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I really wanted to share my story, my success after having 2 spinal fusions, and my journey with riding horses again. I want to share it, because before my 2nd surgery, and after, I remember searching relentlessly on the web, everywhere I could find to find details about those success stories, did people ride again, was it the same, what happened. I found next to nothing, and the few bits I did find, were 10+ years old, simpler surgeries than mine, or people who plan said. "Don't do it"
Now that I've lived through it, I'm over 2 years since my 2nd (hopefully final ever) spinal fusion, I wanted to share what I went through, and hopefully instill some faith for the next person who's trying to find about what others have done.
I originally needed a fusion, because I was in a car accident when I was 17, I burst my L1 vertebrae completely, I was flown to hospital and fused from T12 - L2, I won't go to much into detail, it was hell obviously, a lot of trauma to overcome, learning to walk again, being in rehab for a month. So on.
Got through that, went back to school, I really tried to just live as I would. I think a year or so later, I could feel my hardwear, and it slowly became more and more prominent to the point if I stood up as straight as I could you could see 2 dinosaur like bumps along my spine, it did get sore easily, but I put that down to what a fusion was like. I believe it was 4-5 years from the originally surgery and I decided to go get xrays, when I got the xrays (before a doctor had seen them) my heart sunk, I could physically see a broken screw in 2 very clears parts, I was a mess, had no idea what this meant. I live in a remote area now, so the only neurosurgeon I could see was out of the state, so I got on a plane, flew 4.5 hours away to finally see a surgeon, who then confirmed both of my bottom screws had broken, and my spine was starting to curve, if we didn't do something soon, it would continue to deteriorate until I wouldn't be able to walk/stand.
I flew back home, knowing it would be 1 month at least before I'd get surgery, and I'd have little notice, I'd also need to be away in another state for at least 6 weeks before I'd be able to fly again. I finally got the call, and I have the 2nd surgery.
My surgeon made it very clear this was not a standard surgery, it was a complicated surgery, there were risks (as always) he had to request to move me to a private hospital (got lucky there) because he needed the equipment the public didn't have. Because I was originally in a car accident, this was all covered by my insurance. Thank god.
So this surgey, would be much bigger, because there was damage, he had to remove the old hardwear, try to straighten my spine, and re-fuse from higher/lower points giving me even less flexion. This surgery would be from L4-T10 multi level, I had to have rods/screws and a bridge this time as well. He predicted it would take 6 hours. It took 10.
When it was done, I woke up in ICU, very groggy, very confused, I was then moved to the normal ward, I was there about a week, starting to walk a bit, and when I was deemed well enough I was moved to rehab for the next few weeks, really trying to walk, and do physio and so on. This 2nd time, I found while still hard, a lot easier, as I didn't have the trauma of an accident, I knew what I was doing and I was determined, I was determined to walk and beat previous days records, when I walked 5 minutes it was like winning Olympic gold.
I then was discharged, but staying in an apartment close by, until I was fit to fly home. Where I guess all the routine settles again, I got off all my meds within 1 month which was the hardest part, feeling withdrawal, I got back to work, 1 year passed, I went back to see my surgeon who was very happy with everything, and basically said unless there is something wrong I won't see him again.
Fast forward to 6 months ago (1.5 years after surgery) I went on a holiday to the states, and we went on a nose to tail trail ride, and I got the horse bug back. (I rode up until my accident, and blocked it out for those 5 years) So I started wanting to know if it was possible, did people ride? was it possible? was it normal? was it stupid? I spoke to my surgeon, and he said the only difference between me riding and anyone else, would be the fall. He said there is no issue with riding for me, but if I was to fall, my back wouldn't take the pressure evenly like a normal spine, I would have weak points above/below my rods that could make me more susceptible to getting hurt. Other than that, he was fine with the riding/movement itself.
So I thought on it for a while, was it worth it, riding is dangerous of course, and everyone needs to come to that conclusion on their own as it is a very real factor, but to me. I thought, I'm 25 years old, I'm not ready to give up a passion on a chance, a passion and a sport that is really just as dangerous to a healthy person full spined person, accidents happen, no matter what.
So I thought, I will start riding again, and I'll just take it easy and walk and that will be enough. That's what I did, at the start. Then it takes over you. Since I started, I've gone from walking a trail, to buying my own horse, galloping on the beach, jumping small fences, riding almost every single day and I haven't looked back. To me the risk of what if, is 100% worth the happiness I feel everyday now, I didn't realize how miserable I was until realizing how much joy and purpose life has now. I feel normal, I don't feel limited, I feel happy, I have goals. It is possible. It is hard, the start was hard for sure, but I'm now fitter and stronger than I've ever been since before I was 17.
There is success out there, you can make it happen, it just takes time.