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My story in a nutshell-I am a 44 year old flight attendant who was very active and healthy before I tried to catch a 300 lb beverage cart in turbulence in April. I ended up at a work Comp clinic who refused to do an X-ray or mri for the first 6 weeks in level 8-9 pain where I was given Advil and sent to 12 sessions of PT. They wouldn’t do an X-ray or mri claiming it was a pulled muscle and treated me like a drug seeker when I would tell them I couldn’t bear the pain. On week 3 I lost feeling in my two little toes, back of calf , thigh and buttocks and could no longer point my toes or raise up on tiptoes. Told the Dr about it and he recommended ice and heat, but still no imaging or medication. On week 6 I fainted at my sister’s house and found out at the ER that my blood pressure was 195/145. The first thing the ER Dr asked was if I had a serious inquiry or was dealing with severe pain.
The ER Dr gave me my first dose of real pain medication and I laid there and cried all night in relief. Subsequently my BP was back in the normal zone in under an hour. He then ordered an mri for the next day and kept me overnight with IV pain meds. The next day after the MRI the Dr came into my room and told me I had a 14mm extruded disc-L5-S1-and would require surgery ASAP and referred me to an Neurologist.
10 days later I had my discectomy and recover went very smoothly. One month of rest then 2 months of PT and then work comp ordered me back to work even though I was still making gains in PT. My pain was still around a 4/5 but it was better.
I returned to work with no restrictions and within a week the pain was up to a 6 and now a month later am at an 8 again. My neurologist ordered another MRI with the expectation of reherniation, but kept me on full work duty with a 15 lb lifting restriction, sitting or standing for pain as needed and no more that 2 hrs on my feet per day which is not actually possible as a flight attendant. I’m out of sick time at work but I need the money so I continue to work.
My biggest fear is that I am continuing to worsen the reinjury by continuing to work and also afraid of what kind of issues I’ll have because my dr’s restrictions don’t match my duty requirements for full duty and he’s on vacation until after New Years. My attorney is aware of the problem but he’s also out of the office until the 3rd.
So I guess my biggest question is what will come next if it is herniated again? He’s already said he won’t do another discectomy due to the amount of scar tissue I produced after the first one, so would the next option be fusion? The other thing mentioned was a spinal cord stimulator but that won’t help the herniation from creating more nerve damage which I’m already experiencing. Since returning to work I’ve now lost feeling in my entire heel, most of the sole of my foot and lost feeling in another toe.
I have always been a very optimistic and cheerful person and the pain has taken that away from me. I’m also losing my home, my social life, my independence and my dignity as I’ve always been proudly independent and resourceful. I’m having to move in with my sister and her family so I’m not homeless. I can’t do any of the things that used to make me happy like hiking, traveling and playing with my nephews. I’m starting to realize that I will be having severe back problem for the rest of my life, with no real relief from the horrible pain and just can’t deal with the thought of 20 or 30 more years of this. This injury has stolen my life and I feel it very wrong that the work comp system doesn’t allow employees to sue either work comp or their employer for pain and suffering when the reason for not being able to continue your chosen career is because of the employer saving money and work comp’s negligent rules on treating back injuries.
Sorry, I know this is very long and veeerrrryy despressing but I feel a bit better just getting it off my chest even if nobody reads or replies, so if you got this far in the post, thank you. Today is my birthday and I am alone in a hotel room in the middle of a very busy flying week, in pain, mentally and physically exhausted tonight so I needed to decompress a little bit.