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Chris' fusion

TerriTTerri Posts: 193
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Here's the 3 month update on Chris' fusion. Previous posts about the progress he has made and the challenges he's faced since his second surgery, a L2-5 posterior lumbar fusion with L4-5 TLIF are in the archives under the same title.

Activity: Chris is walking 4-6 miles per day.

Sitting: Still difficult for longer periods.

Restrictions: No BLT

Pain: Chris continues to have low back pain, hopefully due to the continuos narcotic withdrawl. he's also had SI and L5-S1 pain; the PM MD has treated these areas with trigger point injections. He has added ketamine (sp?) to the local anesthetic to retrain the nerve pathways. It seems to have helped.

Meds: Chris is still tapering down the oxycontin. He's now at 40 mg 3xday, a lower dose than he has been on since before surgery #1. He tried tapering off of the Lyrica and his low back pain shot through the roof, so he's holding at 75 mg 3xday and will try a Lyrica taper again when the nerves have had more thime to heal. He also takes Celebrex and Zanaflax PRN (very occasionally).

It has been very encouraging to see Chris' analytic skills begin to return as he decreases the narcotics. He still has a lot of short term memmory problems. We are hopeful that he can continue the decrease and end up relatively pain free.




  • I am happy that things seem to be going so well....I will pray for continued progress and well being. Please continue to keep us posted... :)
  • image

    I am so happy for Chris and you. Keep up the good recovery.

  • I was wondering when you will show up on the new site. The look and functions are different, but you can find many of the same people (although some of them took on a new identity!).

    Glad to hear Chris is doing so well. He is a month ahead of me, and frankly, I was a bit surprised that still no BLT. I was really hoping that on my three-month checkup I will no longer have this restriction. That is what keeps me from driving. Is Chris driving yet, or you do it for him? My hubby so far was good about it, except when we go shopping, he gets very impatient. He just wants to go in the store and then out (unless it is a hardware store, photo shop, or book store). So I always feel rushed. I bet you ae more patient than that.

    But I can't complain. I think all of our SOs do an incredible job, of course, you Terri should be the model for all.

    Cheers and good wishes to both of you,

    Kin :) ;) :) ;) :) ;)
  • Priestess & Smurf - thanks so much for your well wishes; they do mean so much to me.

    Kin - I can't remember how many levels you had done. I think that might have something to do with the continued restrictions. Chris' surgery was a L2-5 revision fusion after a failed laminectomy so we are doing everything we can to hae a good outcome this time. He had the surgery done a tDuke and we live in Atlanta, so we chose to go back to see the OS at 4 months rather than 3. The last time we spoke to him on the phone it was clear that he did not expect to lift the restrictions at 3 months so we figured we wait antoher month before making the trip. Chris' local PM doc has been doing a good job monitoring Chris' progress and his OS has been available by phone and e-mail.

    Chris is not yet driving; he is still on the narcotics. I drive him everywhere which seems to work out ok as I have not yet gone back to work. We also live fairly close to shopping so Chris could walk to the grocery, pharmacy, bank library and a couple of restaurants by himself if he needed to (although he couldn't carry much home!!!).

    I know the restrictions seem to hamper your independence, but after what I have watched my husband go thorugh over the last three years, they really do seem like just a minor inconvenience.

    Stay patient; you'll get there. Terri
  • Thanks Terri,

    I also had a three-level (L3-S1) fusion so I guess I will have to follow the same rules as Chris. But like you, I live within walking distance to grocery store, drug store and Cafe (YEAH!) so that helps. I incorporate these trips into my daily walks, and saving gasoline at the same time. Like Chris, I can't carry too much and I put these items in my small pack-pack making sure there is no bulky item that rubs my back (the incision area).

    Good to hear about Chris' progress and you Terri became a Spiney friend too.


    Kin :) :) :)

  • Terri,

    Thank you so Much for posting this update week after week.

    Best of Luck to you and Chris.

  • Mel -

    I see you are scheduled for a big fusion this next week. I'll be sending good vibes to both you and your surgeon.

    Wishing you a steady and event-free recovery and well as great long term results, Terri
  • luck Mel....well wishes coming your way.. :)
  • I'm a bit nervous about the surgery but excited to move forward with my recovery.

  • Chris is now 14 weeks post surgery. We were on vacation last week so I failed to post my regular weekly update. As Chris said, vacation allowed him to stress-test his new back. We joined my extended famly for a week at a resort in West Virginia, a biannual event for us which we missed 2 years ago. He was so much more active and had so much more stimulation and interaction with people. Flying was awful; the pain was nearly unbearable even with all we did to lessen it and the airport was so crowded if felt like a dangerous palce for a spiney to be. We stayed in cabins. The beds were fine and didn't seem to cause any problems. I bought a reclining lawn chair (somewhat like a zero-gravity chair) for the cabin. In retrospect this is the one thing that probably made the vaction enjoyable for Chris because he could actually sit in it long enough to be a part of group activities. The resort was a little too hilly for a recovering spiney; but the whole group provided shuttle service from cabin to cabin and around the resort for Chris. We did find a "rails to trails" walking trail that followed the river through a nearby city and this became our daily walking spot. All in all, I think Chris did really well and he came back home looking better than he has since surgery. He did need to take some extra short-acting narcotics during the week and to him this was a failure since he has been working so hard to taper off the narcotics. Hopefully, we will get back into a regular routine quickly this week and the need for the additional narcotics will be gone.

    Activity: Still walking 4-6 miles most days

    Sitting: Still not great. Moving vehicles are still a problem. Reclining is more comfortable for longer sitting periods.

    Restrictions: Still no BLT

    Pain: Still a lot of low back pain. Ice helps at times.

    Meds: Chris has now been at 40 mg oxycontin 3Xday for 2 weeks. He's also taking 75 mg Lyrica 3Xday and Celebrex. He has Dilaudid PRN (had to take several this past week, although not daily) & Zanaflax PRN (took once this past week).

    Each step forward is a major accomplishment in the path to returning to life!!!

  • It was good to read your update Terri. What a wonderful vacation, even with the restrictions. I am sure both of you really needed it and enjoyed it. After 2 1/2 months I am getting a bit of cabin fever and am ready to go somewhere, but not too far. Flying sounds scary. I think I am more and more inclined to skip my niece's wedding in Eastern Canada this September.

    Overall, sounds like Chris is doing well.

    Wishing him well in his recovery!

  • I'm so glad things are going well for Chris, and you're seeing such great progress! Have you made it back to NC for any follow ups? I'm so jealous that he's walking so much! I was up to about 2 miles most days, but now down to zero. Having too much pain that seems to be getting worse daily. I'm getting a CT arranged and a follow up with a surgeon after that to see where I stand. I wish you and Chris all the best; I know it's been a long haul. Enjoy all the milestones and met goals!!! Take Care! -Andrea
  • Kin-

    You might try a shorter trip than x-country for your first flight. But if you go, just take it easy...get the whellchair even if you don't think you need it. Have someone else manage the luggage. Make sure you have a back support pillow as blankets can be hard to find on some flights, take a portable cold pack, make sure your seats give you the ability to get up frequently, have some extra meds on hand, and realize that you may be wiped out on the other end and need some rest before you do much. We're glad we did it, but I don't think Chris really was quite ready to fly.

  • Andrea -

    We have not been back to see Dr. Hey, but do have an appointment on 8/1 for a 4-month check-up. I am so sorry to hear that things are getting worse for you. Are you sticking with the 1st surgeon or shopping for a second opinion? A second surgery just sucks b/c you really know how bad it will be the second time around. I think neither of us was really prepared for how hard the recovery would be with Chris' first surgery, but we knew what to expect for the revision and I think that made it somewhat harder to sign-up for it. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. But, Chris is doing so much better than after the first surgery so it has been worth it so far.

  • It's hard to believe tht it has been 16 weeks. Here's the update:

    Activity: Still walking 4-6 miles most days. Chris walked 8 miles one day with no ill effects the following day.

    Sitting: Can sit through a meal in a kitchen/dining room chair. Can sit through a movie in the zero-gravity chair. Otherwise, sitting for any length of time is still not too comfortable.

    Restrictions: Still no BLT.

    Pain: Chris continues to have considerable amount of low back pain, usually on the right side near his waistband; ice helps sometimes, but other times nothing seems to work.

    Meds: Chris has been able to maintain at the 40mg oxy 3xday, 75mg Lyric 3xday, and Celebrex 2xday. We're flying to Raleigh/Durham to see his surgeon for his first check-up post surgery this week and then he is ready to take another step down on the narcotics. He's been weaning slowly but surely.

    At this point in recovery, progress doesn't come as quickly as it did earlier. I think that makes it more difficult mentally for Chris to deal with the pain, restrictions, etc. All in all, I think he is on a good path. I've got my fingers crossed that we see some sign of fusion on X-rays this week.


  • Thanks for the update Terri. I can see the steady progress in Chris's condition. Last time you posted he could not sit too long, now he can watch a movie. His walking ability is also impressive. If recovery does not seem to advance at such rapid rate, remember when you climb a hill, sometimes you have to rest for a while before can proceed. I think in recovery we reach these plateaus also, when it seems like we don't progress, but when one looks at the overall picture there is steady improvement. While at the beginning the changes are drastic and more noticeable, now they are more subtle. But tell him to keep up the spirit he is doing well.

    Good luck on his next check up.


  • Hi Terry,

    I am glad to know that your husband is doing better. I am 8 weeks post-ops TLIF L4, L5, L5 SL. So far I feel great, I have spasms some times only when I sneezed.

    I am back in the gym, training for an upcoming figure competition, taking it very easy though. Your husband is going to pull thru, keep pushing him and support him as you are doing now.

    He's going to be fine!
  • We flew to Raleigh/Durham last week to see Chris' OS for his first in-person f/u since surgery. He had x-rays taken. Here is the GOOD NEWS:

    1. the hardware is still in all the right places
    2. the discs on either end of the fusion look good
    3. bone consolidation (aka fusion) could be seen on both the right and left sides of the spine.

    And, the NOT-SO-GOOD News:

    1. the restrictions...no BLT... are still in place.
    2. no PT yet
    3. the OS said that the pain Chris is experiencing is most likely still a result of all of the bone, nerve and muscle healing that is still taking place.

    We were thrilled with the fusion news. Chris is disappointed that the restrictions are still in place. For some reason, he thought they would all be lifted???? Also, he is deathly afraid that the pain will never go away.

    Here is a summary of his status:

    Activity: Still walking 4-6 miles most days

    Sitting: The flights between Atlanta and Raleigh/Durham seemed to be easier on Chris than between Atlanta and Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago.

    Restrictions: Still no BLT

    Pain: still expereincing a lot of lower back pain, particularly along the right side at the waistband. Also, has had an episode of acute tailbone pain that has taken a few days to settle down.

    Meds: Decreased the oxycontin once again...now down to 100 mg/day. Still taking 75mg Lyric 3xday.

    All-in-all, I think it is a GREAT report. Chris is just tired of hurting. We did spend a really nice long weekend visiting my brother and his family in the Raleigh/Durham area. It was a good mental diversion for Chris.


  • Terri,

    Today is the first time I have seen your posts about Chris's surgeries and his recovery from the most recent one. I'm so happy that things are improving for him since the second, most recent lumbar surgery. He's had a very long, and painful time of it and he is very lucky to have such a supportive and caring wife. My best to both of you. ~kathleen
  • Kathleen - I really appreciate your encouragement. It has been a long and difficult journey. It is so liberating to finally have some hope that the story's ending will be good. Chris is now mentally alert enough and independent enough that he can spend a night alone while I'm on interviewing trips so I've started looking for a new job. I am ready to go back to work. Terri
  • Hi Terri,

    I am reading your postings religiously, Chris being exactly a month ahead of me in his recovery I can compare my progress. I am happy to see that both of us are on target.

    Say hi to Chris from me and wish him well in his recovery.

    As for you, I hope that you can make some "me time" for yourself once in a while, it is very important for you well being.

    Best to both of you,

  • Kin -

    As Chris has progressed, I've ramped up the me-time. I started playing tennis again. I am now playing tennis 3 x week, we have practive 2 nights a week and then matches on one weekend day. This summer I played on a mixed doubles team and this fall I will play on an all women team. Team tennis is big in Atlanta...about 80,000 of us play in leagues. It is quite fun and very social.

    I've also started looking for a new job. I left my last one just a year ago to try to figure out what to for Chris. It has been a long year, but worth every minute of it to see Chris have a chance at putting his life back together.

    And, I am beginning to think about a trip to the beach. The crashing waves, wind and sea smells are the very best stress-reliever in the world.

    I am so glad you are continuing to do so well. Keep it up.


  • Here's the update:

    Activity: took several days off this week, but by this weekend was back to walking 6 miles a day.

    Sitting: no noticeable improvement

    Restrictions: no BLT

    Pain: still has that nagging pain on the right side of his back along the waistband.

    Meds: Chris has made it through the latest drop in oxycintin and seems to be stabilizing. He's holding steady this week in hopes of getting back to daily walking.

    At this point, I think recovery is as much mental as physicial. And then of course, there is the issue on continued pain. We look at that quite differently (but then I haven't had to actually live with the pain for 3 years). I think that the pain must be getting better if Chris can continue to decrease the narcotics. He is very anxious about the fact that there still is pain and scared that it might not go away.

    Chris is just finishing watching the Sopranos, AGAIN. I watched the complete series with him after the first surgery, but once was enough. Hopefully, the Olympics will be a good diversion for the next couple of weeks.


  • I can't beleive that it has been 3 weeks since I last posted. I've started a job search (after being a full-time caregiver over the past year) and I have been so busy. It feels good to be joining the external world again. Chris is becoming more independent every week. I think much of it has to do with the reduced narcotics, but he also just seems stronger.

    Here's the update:

    Activity: Chris continues to walk 4-6 miles most days. Having the treadmill in the basement certainly has made it much easier this summer.

    Sitting: Chris sits through meals and works for short periods on the computer. He watches movies and TV in his zero gravity recliner without difficulty. I bought a zero gravity outdoor lounge chair to put in the basement next to the treadmill. It's been a great place for Chris to take breaks from the walking. Also, he sits/lays in the chair with an ice pack after walking. He still finds sitting in the Tempurpedic bed (using the adjustable base - head and knees elevated) to be the most comfortable place to watch TV or read. Hopefully, sitting will continue to be more comfortable as time prgresses.

    Restrictions: No BLT.

    Pain: Chris continues to have low back pain, primarily near his waist band running to the right (same place he had it before surgery). When Huricaine Fay slowly made it's way through last week, Chris pain levels were much higher. The hip and SI joint problems that developed after surgery have gone away. Chris continues to develop new aches and pains as he does more and more. Each new pain scares him as he fears he has done something to his back. I hope that this fear and dread do lessen over time.

    Meds: Chris is now stable on 30 mg oxycontin 3xday & 75mg Lyric 3xday for pain relief. This past week he's taken a few Zanaflax for some new muscle issue which we're hoping will go away as quickly as it came. As soon as we get this newest muscle pain under control, it is time to take another step down in the narcotics.

    We've made it through another major milestone. I've done several over-night trips for job interviews. Chris felt he was ready to be on his own for 2 nights. So, I flew to Michigan to spend 2 nights with my 99 year-young Grandma. I had not seen her in 2 1/2 years because of Chris' back problems. She still lives in her own farmhouse, carefully drives to church, the store, and my uncle's, takes care of a small flower garden, crochets afghans for the old people in nursing homes, and rides her excercise bike everyday. She is slow and careful with everything she does as she knows that she is lucky to be healthy enough to continue to live on her own. Seeing her, talking with her and getting lots of hugs was so much better than our weekly letters. It was a wonderful visit! I am grateful to Chris that he suggested I go for a visit.

  • Great news Terri, both about Chris as well as you. Sounds like both of you start to reclaim you old lives. Chris' recovery follows an upward curve, every month he able able to do more and more, that is wonderful. That is what recovery is all about a little gain, one day at the time.

    Glad you feel that you are now ready to go back to work. It is time that could resume your normal activities.

    How nice that you could visit with your Grandma, bless her heart! That is how I envision growing older (but never old!).

    Thank you for the uplifting post.


  • I hope you continue to improve. Noone was kidding when they said this would be a difficult, long recovery. It is good to finally be feeling hopeful. Terri
  • Chris is 23 weeks post surgery today. He's had the normal ups and downs following surgery. this last week he has expereinced his first major problem.

    Last weekend (while I was gone) he lifted 5 12-packs of sodas one at a time to get the one he wanted on the botton of the pile. And then lifted them all again to put them back in place. Even though each 12 pack is within his allowed lifting limit, he has been lifting almost nothing. And, my guess is that this repetitive endeavor broke each part of the no BLT rule! Who knows if this is the cause of his problems, but he has been in agony....and the pain seemed to build for several days until it was unbearable and uncontrollable. We made an emergency visit to the PM doc on Friday. He thinks it is probably soft tissue inflamation combined with the fact that Chris had not yet completely stabilized on the lower oxycontin level. His treatment included sequentially:
    * diagnostic SI joint injections (no impact)
    * diagnostic L4-5 facet joint injections (no impact)
    * L2 epidural
    * a little higher on the Oxycontin & Rx for Dilaudid
    * more ice

    Since Friday, Chris has improved a bit.
    * R top/front thigh pain is gone
    * Upper back pain is gone
    * In general, pain levels are a little more under control
    But, Chris still has considerably higher low back pain than he has been having and he is taking an unsustainable amount of Dilaudid. Every move hurts.

    I called the PM doc this morning and gave him the update report. We discussed options and scheduled Chris for another epidural (at a lower level than the first one) for Wednesday. If this does not seem to help, then we'll get a CT scan.

    We continue to be very thankful for such a responsive and caring PM doc. Keep us in our thoughts.

  • Oh Terri, that is awful! I am really sorry to hear about Chris' setback, especially after following his great recovery. But I can understand and sympathize with him. It is so hard to avoid all BLT, especially when one gets sick and tired of always asking for help. I know from myself, that the last week or so I often found myself doing the wrong thing or at least almost. But I hate to ask my husband all the time, so I often end up trying to do what maybe I shouldn't. I keep telling myself that it is stupid, but I can't always help it. Hope Chris takes it easier for a few days and that will do the trick.

    Wishing him the very best,

  • Kin -

    Please ask for help instead of doing the things you know you should not do (or even if you think it is questionable). I do not know your husband, but I would bet he would agree. Until you reach a solid fusion, it is not worth risking it. Even then, back stressing ought to be saved for the things you really love to do....not household chores!!

    Thanks for your continued support.

  • Scary!!

    I've been lifting those 12 packs for several weeks now - I think I'll be re-thinking that little job now.

    My big worry is that I feel well enough that I am actually doing things, then I worry that I might overdo something without even thinking about it - this was a great eye-opening reminder for me.

    Best of luck to Chris and you though. I've been the caregiver (DH's surgery 7 years ago) and I would rather be the one having the surgery than the caregiver - that's one tough job, you must be a saint.
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