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Scheduled for surgery on Jan 7th, nervous and excited

Hello all, long time reader but first time poster. It's a shame that a website like this has do exist but I'm glad it does. It's helped knowing there are others out there that are dealing with the same issues. A little history about myself. I'm 33 and in good shape. About 5 yrs ago I was snow boarding in Colorado and hit a jump and came up long on the landing and landed right on my butt. That landing blew out my l4/l5 and was the beginning of a lot of ups and downs. I took time off work and let it heal up and after a couple months I was back to feeling good and started working out again and running and back to a normal life. I then took a job as a field engineer traveling which required a ton of driving. After a year of working there and traveling non stop my back started hurting again to the point where i could barely walk. This time I got an MRI and discovered a severe herniation or l4/l5 and l5/s1 with disc fragments at the l4/l5 level and bulged l3/l4. The Dr told me I have DDD which I've learned is normal but for my age it's pretty far advanced. Now I know you can't see me but I'm not a weak person. I played football and raced motocross and have broken bones and and have cuts that went to the bone and none of that compares to the pain associated with sciatic nerve pain. It's crippling and the lack of sleep is terrible, if I get 4hrs in I'm excited. Now I have been blessed as my wife's a obgyn dr and she feels terrible because she can't do anything to help the pain. She helps out greatly when I have flair ups and just tells me to relax and she takes care of stuff. I feel terrible because I've never relied on people to help do things for me, I've always just done it. It's the way I was raised I guess, very poor. If we wanted something we had to work for it. Anyways I'm getting off in a tangent. I've done 5 lumbar injections with the last two herniation and they didn't really seem to help. This last episode, which is still kicking my tail, was 4 months ago. We attempted one more round of physical therapy and the therapist said no more as it was making it worse. I can't sit at all, it's impossible, and standing still for more than a few minutes kills me. My lower back/butt feels like I'm being stabbed with an ice pick and my left leg goes completely numb below the knee, frustrating. My surgeon and my wife both agreed that enough is enough and now I'm scheduled for surgery on jan 7th to perform a lumbar fusion from L3 to S1 with a full 360 cage. I guess what I'm getting at is the 3 level fusion scares me. I know worse case scenario I won't be any worse off than I already am but I really hope I'm making the right decision to go ahead with the surgery. I'm sure you all know all about this, but I'm tired of laying on the floor looking at the ceiling. Does anybody have regrets doing the surgery? What would you do different? Any advice from someone that's had a 3 level fusion? Thanks in advance, James


  • Stay focused on the future.

    Get your preparation done. You probably know about the pre and post op preparation list in the FAQ. Practise de-stressing with some pre & post surgery stress relief music. There's posts about this.

    Make sure you have a robust flexible pain relief strategy agreed to with your surgeon, you don't want to be at the mercy of nurses or waiting for surgeon before varying / adjustment of meds.

    Make sure your bowefls move relatively soon after surgery before you get constipated. Make sure dr writes up 'medicinal encouragement' that you can ask for before its a problem. Be careful of trainee or new graduate nurses. (They may be starting soon) Make sure your drain and catheter is checked out by a senior nurse (bad and painful respectively when these are not done right).

    All the best.
  • I'm scheduled for Jan 2, so I will be going in before you. But, I think that by having as much research as you possibly can, will help you feel more relaxed about going into surgery. Right now, I'm more anticipating the surgery as I'm tired of all the pain, not being able to do what I want to do (like walk a mall), not sleeping through the night, and basically being depressed. I'm not looking forward to the healing process, but from what I was told by a friend of mine, when you are already in so much pain, the surgery pain will feel more welcomed and you will feel better much sooner than you initially anticipate. So words like this does make me feel much better! My surgery is going to be a little different, I'm having a TLIF with a discectomy and lamenectomy L5S1. My doctor has went over just about every detail of the procedure and when I left, I felt that all my concerns were addressed. I will be keeping you in my prayers, as well as all the upcoming surgeries. Think positive!!
    Lumbar DDD
    TLIF 1/2/13
  • sut123ssut123 Posts: 5
    edited 12/18/2012 - 10:40 AM
    Thank you very much for the advice and prayers you two, it helps more than you know. It easy to get focused on the negatives and not look at the positives. I will start collecting all those items ASAP and bigmama, good luck with your surgery. You will be in my prayers as well.
  • It will be nice to hear about your preparation activities, if you wish to share them with us.

    What you tell us may prompt more more recollections and suggestions, too.

    No doubt with your wife being a doctor and 'in the know', you will have chosen a top surgeon with low surgical risk.

    One of the most difficult things is to teach oneself to think before doing anything, so that the movement is planned and is bending, lifting and twisting free. One is so used to wanting to do something and doing it without conscious thought, that it takes real effort to stop before action commences and planning the movement. Try practising it now, (you may be doing it already from necessity?), lol.
  • Hi James

    Wishing you a successful surgery and recovery. Dave's advice is spot on.

    I was brought up poor too and had to do everything for myself. After my surgery, which wasn't nearly as extensive as your's will be, a dear friend taught me how to accept help and that's what you'll need to do for quite some time. Recovery will take a lot of patience and time, but you'll work things out day by day. There'll be times when you'll overdo it and have a pain flare, but that happens to us all. Yes, you are blessed to have a dear wife, who is a specialist, looking after you.

    My surgeon aims for 80% - 90% pain reduction and even though I still have pain in the levels either side of my fusion, I'm so much better off than I was before surgery. I can do most things now and just have to be careful and not do too much of any one activity at a time.

    Once your surgery is over and you're able to, do let us know how you're going.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Thank you all and DaveFusion, I will keep everybody updated on my preparation and progress. The surgery can't come soon enough as I've had a bad flair up last night and on my third day without hardly any sleep. It's driving me mad.......I don't take pain meds besides nsaids and right now I'm starting to regret it.... Anyways, thanks for the kind words and support. It helps more than you know
  • trishdownunderttrishdownunder Posts: 971
    edited 12/21/2012 - 6:30 PM
    Hi James

    Could you ask your doctor for some pain meds prior to your surgery as they will give you some relief and help you get a bit of sleep. I took a low dose of Oxycontin (10 mg I think and paracetamol) right up to my surgery, and the hospital pain relief worked just fine. With the ALIF, I had to have a clean-out the previous day in the hospital and because I hadn't had a meal, was worried that if I took an Oxy that night, then I might feel sick. The anaesthetist recommended that I take one and I was fine. I take it with Phenergan 25, which helps with any nausea - the nurses recommended it.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • lolallola Posts: 1
    edited 12/21/2012 - 7:38 PM
    I just joined and had to reply to your post. My journey started in 2005 with a neck fusion and then in 2006 I found out that my spine was collapsing in and putting pressure on my heart and lungs. 3 days after I found this out, I was in surgery on Nov. 1. I am completely fused from about level 4 or 5 in my neck through the L5/S1. I also developed deep tissue MRSA which caused 5 more surgeries. I was in the hospital from Nov.1d, 2006-Jan. 10, 2007. I don't tell you this to scare you, but to tell you that I got through it all in the end. You need to have confidence in your doctor and the hospital you will be going to. I had two great ones in that respect. Would I do it again? Your bet your bippie I would. I can't bend as well as I used to nor can I swim (I drown), but I feel that is a small price to pay for being able to walk. I still have some discomfort (not pain), mainly when the weather changes, but the osteoarthritis causes pain also. If you are like me, you may want to have them give you some Versid(?) to put you out before going into the operating room. I told my doctor there was no way I was going in there and seeing all of the tools they have to work with and voluntarily stay there. Needless to say he complied! Good luck to everyone getting ready for surgery. My relearning to walk was about the hardest part of all.

  • sut123ssut123 Posts: 5
    edited 12/26/2012 - 6:41 AM
    Trish, I finally caved in after 5 months and started taking some pain and sleep medicine. It's made a world of difference. I'm a stubborn person which can make life harder than it needs to be sometimes but for some reason I felt like I needed to feel the full pain this time. I feel like i will appreciate not having pain more now, sounds crazy I know. I took pain meds the other times it herniated and without fully feeling the pain I went right back to doing the same stuff that herniated it without considering the ramifications of it....trust me now I will!

    Lola, what can I say.....your the toughest person on the planet. I now know I'm making the right decision and that I can and will make it through this just fine. What im going through seems so minor now in comparison. Keep fighting the good fight, your an inspiration to us all. I will keep you updated on my progress and if I get worried I will read your story and know it will be fine. Thank you so much for posting
  • I wish you well with your upcoming surgery. As a medical professional, I have to get this off my chest. There is nothing to fear from new or student nurses. Most of this time you won't know how much experience a nurse has and student nurses are working under working a highly experienced RNs.

    Anyway, I have only had a two level fusion thus far. I am having a third fusion sometime early in the year. I wouldn't change anything, if it wasn't for the herniated disc that I currently have, I wouldn't have any pain at all. I have no regrets and I would do it all over again. I have lost some range of motion, which sucks. Follow your surgeons instructions and you will just fine, but you have to remember a fusion is just a means of stabilizing the spine, it may not eliminate all your pain.

    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
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