off last year (yea, thanks to my back).

Anyway, with that said, I'm gonna have to move before too long (house sells), I'm looking at an apartment for a little while, since I'm gonna be single again, I couldn't keep up with house/lawn/yard/upkeep with a back surgery, so low maintenance.

My plan, I dread, absolutely dread it but looks like I will require a TLIF of l5-s1 due to Pars defect and some foraminal stenosis of the area. I can't do this on my own, there is no way, I do have a few friends that said they would help me out but I mean simple things like showering, getting around an apartment, bathroom, etc. I know not everybody is married and I soon won't be either, how did you get a back fusion done by yourself.

I saw some websites for like homehealth, but most of that looks like elderly folks, I'm 40, I probably don't qualify for their program. Maybe a rehab center, skilled nursing or something I could go, and for how long does one need care before they could somewhat safely be themselves? I know I would have to rely on friends for a doctors visit or prescription picks up, I drive a 5 speed so I don't see me driving for a while.

I sure appreciate any info, it would be so much easier if I lived in the same area as my brother, aunt, but at this point, I'd have to start all over trying to find a good spine doc/nuerosurgeon, and let's face it, that can take a long time to establish as we all know.


  • I was going through a divorce during my 3rd fusion surgery..So I can empathize how difficult everything is both emotionally and physically.

    Although my surgeries were cervical...I still needed help the first few week.

    Do you not have any close friends to help? Do you attend a church nearby?

    I would actually try to sell or trade in your 5 speed and get an automatic....even when you recover...this is still going to be hard on your back long term.

    You can certainly look into what your insurance covers for you and possibly they would have a home health nurse coming by to help.

    I still think trying to find some of your friends and have them come by in shifts....People are usually very helpful with making meals, doing laundry, and helping with various tasks.

    What about having the surgery and recovery in Phoenix?

    Have you scheduled the surgery....or are they just saying that it needs to be done in the future?

    If there isn't a set date yet....I would try to get as many of the other things in order first before having this done. This seems to be what your plan is...

    Even start attending a local church....and by the time the surgery comes....believe me....you will have tons of people spring into action to help you. My church has been a God send...LOL..(pun intended)....and I was also blessed to have my wonderful girl friends to help as well as dozens of people from the church helping out.

    My first surgery...I had just started attending and every night a new person would knock on the door dropping food off...

    I do wish you well...There are some stickys on this board that are very helpful for all the details of your surgery and what to have on hand...

    Good luck..
  • Hello all im new here its nice to see other people suffering like me and going on living lol just kidding on the suffering i my self have had laminectomy 25 years ago and l4-s1 fusion and c5-c6 cervical fusion with donor grapht and plate so far so good on the neck except a serious click when i move head side to side and some swallowing issues. the lumbare fusion is a different thing i developed a staph infection- diskitis from one on the screws and was treated with iv antibiotics that was three years ago and now the pain is worse and have to go back to check again for the same infection. they say it might be back and if it is probably have to have revision surgery of some kind to remove hardware and debrieve the infection, or retreat with antibiotics
    this time iv pic line againg and hard body cast and hospital stay for at least six weeks or so, boo
    kind of stuck between a rock and a hard spot,A revision surgery Or B body cast and six weeks in bed. Any thoughts out here
  • knowing what i know now i would do any thing but invassive surgery, there are so many minamly invassive options now that i have researched that wern't available then that are avaliable now with much better results, less recovery time most in and out the same day and new procedures on the horizen. If you can function at al, I would seek these things out prolonging magor surgery would only bennefit you in the long run, once magor spine surgery is done your stuck with what ever results,and side effects and or complications come up, some of wich may require more magor surgery. It just seems to me any way, now this is just me, that surgery seems to be a bad cycle that one can get cought up into and if i had it all to do over i would have maybe sought out more options now, but definetly get your ducks in a row before you do any surgery and if your are alone through recovery at home you can have nurses check on you at home and mayby have meals delivered to you ready to eat and maybe even for a small fee hire college students to come and help whith basic chores like vacuming and dishes and so on because those things will really give you grief phycically and in most cities the local colleges have programs for thes service. I really wish you all the best in wich ever route you go though
  • Thanks. Yea I do have a couple pretty close friends, and I have talk to both of them about what I might have to go through, and if I might be able to get some assistance from them, they said yea, I could even stay with one of them for a few weeks if I needed to, I said I have the feeling I will very much need too.

    Not involved in a church or been involved in several years, I do plan on searching for one in the future not so far down the road.

    I don't have a surgery scheduled as of yet, too many irons in the fire right now, it's impossible to even consider one right now with boxing up the house, a move, not sure where I'm headed, trying to sell the house, all fires on the front burner.

    I do plan on looking at a newer vehicle after some of this is settled down, and one of the main reason is, an automatic. I have driven a 5 speed for 25 of my 25 years driving and I'm tired of it, plus I realize this could be of benefit to my back.

    I also plan on getting a second opinion, but all the research I've done and the neurosurgeons fix for a pars defect is a TLIF. Actually my neurosurgeon has recommended I do everything I can do to not have surgery if I can help it.

    With that said, believe me I'm trying everything conservatively, starting with trigger point injections, PT, stretching, core strengthening, fishoil, multivitamins, glucosamine chondroitin, NSAIDS, flexeril, mobic, maintain a "Flatback" posture, good posture, not axially loading the spine, ice, heat, topical/ointment creams, drinking lots of water, a good diet/healthy diet, ESI injections x2 now.

    I can't take narcotics, nor do I want to, I enjoy being touch with reality, I even went as far as putting in for a promotion at work for a supervisory type position, which would be less physical bear for my back, but unfortunately I was turned down, partially due to my sick days last year because of my back. But I don't if that was maybe a good thing, because sitting actually aggrivates my back most. I have limited and restructured my life and hobbies to accomodate my aching back, I can't think of anything more conservative I could do. The final straw for me will be when my sleep suffers, if I can't at least rest to endure another days load for my back, then I have no choice but to throw in the towel and get a fix.

    Actually my neurosurgeon told me not to have a surgery for pain relief, he said have it when you give up your quality of life and are just existing, that's where I am now but the timeframe is just not appropriate for me to be off work for a good 6 months, and then, not sure I can return to a physical job. Maybe then I could get a office position.

    Not to deter the thread, just answering back some feedback there. My concern is the first few weeks with items that are personal like bathroom, showering, etc, my friends are friends but not family or lovers so they won't be able to help with that type stuff, that's what I'm wondering how to get by.

    As to my surgery in phoenix, well, I could, but it would be real difficult to pull that off, I live in Texas, picking out a trustworthy, qualified surgeon takes time with making appointments, scheduling, etc, hard enough across town let alone a few states away, and though I could recover at my family's house, could be difficult with my stuff, bills, mail, life in texas. Unless I just put in a transfer to phoenix, and immediately there after, tell my boss I need to have back surgery, see ya in a half dozen months.
  • Hi, actually my post above probably answers some of your replies. I'm deffinitely trying to get all my ducks in a row before hand and believe me, I've been trying everything under the sun as to conservative treatment. Just the office visits and ESI's are unbelievably expensive, not to mention different gadgets I've bought, LED heating pads, books, back braces, vitamins, creams, etc...
  • I know for a fusion you stay in the hospital about 3 nights but before hand you can ask your Dr. to be sent to a rehab place to recover. Is it possible to have your brother or Aunt come over and stay with you? Really it's hard to arrange if you don't have a set date for surgery yet. Also get a second opinion from another Orthosurgeon or Neurosurgeon before any surgery.

    If you could get a job now working in an office it may stave off time needed to have surgery and better for you for recovery.

    One member here had a 3 level fusion and she recovered by herself at home. She had family, friends drop by some things and one come over while she showered. I hope she sees your post here to answer you better.

    I hope you sell your house soon and get your condo or apt. to make it easier to handle. I sold my house last year due to finances and it's harder for my husband to manage looking after me and doing yard-work and house maintenance. If you get a condo it may be nice to have a gym to recover and go to but watch out for high maintenance condo fees. I moved into a rental apt.

    Keep us posted how you;re doing. This is a great place for support. Take care. 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
  • Hi,

    I am single and have had 3 fusions. I did it by myself. It was hard. I did have a friend stay with me the first night of each surgery.

    I was very well prepared by getting my very small house set up. Things out at counter top level, safety bar in the tub/shower, plastic stool in the tub for sitting, long handled grabber, long handled shoe horn. I wore mostly clogs and elastic waistband pants. I also had replaced my toilet so it was water efficient and had the taller model put in.

    I prepared some meals and froze them and friends bring other meals.

    I was in the hospital 5 days before being released. I had to be able to walk all by myself. I am in good physical condition but it was agony even to stand the first day and then try and walk with a walker. I was successful at walking down the hall and back the last day.

    So I was mobile when I got home. I had already learned to log roll in and out of bed. My first fusion was a 360 (incisions front and back) but I didn't have any problems being on my back.

    I started walking small amounts each day, several times a day. At first getting to the end of the driveway was a huge success but every day I could go a little further. It is best to do short walks lots of times.

    I am a swimmer and was able to get back in the water after the incision healed, about 3 weeks.

    I know how hard it must be to go thru all that you are dealing with in your life and also have the thought of surgery hanging over your head. I got dumped by my boyfriend during my 2nd fusion. You just have to keep going.

    Personally I would chose not to travel for surgery. It is hard enough to get home from the local hospital right after surgery because it is hard to sit in a car. And of course the doctor visits and follow ups that you mentioned.

    Good luck with your move and new life and deciding on your surgery.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Thanks Charry,
    Pretty well impossible for my brother or Aunt to come out here. Brothers wife is on disability, he has two kids, and he has bad knees, struggling to just keep working himself.
    My aunt, she works herself, and it's halfway across the country.

    Yea, that's one of the biggest reasons I put in for the job. I don't think it's if, it's more when I have the back surgery, I don't think I can really count on coming back to my current job for any forseeable length of time, without compromising the surgery, and heck, I may not be able to do it period. But the return to duty would be much, much longer with my current job as opposed to an office job.

    Right now, looking at putting some yard type things in storage, since I won't need em for a while. I don't want to buy anything right at this point in my life, too much uncertainty, so I'm gonna rent an apartment for a while, although, I really do desire to get back into a house as soon as forseeable.

    No surgery's scheduled yet, but for sure, I'm gonna get a second opinion, evaluation. When I do have to have this done, I will most likely look at a rehab center for maybe 10 days, 2 weeks, just to at least allow me to have assitance with bathroom/showering. Afterwards, probably stay with a friend and his family for a month, that ought to cover me not having to go shopping, housework, etc.
  • Thanks Jani, wow you have had some work done back there I see. I appreciate the tips and the words of advice that you were able to get through this mostly on your own.
    Yea the idea of travelling, is just not an attractive one with this kind of procedure, too many obstacles and hurdles that have to be jumped.
  • I have had both a lumbar fusion and cervical.

    The cervical fusion was easy. I did not even take any pain medication!!
    But the lumbar fusion was a nightmare!! I had to be loaded down with pain meds. Three diffirent kinds all at the same time plus an external pain pump!! I was in Hospital a week!! I had to be able to walk so far before they would discharge me. The pain was brutal!!
    Thank goodness I had a sister come stay a couple of weeks with me. I could not have did it alone. I could not get up out of bed until my brace was fastened(Doctors orders) I could not even hold my head up!! Te reason for this brutal pain was because they have to cut the muscle away from the spine and then reattach it for a lumbar fusion but not with a cervical. My fusion was at L4&L5
    Do anything you can to avoid this surgery!! I now have permanent nerve damage from my lumbar fusion. Scar tissue impenging on the nerves is what caused this.

    Best of luck to you.
    Patsy W
  • Not everyone has the bad experiences that Patsy W had. The surgery can be very successful. Fusion of L4/L5 was my first fusion. I did not wear a brace and went back to work after 3 weeks.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • a three-level lumbar fusion, L3/4 - L5/S1. I had surgery from the back and then four days later they went in from the front. I was in the hospital for a week. I went home three days after the second surgery. A friend brought me home from the hospital. I had cooked and frozen a lot of food before I went into the hospital, but my family would call and see if I needed anything like prescriptions or milk during the week and drop things off if I needed them. I put an outdoor plastic chair in the tub, and just held onto the wall until I could climb in and sit in it to take a shower. I already had one of those hand-held type showers, but if I didn't I would have installed one ahead of time. I really did fine on my own. I had a reacher/grabber type thing, a long shoe horn so I could put my shoes on, and no tie shoes, all slip-ons. I didn't move fast. I walked with crutches at first, and then a cane. I went outside for walks from day one, but learned to walk up and down in front of the house, instead of trying to walk around the block, after getting half way around the first day and not feeling like I could make it back in either direction. You will be in pain. You will feel like you got run over by an express train, but you will be able to move. You won't be dead. I never questioned that I would be able to take care of myself and I never had any problem.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • IF you do recover alone (God Bless all of you that have!) Please be sure to keep your cell phone with you a 100% of the time, even if you have to tape it to yourself ;)

    So (God forbid) should you fall or need help you can call for it.

    I had both my knees replaced at the same time & recovered alone (BUT that is nothing compared to what all of you with back/neck surgeries have gone through) & I never let me cell phone out of my hand for 4 weeks lol

    I don't know if you asked your Dr this but if not I would before surgery - Can you (after surgery) return to your type of work ever? That type of work with being bent over and twisted around & stuff is very hard on your back and I don't know if you can/should do it after surgery.

    Please keep us updated :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • in i went thru the same situation as you with the house and the wayward wife.
    My 1st back surgery my son his fiance, and my daughter were living with me, and i went thru a failed fusion.
    So i had a 2nd surgery and my daughter lives with me and i'm going thru the recovery as we speak, and to tell ya the truth, its not going as well as i would like.

    I still might heal but my back constantly gonna be a problem i fear.
    But i needed the surgeries, so its not like i had many options.
    I dont wanna scare you off of getting your back fixed, just letting you know your not alone by facing this by yourself.
    I do feel i would have completely recovered if my marriage was still intact tho. Its alot easier if you have someone there to take care of you.

    Best of luck to ya.
  • Appreciate all the great replies back on this topic. :)
    House is in contract now, and should be closing April 30th, I'm going to hire out the heavier stuff, furniture, etc for moving, I have no choice, use to be able to handle that but now I know for certain that would put me in pain scale of 8-10, and I can't afford that right now.

    Anyrate, I'm not a wizard chef, though I do know where the oven is and prefer the bbq but I'm curious and interested in some of the ideas of pre preparing meals and freezing them before hand, what kind of suggestions do you or did you prepare.

    I know somethings don't freeze well, potatoes are one, they get watery, but I'm not big into, fast food or frozen aisle meals, so if you got some ideas, I'll deffinitely be exploring into having some stuff ready for this. Thanks...
  • I did some soups and rice pudding. I happen to love rice pudding and I just left it in the refrigerator and some of the soup I froze. I really had no appetite at first.

    Scrambled eggs with cheese was one of the things that tasted good.

    Surprising some of the frozen dinners like Healthy Choice and one other I can't remember are quite good. Certain meals that is.

    I relied on friends to bring soup the first week. Again very little appetite.

    I was always thirsty and I like gatorade so I had a lot of that on hand and took several bottles to the hospital. They would count it as part of my liquid intake. I always had a bottle next to my bed when I got home and went to sleep.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • After reading all the posts here again - I really think that no one KNOWS for sure if they will need help after a surgery. I doubt even your Dr knows for sure.

    Everyones out come can be totally different then someone else's. I would suggest to have friends/help ready and be prepared for the "worst" and then if you don't need that much help change up the plans :)

    Better that way then the other ;)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • I sorta prepared for the worst as well, because I knew even tho I’m married, I would pretty much be on my own – however, I generally don’t really let people cater to me, or help out much because it annoys me quite a bit when I can’t do things by myself, so I just push thru it and do it anyway. Maybe not the wisest choice, but it works for me because then I don’t feel like a loser. There is a certain sense of independence and accomplishment in forcing yourself to just do it.
    With that being said, I can honestly say my worst time after surgery was the 5 days in the hospital afterward. I was somewhat used to pain meds and the amount they were giving me was a joke. It wasn’t even as much as what I had been taking normally just to go to work, take care of the house, animals, etc. I know it’s a big No-No, but I had my daughter bring my pain meds from home and added a few more throughout the day to my schedule without anyone knowing. The first 2 days I could literally not move at all, had to have a catheter and if I could have gotten hold of a gun, I definitely would have used it. BUT – most of that was because as I said, I was used to the pain meds and they (in my opinion) were not giving me enough. Most people don’t experience that I don’t think, so I’m sure you won’t either. The end of the 2nd day, I had Jake bring me my stuff from home and my whole world changed. I was able to shower, walk around the hospital, etc., and the more you get up and walk – the better you feel! No doubt about it! Get up and moving as soon as possible. Anywhoo, after I got home, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I was able to shower, make me something to eat, whatever. I went on a walk 3 times a day, the first day I had my son go with me, but after that I just did it. The more I walked, the better I felt. I did physical therapy at home and it was fine.
    I know other people who have went into a rehab place for a couple weeks, and others that had a nurse come in, and of course most people have family members that will cook them a meal, or do whatever is needed. In my case, those weren’t options, so I know I pushed myself to do it myself, cuz that’s how I roll, and it was fine. Maybe a little rough the first few days, but everyday is better. I sorta think you’re getting yourself all wound up over nothing – but I could be wrong. I know that different people heal differently, have higher or lower pain thresholds, and some surgeries just hurt more than others. Every aspect is personal to you so don’t fault yourself if you can’t do everything you think you should be able too, or if you do need help. Just get as many peeps lined up to help you if needed and then hopefully – you won’t need much help. Just my 2 cents! Best of luck! Surgery under the best of circumstances is no picnic – especially back surgery. Do what works for “you” and don’t worry about what you think you should be doing. Do what you can and what’s comfortable for you!!
    Take care - Marion
  • Mouse I am sure you are not the 1st or the last to take meds from home while inpatient - matter of fact I know your not ;)

    I had hubby bring mine just in case, but thankfully my pain was controlled well except for 1 event when I had spasms so bad both my legs came 4" or so off the bed every few seconds. Not a thing you want to happen a few hrs after having your knees replaced. He had my flexeril on him but they did give me something via injection that worked.

    I still say that no one really KNOWS if they will need help at home or not....
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • Everyone is individual, and everyone needs different care. That is one of the problems with the medical society - I think often one is treated the same as two and so on and so on. There is no personalized care sometimes.
  • I did the same as Mouse. Put extra pills in my bag, including ambien so friends could get them out for me. The hospital was on a totally different schedule than I was for sleeping and would not be flexible.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • I had my pain doc arrange for a pain specialist to manage my pain post op, not the surgeons. :))( =)) They blew it the first time they operated on me. The next time, Pain Man was ready and called a peer at the teaching hospital where I had the surgery. The surgeons wanted to discharge me straight home on the third day post op. It was a three level lower lumbar disc/lam with instrumentation.....5th lumbar surgery. Pain Man to the rescue. He had me discharged to a rehab hospital as I live alone. The bottom line is that we have options and need to seek them out.
  • Interesting to read as I'm going to b alone after my surgery next week!

    Hadn't even thought of hiding more painkillers in my bag - good idea!!!:)
  • Good luck with your surgery. Be sure anything you want/need at home is at counter top level. Its amazing the things we take for granted that we can do. And then no lifting no bending.

    Keep us posted on your surgery and recovery.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Jani...Thanks for the tips on freezing up some food, I will deffinitely check into that. Just looked at some apartments a few weeks back and signed a lease on one. One of the things I was disappointed in was the freezer space, lol. Right now, I have two refrigerators, so freezer space is more than abundant.
    Was moving right along with the house selling, unfortunately the folks that were buying it, he lost his job, which meant we had to cancel the contract. Sigggggggghhhhhh. So back to showing, and now I have a apartment rent to throw in there too, ugggghh..

    Mouse, I appreciate the post and the feedback, and I do agree with you as well as others, because I am the type individual that I usually expect worse or bad outcomes, and try to do, plan, prepare, for the best so if the worst comes out, then I know I did everything I could to prevent that so it's out of my control, however if a good result comes out, then I can be pleased with the results....

    Jasper, wish you luck and sucess on your upcoming surgery, will be looking for info on how your coming along as well.

    My case, still status quo, and on hold. My pain mgmnt doc had me do a bone scan a few weeks back, something to do with a different type injection and or RF ablation depending on if the pars are shows up HOT I guess, the way I understood it. I go in tomorrow to discuss bone scan with pain mgmnt doc. I honestly don't think I want any more injections, I have the trigger point injections which offered a couple weeks of comfort, and now how two ESI injections that offered a day of relief. Both those ESI's I figure cost me over a grand each, and that's with insurance, I really don't have the money to spend on more injections that don't give significant relief.

    For now, I just continue to take the flexeril, and mobic. Takes the edge off. My job won't allow narcotics so all those sweet pain killers folks take, not an option for me. The pain doc did prescribe some pensaid lotion or liquid anti inflmmatory stuff, but never got to try it, since insurance denied it, lol.... Go figure.
  • So sorry to hear about the house falling thru. I sure can relate. I moved for a job and thought it would be so easy to sell my house since it was during the boom. Which was ending the next day literally. I then had 2 houses on my hands as I had purchased one where I was going to live. I managed to rent my old house but there were times when it did not cover everything. It took 3 years to sell and I sure struggled since those were 3 years I was having back surgeries every summer. It finally sold only because it was the only house in that price range that wasn't a short sale and the people wanted a specific closing date.

    Do you think you could rent yours?? I went with a property management company since I was in another state. They get a commission so work hard to get it rented and do background checks etc.

    Love it that the insurance companies don't pay for the stuff we need.

    Good luck with everything and keep us posted.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
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