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2 weeks until my first surgery---terrified

Hello all!!!

Well the title says it all. I am due for ALIF of the L4-L5 on the 18th with bone marrow being taken from the left illiac crest.

A little about my journey....I am 30 years old and I've been dealing with the pain for close to ten years. DDD runs in the family as my mother and uncle both had surgeries due to this and my father had ruptured discs and had surgery to repair that. My mother had the same two discs gone as I do and has two rods with eight screws now and her surgery disabled her. I've always had back pain growing up but in November of 2004 I was involved in a car accident with my ex in which I was the passenger in a two door convertible and got hit on my side at 55mph to be spun around and hit another car. I had to be cut out of the car. Needless to say, then there were no signs of damage. Through the years, the pains became more apparent. I saw chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, tried the TENS unit, everything imaginable. Back in September when I was packing to move into our house while sitting, I went to get up and had the most horrific pain imaginable. (I'm wondering if that's when my tear happened.) I went to visit an orthopedic dr in November and he had xrays and MRI done to confirm my L4 is gone and my L5 is almost gone as well. We tried injections which offered NO relief and he then ordered a discogram. That is THE most painful thing I have ever in my entire life experienced!!! (worse than when my clumsy self missed two steps and landed on my ankle and snapped a tendon) That dr gave me NO pain anything and I felt every single puncture as the needle went through...and all he gave me after was Loratab!!! really? For 4 days I was in the worst pain ever!!

To sit I have pain, to walk I have pain, to bend I feel like my spine is going to snap in half...I'm 30 and a newlywed and my quality and enjoyment in life has screeched to a halt and I'm irritable and angry all the time and I hate how I've become! And, icing on the cake, in December I just graduated to become an EMT and now I can't do that. My experience is in the ER and I can't work right now and praying I can return soon!!

I've made a list of all I have to do in the next two weeks and it's hitting me hard this is about to happen and I am just terrified. I'm most afraid the pain will get worse and regret it, but I'm praying for relief and a quick recovery and the new and better me to come alive again. I suppose it bothers me so much because I am such an independent person. The though on relying on people for so much help, I'm having a hard time of dealing with that. I'm also concerned after the surgery when we decide to have children how what will be as well. I've always worked out and done obstacle races with my husband and I wonder about returning to that as well. It feels good finding a place to go and talk to others going through the same!!

Looking forward to talking to and getting to know you all. Have a great day!!



  • KarenDKKarenD Posts: 742
    edited 02/04/2013 - 12:50 PM
    I had an anterior lumbar interbody fusion on L4-5, L5-S1 a couple months ago. I've recovered from the surgery, but I'm still waiting to see how much I recover from the original symptoms. Some people wake up and no longer have pain except the surgical pain. Because you have been fit, it should be easier to recover, but make sure you abide by your doctor's instructions.

    Do rely on others - they care for you and want to help, and you want to recover safely and quickly.

    Have you read the posts about what to get and/or do before surgery. For the ALIF I definitely recommend a "grabber" and some "silky" pajamas - they make it easier to turn over.

    If you have questions for me, you can PM me.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • ... is always the worry/anxiety. Stay positive. I wish someone would have thought to mention to me about the silky PJS... probably would have made many weeks much easier. And spend a few days freezing some meals. I did this, there are lots of casseroles your husband can just stick in the oven. There are also freezable crockpot meals you can make now. Might want to stock up on your favorite soft foods for yourself, socks with grips, and a few good movies/books. And DEFINATELY treat yourself to a mani/pedi right before. Good luck!
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Thank you, Karen. I know I need to learn to rely in others this is a time where it's necessary. I've gotten a grabber and foldable came as well as satin sheets I swear at night time too easily for the pjs to be comfortable.

    AllMetal thank you as well. I'm just getting horrible knots in my stomach. I will have to try that with the meals. Hubby's learning but I'm definitely the cook. I plan in stocking up on as much as I can so when I come home we are good. How long wete you guys in the hospital? How long before you could bend? I'm pretty sure the first two weeks on the days he works I have someone who can stay with me it's after that I'm hoping will be ok we have a hyper 5 month german shepherd who's my shadow. And I've got a massage and mani/pedi planned for the Saturday before. Also, how long was it before you guys felt like going out places? Just to get out of the house.
  • I had an L5/S1 TLIF on 1/16, so some of my experiences will be a bit different :-) I'm almost at the 3 week post-op mark.

    I was in the hospital from Wednesday to Saturday. Haven't gotten to the bending part yet, so can't answer you on that. My first trip out of the house was on the Monday after surgery, but it was a quick trip as I live on the second floor of a duplex (I've learned that having a pillow in the car can make it more comfortable...also, slippery workout pants to get in & out easier).
    1/16/2013 Minimally invasive TLIF with rods, screws, and cage on L5/S1 joint to treat grade 2 spondylolysthesis, pars defect, degenerative disc disease. Dealt with chronic pain & nerve issues since at least 2007.
  • My experience is probably very different. I was in the hospital 2 weeks,transported to a rehab hospital for an additional 3 weeks. I am unable to bend my spine, but completely able to bend over and get things off the floor because I can bend at my thigh joint. I was able to do this as soon as I was out of my turtle shell, about 3 months. Physical Therapy will be able to show you appropriate ways to bend that will protect your back. Best of luck! I'm sure things will go well. Please feel free to PM if you need any more encouragement/advice or have questions you think of.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I had my L5/S1 360 Fusion on 10/29/12. I was in the hospital for 3 days and 2 nights. Most of the time my pain is measurabley (if that's a word) better now than it was before the surgery. I have days in a row where I don't have to take anything for the pain. As for bending, especially with the demands of an EMT career, it may take a while. I still have trouble tying my shoes and shaving my legs but you and your body also find ways to adapt. For my shoes, I tie them once and jam them back in like a little kid, until they need to be tied again. For shaving (after about 7 weeks), I sit on my bath bench with my foot on the side of the tub.

    Some total must haves in my opinion:
    1. Bed bar to help you get up - MUST HAVE FOR SURE
    2. Bath bench
    3. Grabber - MUST HAVE FOR SURE
    4. A long handled sponge or loofa
    5. Shower head with a hand shower
    6. Toilet riser or hand bars

    Like others have said, do your best to stay positive and ask for the help you need. If you try to do eveything at the begining it may make things worse later. It will be really easy to over do it and you have to do the best you can not to.

    Single level L5/S1 360 fusion with 6 screws and a rod (10/29/12)
    Diagnosis: Grade 1-2 spondylolithesis, Pars Defect, L5/S1 disc tear anterior and posterior, DDD, spinal stenosis
  • MegmacMMegmac Posts: 22
    edited 02/18/2013 - 4:02 PM
    If anyone had anxiety about surgery, I'm guilty, but it's normal. You sound very similar to me, as I am 30 years old and DDD runs in the family (well, my brother had 4 surgeries, we don't know of anyone else, but they now classify it as genetics...whatever!). So long story short, sounds like you have alot of the same symptoms as I did, prior to surgery. I had a 2 level fusion (L4/L5, L5/S1) on December 5, 2012. I just wanted to tell you, as nervous as I was, the pain I had been living with for so long was WAY more severe than what pain I had after sugery. I feel I literally woke up feeling 75% better, and the 25% was a little pain (but liveable) from the surgery itself (i.e. the insicion site, weakness from surgery itself). If I had to do it all over again I would. I found the satin pj's the most helpful, along with the shower seat and the grabbers, as you tend to drop things more often when your not allowed to bend, it's really annoying!
    Good luck to you, please keep us posted and feel free to message me or respond with any questions!!

  • Stay positive. I have had 8 surgeries in my life and I'm 49. This one was the scariest for me, but it had to be done. I couldn't walk or do my normal routine things anymore. Even grooming had gotten difficult. OA runs in my family also, but I am the one that it hit the hardest and quickest. I had a L4-5 fusion with screws,rods, and cage. I found a minimally invasive orthopedic surgeon who did mine. I had seen a neurosurgeon and he was going to do it the regular old way and I would have been in the hospital for 4-5 days with a longer recovery time. I was out of the hospital within 23 hours, considered an outpatient procedure. I'm not going to tell you it was easy, but I was glad to be home after and that way you have to do things for yourself. I have a husband and my daughter came home for winter break from college the day I got out of the hospital. But, I didn't rely on them for much. Of course, there were times I would ask them to bring me water, but all in all you are better off moving around right away. I have to say I did get down, we live in Wisconsin, and it's been cold and icy. So to keep active, we did buy an elliptical machine and I make sure and do that everyday. I may take off a day here and there, I listen to my body. Let pain be your guide. I have overdone it and it's not worth it. Gradually work your way up! My dr. told me walking was the best thing to do, so that is why we invested in the ellipitcal. I always wanted one anyway! Good birthday present for me!

    So, all in all....try not to be too anxious. Things will improve for you. You can't go on living the way you are...just like me, it's not like it's an elective surgery. Get it behind you and keep positive. I find the post-surgical pain quite tolerable. I do have ther residual nerve pain in my sacral area....time will take care of that. So, if you can, even if you already are all set for surgery, if you can find a dr. who does it minimally invasive, it is worth checking out! I am a radiologic technologist, so I have been taking x-rays on post-surgical patients for a long time. I know I am doing very well from just that experience of talking with people and seeing how they are after surgery. I live in a rural area, had to drive an hour for my dr. and surgery, but I would have for the neurosurgeon, too! Just do your homework. But stay positive, don't be too anxious, and things will work out for you! I'll watch for your posts after surgery. I know when people start doing better they get off of these sites. But it's nice to compare stories and hear about the good outcomes. That is what these sites are about. Support. Good luck, things will get better. Somedays I have to give myself pep talks....it's a long road, but I figure I already have 2 months under my belt, and the weather is getting better!!! Hopefully, you never know around here!!! Hoping for an early spring!
    radtechtam MIS L4-5 Fusion
  • Hi everyone this is my first back surgery L4L5 double fusion rods cage nuts and bolts.I have cleaned houses for 30 yrs and did all my own yard work my whole life.I have always been independent on myself.This is the first time i have to depend on someone else.I worked with my back killing me for the last 4 yrs until i dropped the vacume down the stairs and fell to my knees.I knew then i couldnt hide it anymore.I have done physical therapy, cyropractor,steroid shots and my hot tub.Nothing worked.I dont get paid to be out of work because im in my own buisness.I went to surgeon and he showed my husband and i the MRI and exrays.I have 2 disks gone and i have siatic nerve pain down my right leg. The nerve is cut off.I also have bad scoliosis.He said if i dont have the surgery i will be crippled.I also haveRA and get infusions every 4 weeks.My dr told me to go on this site and im glad i did.Im learning alot.I have to say i am very stressed and i cant sleep.Im up till4am everyday.I cant calm down.I have 5 brothers 3 sons and 2 grandsons and no sisters.I have always taken care of the men in my family when they were laid up with cancer.Well now im in need for help and im really frightened.My husband said he is taking 2 wks off and he said he will take care of me.I am 59 and married 40 yrs happily.My biggest fear is the postopp pain and the fear it doesnt work.I have a craftmatic bed and it is going on my sunporch so i will be around everyone.I followed the list and have most of the list done .Im just a wreck.Any helpfull feedback would help.Thanks everyone for all your kind words .I will keep you up to date.Kathy
    Kathy B
  • I sent you a private message. Check your inbox.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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