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I live alone; how long did you need help at home post-2 level ACDF?

I have started all of the pre surgery tests and clearances. My surgery will be some time in July (2-level fusion C5-7).

I am now working on getting a post-op plan in place. I live alone and don't have anyone in a position to stay with me yet. My bedroom and bathroom are on the second floor. How long did it take before you were able to care for yourself after this type of surgery?

My dx is cervical spondylotic myelopathy. I have significant balance, gait, and urine retention issues. I will ask my doc how these issues could affect my post-op recovery but wanted to hear from you "been there, done that" folks.

PLIF L1-3 6/13
ACDF (C5-7) 8/12
PLIF (L2-5) 2003/05/08


  • edited 06/14/2012 - 1:22 AM
    My husband had what you're having about 8 years ago, and then 3 years ago, they put in new discs, cut out spurs and put in hardware. Honestly, we talked about this, and for him at least, there was no way he could have gone it alone. I just had back surgery on Monday and now I rarely ask my hubby to help me get up, but then again, as sad as it makes me (Just call me Ms. Independence) there is no way I'm ready to take care of myself completely. There is a little bit more I can do each day, and I don't know how long it will take. I think next week when he's out for a few hours doing surveys, I'll be okay - just have to have already had my shower and have my meds near by, etc. Cell phones are also a wonderful thing!

    Best of luck to you! And I would def discuss this with your doctor!
    I am who I am!
  • I had 3 level lumbar fusion surgery 6 wks ago, I am 63 and also live alone (with 3 big dogs). I was in the hospital for 3 nights and my son spent 2 nights at my house when I came home. I did ok by myself with him or friends dropping in to do a few things I couldn't. My bedroom is upstairs, but the stairs didn't bother me. You really need to prepare your house before surgery. My most useful items were my bed rail which I still use to get up, multiple reachers kept upstairs and downstairs, and toilet raisers. I bought some baskets to place on counters so that I could have items from bottom shelves that I'd need waist high. My son put big retaining wall bricks under the legs of my favorite couch as it was too low. Have lots of pillows on your bed and couch to help laying down.

    PM me if you have any particular concerns as I can sure relate to your worries.
  • If you can arrange for help, by all means do so. I did not but found it frustrating, esp. the first 2 weeks. I had a 5 level cervical laminectomy and fusion, in hospital 4 days. Having friends shop and bring meals is a big help once you''re home, but it's the little things like not being able to bend over to pick something off the floor that wore on me. Get as much info as you can about the restrictions for your particular surgery and be realistic about what you'll need and what you can do. I cooked and froze 2 weeks of meals only to find I couldn't bend to reach my freezer. Put what you'll need at countertop level. Don't forget paper plates and bendy straws. Check out your bed area and put what you'll need (tissues, glasses, etc) in a basket for easy access. If I had to do it again, I would arrange for part time help for a few weeks at least. Good luck to you and it does get better week by week. Feel free to PM me.
  • I had L3-S1 fusion in Jan, at 31. I had a home health aid come in 2-3 times a week to help do dishes, sweep, and I would shower then because I was pretty sketchy at first. I'm 6'1", and the slight bending not having a dish washer was impossible. I had surgery in middle of winter, and had to forget about moving snow, and wood is my primary heat. My neighbors helped me stack 2 cords of wood in my arctic entry. I could after the first couple of weeks, move one piece at a time to the stove. I had a walker, raised toilet seat, and shower seat. I also prepared about a months worth of food and froze. I fixed 4 different meals, and after week 2, I was tired of them all. It is mentally tough, but I raised my bed up on 8 action packers, to get the height right where I would be able to back up to is and then just bend down ever so slightly. I couldn't do steps for about 2 months. My couch sat too low, so the guy who had his son raise it up with blocks! Genius! I had paper plates, and plastic ware as well. Some days I wasn't mentally into doing anything. I had a rough time after surgery, and found that the no lifting more than 10#'s was way above my level. I purchased my organic milk (good for 6 weeks) in half gallon containers, and made my tea in half gallon as well. I made sure I drank at least a gallon of water a day, and my alarms on my iphone to set to make sure I took my meds without forgetting, or not waking up. I would not want to wake up 6 hours out when I was taking meds every 4 hours. Keep on top of your meds, and taper off of them at your own discretion. I'm 5 months out and just now stopped all my meds, but still had a month and half of only 2 doses a day. I wished I'd had some type of system to help me sit up in bed. If I ever do this again, I'll screw 2 eye bolts to hang a rope with a hand hold on it, because getting upright in bed was a chore. I had 6 pillows, because sleeping flat on back with feet elevated at knees was the only comfortable way for me. I think it was about 3 months afterwards that I noticed that I could sleep on my side again. I also found that laying face down, with my hands cupped near my groin was actually quite relaxing, and took pressure off my back as well. I wore basketball shorts, they two layers of material and were slick enough to help me pivot in bed without causing any friction to over come. I already had house shoes, but after the fact if you want to walk around outside, have a pair of stable slip on shoes. I couldn't reach my feet for 3 months without the help of the grabber. That came in handy getting dressed, and picking things up off the floor. I ended up having my health aid buy me a electronic tooth brush, because the movement of my arms the first few weeks was miserable. I live in a 2 story house, and I had my neighbor help me bring my spare bed downstairs, and I brought a few changes of clothes down as well. I had very upset nerves afterwards, and moving around wasn't easy at all. My nerves would take almost 5 minutes to relax after sitting upright before I could stand up without feeling dizzy. I fell twice, even with the walker, because of pinching nerves, making me pass out from the quick onset of pain. Passing the time after month 2 has been a chore. Reading books, doing crosswords or Sudoku , and watching tv are all boring. I'm getting better slowly, but once I was able to get up and walk, I noticed it did help. I circled my coffee table because I wasn't going to go outside in the snow. I found I would sleep better, and feel better if just doing that. I'm having a rough go at getting over the hump now 6 weeks into PT, but finding pushing myself to walk, helps once again. I wasn't allowed to drive for 3 months. Your doctor maybe different, but I didn't even feel comfortable then doing so. We all have different pre surgery issues, and even though we may have the same procedure, we don't know what the outcome maybe. I had a lot of jello, and ice cream bars stocked up, as well as the food. I also had a lot of chicken and beef bullion cubes. I had them from my hospital stay, and found that sometimes I wanted salty food, and other times sweet chocolate ice cream. It is difficult to satisfy any cravings, when just taking medication and sleeping, those first few weeks. Having higher protein food is helpful in healing. I didn't have a sleep/awake schedule. I was told to sleep as often as possible for the first month, because our bodies recover and repairs its self when we are at rest. And the DVR on my tv was helpful, because I would be awake sometimes for a half hour, or a few hours, at all hours of the daytime. Good luck, and hopefully you will prepare everything that you need. My best suggestion, is human interaction is so helpful in brightening ones mood. I found out who my true friends were after this second back surgery. Having a happy mindset, helps one recover quicker. One last thing. I made home made ice packs out of one gallon zip lock bags. I can't remember the alcohol %, but 60% water, and 40% rubbing isopropyl alcohol. It should be frozen slush mixture, and if you lay them flat in your freezer, they will be good with a dish towel for 30+ minutes of icing. I've had mine made for several years, so I can't remember the mix ratio, but maybe you could find more info online. If not, when the mixture is too ice, then let thaw, and add half a cup of alcohol to the mixture, shake, and freeze again until its slush that is bendable but not to moveable with pressing your hand down on it. It is a more intense chill than any other ice pack, unless you have access to the expensive ones like they have at PT. Once again, best of luck, and hope that everything turns out well for you.
  • As some one else stated please find out ahead of time what your restrictions are. As far as could you do it by yourself, you have to be the best judge of yourself. I myself did it with the bone being removed from my hip. My biggest issue was not my neck but rather the hip incision. Talk it out with your surgeon, as most surgeon don't want their patients lying down to much they want a balance of things. One of your most important restrictions I have found in the cervical spine surgeries is wait limits. When you lift things with your arms it all pulls on your neck. So for example most surgeons have a restriction of nothing more than a gallon of milk(which weight in at albs). There are some of that was above what we realistic could do. So for example you might look at the 1/2 gallon or on the lines of 4 lbs.

    Get up tomorrow go through all the things you do in a day, and make a list of them. Then with the help of your surgeon's restrictions you can come up with a realistic idea of what you can do for your living arrangements.

    I am sure you are already finding it difficult to do steps with myelopathy, so if you can hardly do them now, following surgery they may be a no go for awhile. So you will need a alternative plan even if someone is home with you. I myself following surgery found the couch much more to my liking, and had everything set up for my return. I did have a cooler beside the couch for juices, water and such. Of course along with that was paper, pen, reading material, remotes, electrical cords for laptop. Like I said go through your routine and see what you use in a day, and then you can begin making changes that will help. If your going to use your bed, you might find a wedge pillow of sorts to help with sitting more upright, especially if you have a collar or a brace.
  • bookcatbbookcat United States Posts: 66
    edited 06/24/2012 - 4:12 PM
    Thank you all for your very helpful comments and stories. I'm already putting them into action. My truly unsolvable dilemma though, at least by me, is figuring out what I can do for a toilet downstairs. Bedside commode? I haven't found anyone willing to come in to empty it. Chemical toilet? Has anyone tried this? I live in a small space (600 ft between downstairs and upstairs) but do have a recliner for sleeping. As a result of spinal issues, I have balance and mobility challenges so will need to make it as easy as possible to get around.

    What I meant was I need to minimize how much space a toilet substitute will take up. Active day, too much pain, drained. Again, thank you for such good advice!

    2-level ACDF C5-7: pending
    3 PLIFs L2-5: 2003,2005,2008
    PLIF L1-3 6/13
    ACDF (C5-7) 8/12
    PLIF (L2-5) 2003/05/08
  • I had a 3 level acdf in Feb. I had help stay with me for 3 weeks, but I had a son and elderly mother here too, that I take care of and I am the only driver for, so a friend came up from out of town for a couple weeks before surgery..was waiting on a surgery date.. and was here 3 weeks after, till I was back on my feet sort of. After the first couple of days I could do most things on my own, heat up food, take a shower..etc. The worst for me was waking up to take my meds in time. If I slept for more that 3-4 hrs my pain pills wore off and I would wake up almost in tears..sometimes really in tears from the pain. I still couldnt drive for about another month after my friend left and that was the hardest part! I did prepare and stock up as best I could because I wasnt sure how long it would be before I could drive (still havent run out of shampoo or toilet paper..lol!) I actually felt good after the first week or so and went shopping with my friend, out to lunch etc.., but started feeling worse after she left and really felt like I could have used someone atleast parttime for another month. Getting to appointments was especially hard for me, because my surgeons office is a good hr drive each way and it was hard to get anyone willing to take me.
  • I am shortly to have ACDF surgery in Greece, where my partner and I live. I am 64 and three weeks post-op I will be on my own as my partner will be away. I can get no information from the neurosurgeon or other doctors about restrictions or what care I am likely to need at home. I haven't even been told the name of the operation - I am guessing it's ACDF surgery!
    They haven't told me when I'm due to have surgery, just maybe next week.

    I am honestly terrified by all these unknowns, and especially the thought of being trapped here, restricted and not very mobile. How will I feed the cats - or myself - or kill a cockroach? This is the worst thing: no information.
  • eadubyeeaduby Posts: 100
    edited 04/29/2013 - 11:44 AM
    I only had a posterior laminotomy without a fusion and I need assistance with a lot three days post op. I'm sure it's worse with a full fusion, my friend had one and said the collar really made life hard without assistance. I need help getting up and help reaching, pushing, pulling, dressing, washing, etc. Even without that hard collar.
    Microlaminectomy and discectomy at C7-T1 on April 26th.
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