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When is it time to say "When" ? (FBSS and Working)

doubleusnddoubleusn Posts: 122
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Chronic Pain

I did a bit of searching around using the search feature, but couldn't really find what I was looking for, so here goes.

I am postOP an L5S1 TLIF on June 16th 2011. It has been noted after never getting better that I am FBSS as my diag is pseudoarthrosis, and the pain has been increasing/escalating since 10/1/11.

Anyhow I have been working full time (40-50 hours and on call 24x7) since 10 weeks after my TLIF and as noted above it just keeps getting more and worse. I am now in a place where I think that PM will effect my work output/product going forward. I have made many sacrifices to put this off this long and have made major $ investments in equipment from my own pocket to delay that day, but I fear it is now hear, as the side effects from meds and the constant pain just robs my mind of true concentration.

My question to others is "How long did you last?" & "At what point did you throw the towel in with working?"

I have a discogram in 2 weeks and will most likely be looking at revision surgery or a SCS trial (prefer not to mask the failed fusion if possible). My goal was to last that long so I could save my vacation time and paid disability time for then, but I fear I will not make it. As the only and primary earner in my household, this makes my choice all that harder.

How long did FBSS people last and when did you finally throw the towel in, and also acknowledge your heath needed to come first, vs continuing to work out of necessity and pride/responsibility?

Would love to hear others stories to help me gauge what is realistic.

Thanks in advance... :-)
Jun 2011 -TLIF @L5-S1
Mar 2012 -NonUnion @L5S1
May 2012 -Multi Level Discography
July 2012 -XLIF 2Cages @L3L4/L4L5
Aug 2012 -All New Hardware @L34L45/L4L5/L5S1
Mar 2013 -FBSS = Pain Management until they figure it out.


  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I had typed my story that you asked for. But after 50 -60 min. off typing (I'm the slowest) It went poof and is now floating around cyberspace. Before I could click post.
    I knew it was inevitable. But being off for a year or two didn't fit into my financial plan. To get the fusion. I couldn't take drugs. So I stretched it out with injections, anti inflammatory prescriptions, And tons of ice.
    I came real close to my goal.But at the cost of my spine, permanent nerve damage. And more DDD. And a much larger surgery than was originally planed on. Then the disc right above blew. And I needed to have surgery right away. Was off of work another year. And medically separated from my employment. And retired with my pension and SDI. Disabled! And the next disc up blew out every year.
    I unknowingly sacrificed my health. Because I stubbornly worked till I just couldn't work no more,
    And bottom line is the money doesn't matter if your disabled and don't have your health.
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Thanks for the feedback.

    This is where my mind also goes at times.

    In a better world I would have already stopped, but given my situation, and my pride, I have not yet. My pride I need to readjust, but as the sole provider of a young family that part is a bit trickier.

    Thanks again for the feedback, it is helping me shape my opinion on what is reasonable going forward.

    Jun 2011 -TLIF @L5-S1
    Mar 2012 -NonUnion @L5S1
    May 2012 -Multi Level Discography
    July 2012 -XLIF 2Cages @L3L4/L4L5
    Aug 2012 -All New Hardware @L34L45/L4L5/L5S1
    Mar 2013 -FBSS = Pain Management until they figure it out.
  • I think way too many of us try to keep doing the physical jobs because we feel guilty about leaving the family without an income. I know I waited at least 2 years as a time bomb waiting to go off in my neck, to think all it would have taken is a car accident or a fall and I could have been paralyzed. As it was I waited way to long and ended up with permanent nerve damage to my left arm and hand. I was never able to return to work because of nerve damage basically leaving me with one arm.

    But, everyone is different, you could have a revision and be able to go back to work in a couple months. It's a hard decision. And the hardest part was when social security sent me the letter that said I was unable to work any more, not any job. It was perhaps the most bittersweet moment in my life knowing that my career was over. My next question was now what? You really need to think about that
  • I worked for 15 years after my primary doc and pain man told me to quit. That was impossible when I had two children that I was raising without assistance from my ex. From a medical stand point, this was not in my best interest but I had no choice. Best wishes.
  • I feel your pain. I started down my path 11+ year ago. I ruptured a disc in my back. I had surgery to repair the disc and the fix lasted about 6 months before I re-herniated again. I spent the next 5 1/2 years living with the pain before I finally got the courage to do something about it. I ended up having a 2 level PLIF from L4 to S1. I went back to work 2 weeks after that surgery. Long story short, I was diagnosed as pseudoarthrosis at L4/L5. I ended up having a complete revision 9 months after my original surgery. Took another 2 weeks off from work and was back at work. A year and half later I had a stimulator implanted to help combat the permanent nerve damage that I suffer with on a daily basis. I take a fair amount of oxycodone on a daily basis, 150mgs a day plus baclofen for muscle cramps. My pain levels hover around a 5/6 every day. I'm the sole provider for my family. My oldest is heading off to college this year and my youngest will follow 2 years from now. I love my job and as long as my employer is willing to pay me, I'll keep working. I can still out perform everyone around me even with my drug induced fog of a brain. I can wallow in self pity and pain and sit at home looking for a handout or I can be productive in society. My pain levels do not change no matter what I do.
  • concerned0413 said:
    My pain levels do not change no matter what I do.
    I figured this out and decided that I would be better off with the distraction of work and activity. I found that these distractions have helped change my perception of pain. With a changed perception, I have gain far more freedom than I ever could have imagined!

  • that my back injury and eventual fusion came near the end of my career at the university. I had nearly put in the 30 years needed for full retirement. I had a good amount of sick leave for the surgery but I started back to work part-time about a month after the fusion, at first by going in to the office and picking up work and then bringing it home and doing it on my laptop computer while I laid on the couch with my laptop propped up on my knees. I worked part-time like that for about three months and finally went back to work full-time. Oddly enough, I had my back surgery the same year that the stock market crashed so badly and most of my pension money was in stocks, so it ended up that I should probably have worked at least an additional five years to try and make some of that money up in my pension. However, my job not only involved sitting at a computer almost all day but it was an extremely stressful management job, and my physical therapist felt it was killing me. I agreed with him and eventually decided that I didn't care if I was poor, I just needed to get the heck out of there. I took my 30+years of service and retired. I was out the door permanently last August. I've only been to PT twice since retirement. I used to go 2-4 times a month while working because my body would be in such knots I could barely move. Money is a wonderful thing, but there are some things in life that are just more important.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I think the biggest consideration is weather you and you're Dr's. feel that you could wind up in a wheel chair! That's a game changer. If you feel that you can live with the pain and nerve damage. Then the decision is up to you.
    But if your likely to be wheel chair bound. It's still up to you.
    As it turned out my daughter had to get her AA degree first at a community collage in my county. So that was cheap. And for her B.A. she also went to cal state Hayward in my tax area. and that was cheap too.
    Now if she would have went for her masters or doctors then we would have had to cross that bridge when we got to it.
    My son chose a career that didn't need collage. And he had no interest in collage.
    At any rate none of them would want or could stand it if you were in a wheel chair for them.
    Just food for thought, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • WSN:

    This question is no different than when you asked your surgeon for a recommendation about surgery. He/she will defer the decision to you.

    Only you can evaluate the quality of your life to decide about surgery AND only you can evaluate the circumstances in your life to determine the Cost Benefit Analysis / Return On Investment of continuing to work at the present rate. It is a very tough decision, and a lonely decision.

    Look at the big picture. I failed to do so at your age. Now, when I am at my max earning potential I am struggling to get out of bed and must decline income opportunities because of my back! Could I have made wiser decisions when I was in my 40's! Damn right I could have. But, did I have the wisdom and foresight in my 40's that I do now? Hell no.

    Again, look at the big picture. Life is a long run. We must pace ourselves. I am processing this challenge right now. Mentally, we have much to offer for corporate profit/income, and a great deal of it DOES NOT require physical movement. Hell, make the electrons move! Information technology is an opportunity for Spineys to survive and prosper.

    A sideline challenge is to ward off the gutter depression that tempts all of us. There is no question that it is easier to lay in the bed in the morning than it is to get out of bed. But, it is more painful and challenging to get out of bed in the morning and to do something. I fight it everyday.
  • Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!
  • Hi Airborne72

    A big part of this is my mental abilities while working.

    I am fortunate enough to be laptop bound during all this, but my line of work is high stress, long hours, multiple time zones (global) and most of all it requires a certain level of memory / alertness ...and I am struggling with the side effects of meds as most of them rob one's memory pretty well. If my job was one of repetition it would be a no brainier answer to the question, but I am required to solve complex problems at odd hours under the stress of customers who can lose millions per day. I carry a pager 24x7.

    My job was always challenging and rewarding, but at a time when I need it to be repetitive and low stress it is not, and as an honest person I am constantly evaluating my end of the deal with my employer and customers.

    It would be easy to just dodge and avoid, but it's not really my style, thus I sometimes wonder about what / when / if I will need to call a 'time out' per se. The stress, odd hours, and the lack of sleep we all get doesn't help, but my word is my word and I struggle with identifying when / if my memory is effected enough to be concerned.

    I agree getting up and out is harder in pain, but I still do it. I am fortunate that my type of work is not physical, but the depletion of my memory and my honesty about it feel like they may come to a crossroad at some point as with my FBSS the pain is still rising weekly, thus It's hard to know if I can mange it till it baselines as I don't have one, and it's on the brink of becoming a mental / memory recall issue.

    Just trying to work it all thru / out while keeping my conscience clean ;-)
    Jun 2011 -TLIF @L5-S1
    Mar 2012 -NonUnion @L5S1
    May 2012 -Multi Level Discography
    July 2012 -XLIF 2Cages @L3L4/L4L5
    Aug 2012 -All New Hardware @L34L45/L4L5/L5S1
    Mar 2013 -FBSS = Pain Management until they figure it out.
  • My first posterior c1-c2 fusion was April 2011 and I didn't even make it a year.....I was never able to return to work fully and had to go back for a revision in January 2012.
    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • WSN:

    You are correct, and the fact that I did not even address that aspect of it all clearly shows that I am also "not on game."

    I drive a bunch in my job. Being slightly medicated and being a safe driver has been my major concern. What I have noticed is that my output is slipping AND I DON'T EVEN SEE IT! Others point it out when they contact me for information/reports and I then realize that it was weeks/months ago when I visited that account. Scary.

    I'm thoroughly impressed with your statement of integrity. Although your spine precludes you from getting a good night's sleep, your conscience should not. Good for you!
  • This is an excellent discussion and I struggle with the same decision. On one hand I feel like I can't work anymore, my job could cost me or any of the people I supervise thier life. On the other hand if I don't work I will fall into the hole of laying around all day without a decent income and spiral even further down the dreaded road of incapacitation. Tough decision but only I can make it.
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