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Successful Lumbar Bi-Level Microdiscectomy - There are success stories.

EMSpains87EEMSpains87 Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone!

I stalked this site for a bit before my surgery, and by god did it scare the hell out of me. So many people having so many surgeries, so many people left with chronic debilitating pain...

So I thought it would be nice, maybe even an obligation to those reading here that are afraid, for me to post MY story. One of l, so far, success. Be prepared, it's a long one and I ramble often.

I'm 24 years old. Up until July of last year, I led a fairly active lifestyle. I played tournament paintball, worked out, and I had been working for a year and a half on an ambulance as an EMT and I loved my job. In my field, lifting heavy patients in awkward positions was the norm, people who have accidents or fall down their skinny little staircase to the basement after drinking too much don't really decide to end up in difficult situations, they just do.... And sometimes, the patient is critical enough that you can't justify waiting for a lift assist, they have to move NOW. Safety issues, or maybe the patient is just crashing on us and we need to go. I never thought anything of it, I was a very healthy, very strong, young man. I took pride in what I did, and wasn't going to let a difficult situation stop my partner and I from helpin others.

Then one day, on a 350 mile transfer to a specialized rehabilitation hospital in Chicago, my left leg felt like it was cramping. It was a full pain, and it only popped up after sitting for hours at a time. This proceeded to worsen gradually, no big "blowout" that I can recall, over the corse of four or five months to pain in both legs radiatig down to the back of my knees, and pain in my lower back/buttocks.

At first, because of the gradual onset and bilateral nature without a traumatic history, we ruled out all sorts of things such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Finally I had an MRI and it showed I had vey large broad-based herniations in both L4-L5 and L5-S1 with significant nerve impingment. I was immediately removed from work, which was now hell reincarnate, and I found myself nearly bed confined with pain.

We tried physical therapy, steroid injections, and chiropractic manipulation. Nothing helped. I was put on fentanyl patches, they didn't work for me. Switched to OxyContin and oxycodone for breakthrough and finally had SOME relief.

I was told that surgery was the next step, but the ortho specialist I was referred to said he "didn't do backs" and left me high and dry. I did my research, and found a world-class orthopedic surgeon at a hospital nearby (I live on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, just across from St. Louis Missouri) that not only went to medical school at Johns Hopkins, but was the lead spinal tumor removal surgeon and a major reconstructive spinal surgery specialist. Dr.EDITED, to be exact. His bedside manner was decent, he was very short and frank in his speech, but his credentials spoke volumes. Prior to the surgery, I said that I would rather have a surgeon that's skilled with his blade and poor with his words than the other way around.... And I don't regret it one bit.

I had to wait over a month to get in to see him the first time, and another month after that for the surgery, and during that time I was not only in pain all the time, my quality of life was.... Well, shit. My wife and I couldn't go places together, we couldn't spend time together anywhere br watching TV in the bedroom where I lay confined to the bed, and let's just throw it of there..... When your in that much pain, the bedroom is for sleep and TV only, the "passions" of love go right out the window.

I read a lot of posts about the surgery, I read a lot about how drastically my life had changed. I was in Paramedic school, and had just taken a temporary break from the local Firw Department to get through a very demanding year of medic class, and was planning on a career as a firefighter/paramedic that I LOVED doing. I read about all the failed surgeries, all the pain left over.

I panicked several times. I was out of work, without pay, because my employer didn't think it was work related (still had my lawyer on that one) and living off my wife's salary as a RN (thank god for her, every day). I was freaking out about my future, one I had my mind SO dead-set on, and how it all came crumbling down. I couldn't have the career I wanted without risking, almost guaranteeing, another back injury.

Well, the lifetime ahead of me would have to wait, because the day of the surgery was here. I was nervous, but had conplete faith in my surgeon. I wen under, came back up in the room, and hot damn did my lower back hurt. It was called a microdiscectomy, but I have a 5" incision on y lower back and there wasn't a thing about it that felt "micro"!! I stayed in the hospital for two nights, my pain was uncontrolled at the incision site, and I found out later it was due to the bed they had me in. My memory foam mattress at home was heaven.

After the shock of the incision pain went away, I became aware that my legs didn't hurt. At all.

I went home, walked a little each day, probably less than I should have, but the back pain went away as the muscle healed and I was left in absolutely NO pain.

That was six weeks ago.

I go to my first physical therapy appointment today. I need to strengthen my core about a hindered times over, I have been told that THAT is the key to preventing reinjury. I am still off work, and indo not plan on returning to my job on the ambulance, despite it being the job that I love. That was rough, but the time in pain taught me priorities.... And a life worth livIng is top f the list.

Some surgeries may not go well. There is that risk. Mine went flawlessly, and I am finally getting my head back I the game and looking towards my future. Looking at new jobs that walk a lot but require no heavy lifting, and focusing on trying to heal the best I can.

The surgery may have fixed my body, but my mind is another story. This is part of the reason I'm here. I wanted to tell about my surgical experience, but also ask a quastion. I already know the answer, but I can't shake it.

I simply cannot STOP thinking about reinjury. It haunts me, day and night, and the paranoia is overwhelming. Combine that with losing a job that helped define me as a person, something I took great pride in, and i feel lost. My wife, god bless her, understands the medical nature of my back injury seeing as how she is a nurse, but having not been there herself I don't think she truly grasps just how debilitating the paranoia can be sometimes. I know I can't let fear rule my life, but that fine line of being constantly cautious and aware and over thinking and dwelling on the risks eludes me. I'm just so scared, plain and simple. I seem to be lucky, do far, with a great surgical outcome.... The chances of a repeat performance seems unlikely.

That's it, no real question, just two statements.

I had a great surgery.

I'm scared shitless about reinjury.

Thanks for your time,

(sorry about spelling errors, typing on my phone and in a rush)

Post edited to remove name of medical professional and or facility. by The Spine-Health Moderator Team


  • First session of physical therapy is complete, and it went FANTASTIC!

    The therapist was very knowledgable, and he was very impressed with the pain level, or lack thereof, while we were stretching out and soon the core strengthening. It felt so good to finally get to stretch, to break a sweat on a workout bike. It was a return to normalcy and it certainly went a long ways towards improving morale.

    I have new hope after the PT. To be able to stretch without pain, to be able to move again without being paranoid about reinjury..... This session with the therapist has shown me that I am not as fragile as I believed. I won't let this newfound courage get ahead of me, I still need to be very careful in both the stretches and in everyday movement... It's just a breath of fresh air to stretch and not break in to pieces.

    Hope everyone out there is having a good day today, and for all those who aren't, I read a quote on a calendar while i was a PT..

    "Don't lose sight of your dreams. Dream big, because those with high goals are more powerful than those with all the facts."

    It reminded me that half the battle is mental. A positive outlook, even when it's so hard to come by, makes life easier. Pain is an intense demotivator, and keeping goals is hard when all there seems to be is pain, but dot lose sight of who you are. You may not be able to acheive those dreams today, tomorrow, or this year, but as long as you keep thing to steer your path towards your dream, you can succeed. Look at Stephen Hawking, a man who had endured much, and accomplished even more.
  • The only advice I can give you is to proceed with caution for the first 6 months. Your doctor shaved a portion of your disc off and as such the disc is weak and will take time to scar and heal over. There is minimal blood flow to the disc, so this does take some time. If your careful, in time you'll never know you had anything done.

    Good Luck and congratulations.

  • glad to hear it has been successfull so far, i also need to have a microdiscectomy, i have a physical job, having to lift up to 70lbs. i am in st.louis,mo myself. you should go buy that qoute and not give up your dreams to become an emt. i finally heard of another success story thru a friend, that also has a physical job, he has been fine for 4 years now, i was sure glad to hear it, if i hear of some more maybe it will build my courage up to get my microdiscectomy.
  • You be a smart dude to realize that your life can't go on as before with the lifting that is. There is no telling who is going to have further back problems but you are making the right moves to protect yous. JMHO It seems that a lot of the disc micro's don't seem to last/work well and people are back for a fusion, which is not the end of the world as long as you protect your back going forward.
  • catfishman said:
    glad to hear it has been successfull so far, i also need to have a microdiscectomy, i have a physical job, having to lift up to 70lbs. i am in st.louis,mo myself. you should go buy that qoute and not give up your dreams to become an emt. i finally heard of another success story thru a friend, that also has a physical job, he has been fine for 4 years now, i was sure glad to hear it, if i hear of some more maybe it will build my courage up to get my microdiscectomy.
    While I agree with following dreams, my goal of becoming a paramedic would be awesome only for as long as my back held out. I have other dreams too, such as growing old with my wife, having children and raising them in to responsible adults, and a HUGE one is "I want to live my life pain free" and that one takes the cake. I have begun to branch out in my goals, and have transitioned from the emergency ore-hospital medical goalset to an in-hospital medical goalset. Discussed med school with my wife, and once I get my BSN I have the options.... It's just going to take some getting used to. I can say that I would be happier living a pain free life than not, almost regardless of the other circumstances. Seriously, those months pre-surgery I wasn't myself, I was an ass due to the constant pain, and I was a drain on my family. I never want to feel that way again, EVER.

    Getting in shape, a strong core, and lifestyle changes coupled with a constant awareness hopefully will get me where I want to be. I don't intend to screw up a perfect of one to a surgery that seems to have to many complications.
  • cansitstillccansitstill Posts: 10
    edited 06/26/2012 - 11:43 AM
    Thank you for your successful post. I am sitting here two weeks out from a L5/S1 microdisectemy that was followed by a CSF leak repair last thursday. I am scared every day that I will screw something up and be back under the knife. I was doing so well from the first surgery I couldn't imagine anything going wrong...and it did. But I a going to keep my head up..take it easier this time (absolutely killing me to do so, ,who knew a walk to the bathroom counts as a walk?!?) and hope that I can make the same post in 6 months. Thanks for your inspiration.
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