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