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Teacher wonders about going back to work 2.5 weeks post op



  • Hi Jan -

    I too will be having surgery done on the 29th, but on my neck.

    I graduated with my masters and was hoping for a full time job, it was hard to think of not getting one and feeling like a failure for not doing so. However, I did decide to take an adjunct college position for 2 days a week starting Sept 1. It is only 2.5 hours for two days a week. I am hoping to be OK, then again you never know.

    Like you it is going to be very hard, but I dont want this to control me either so it just makes me fight that much harder to get better :)

    Keep me posted how you do:)

    My nervous are getting the best of me with each passing day too, 1 week till surgery.................
  • Hi Jan-

    Good luck on your procedure. I know that you are really nervous and dreading it. I had the same surgery done on June 11th, except mine was a fusion on L1-T11, so a bit higher on the spine. I have not driven a car since the surgery, now almost 6 weeks ago. My doctor has not given me the o.k. to do it yet. My son and husband have had to cart me around to all the places I've needed to go, and, needless to say, my son (22) is getting tired of having to do this. I too am wearing a brace; it is a Cybertech TSLO and is quite an eyecatcher. Everyone thinks I've been in a major car wreck or something, but at least I get sympathy points from people and it reminds them that I have had major surgery.

    It is now about 3 weeks until school starts. I am still taking pain medication, Lortab 10mg. I take it about 3 times a day, less than prescribed. My pain is persistent, albeit not too terribly severe. The meds take the pain away for the most part. I went to visit my doctor last week. I had had an xray done about 3 weeks after surgery so after looking at it, he told me that the screws and rods were trying to loose the "correction" that he had made and had moved some. He said he would have to xray more often and would have to keep a good eye on it. He mentioned, to my astonishment, that he might have to go "back in" and do a slightly different surgery, from the front perhaps. My jaw dropped, thinking of the possibility of have to take backward steps, when I thought I was on the road to recovery. It is still up in the air as to if he will do this or not.

    As for work, he told me he would not yet give me the "o.k." He told me he would decide by the next appointment on August 5th. My school year starts August 17th. I have about 36 leave days, or about 7 weeks. I know that if I have to undergo another surgery that this will not be enough to hold me through a total recovery, not to mention having to make lesson plans for all of that time. I had my surgery at the beginning of June thinking that all would be well and good by school time. Now, I don't know. I'm very nervous about what this will mean for me. I find myself, like you, bursting into tears. The district that I work for is not that understanding. They are only interested in the cost to them and to the students in my class.

    I wish you luck as you begin this process. I hope that the surgery is a success. You will find that you will not be in as much pain as you might imagine. I know having surgery on such a vital area is frightening. When I left the morning of my surgery, I sobbed loudly as I said goodbye to my kids. I was totally shaking in my shoes. The 4 hour surgery seemed like 5 seconds and I woke up and was feeling not too bad.

    Keep in touch and let us know how it all went.

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  • We can compare notes as we heal! In some ways I wish it was over and done with and then I think I would just rather not do it at all. I hope you do okay going back to work so quickly. Hopefully the shorter hours will help you transition. Let's think positively!
  • I'm delighted to hear your school is being so supportive. That should give you some peace of mind, so you can enter into your surgery with your energies focused on yourself and your recovery, rather than on worrying about the classroom.

    It is a good idea to enter into this surgery with your eyes wide open. I think too many people underestimate how big a surgery it is and how long the recovery period can be. There is tons of information online about lumbar fusion, including short videos that do a good job of explaining the basics. Of course, every doctor has his own way of doing things, so what you read and hear from others may not be your experience.

    If you haven't done so already, take a look at the "sticky" at the top of the page that details what a patient might want to have for recovery. The list thinks of just about everything. You will not want or need everything on the list, but reading through it at least helps to get you thinking about the topic.

    For me the things I could not live without were a satin bottom sheet for the bed, a raised toilet seat, and a "grabber." You will find it is very difficult to turn over and reposition yourself after surgery. The satin sheet really helps in this regard.

    You might want to rearrange your kitchen a bit, putting things you will need or use at waist level so you will not need to bend or reach.

    I'm sure this is all a bit overwhelming at the moment...we're here to answer all your questions as you move forward.

    xx Gwennie
  • Hi - I certainly hope your doctor doesn't have to go back in! I think that there is no "good time" to undergo these serious surgeries. There are too many variables that come into play, the most important one probably being our bodies' lack of willingness to cooperate. My hubby pushed and pushed last spring to get started with all of this but I kept telling myself it would get better. I suppose I was scared and didn't want to deal with taking time off from work.

    Will you have to write lessons plans, really??? Once we have a long-term sub in place, we are relatively free of responsibility. Except I can't let myself do that. I will be putting together an outline and some of the activites for the sub. Science is kind of a pain. They have to find someone who can pull off labs. :B But, that's not my problem, right??? Of course I will worry about it. First things first - surgery and healing.

    In addition to my other worries, my daughter is getting married in September. I was supposed to lead the Booty Call dance and the Electric Slide. I was really looking forward to shaking my groove thing. :))(

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  • My daughter thinks I may go nuts being stranded at home for so long!

    Thanks for the advice. I have been looking over the list of recovery hints. I have access to the toilet seat risers so I am going to put one in both the bathrooms. I'm sure my family is going to love that! Are the satin sheets hot? My satin pjs make me too warm.

    Did you have to use a walker? I was told today that I may come home with one. My family thinks that's hysterical. They had all kinds of ideas about how to decorate it.

    I am so glad I found this site and the great people I have already come in contact with. I am sure that I will need your advice and support in the coming weeks/months.
  • It doesn't sound like your family has grasped the complexity of the surgery you will be having. Maybe they should do a little reading, too, just so they are not shocked when you first come home.

    Yes, most people are sent home from the hospital with a walker. Since you are having an open procedure, you will have at least a 6" incision and your major back muscle will have been cut to access the surgical site. Due to the spondy, your back will also probably be shifted into a different position...so the soft tissue will need to learn to adapt. Plus you will be weak from surgery and will be on major pain pills when released from the hospital, so the walker is there to aid you in the beginning.

    Some people use the walker for many weeks. Some only use it at first when they leave the house...it just varies from person to person.

    Most people are quite tired for the first two weeks after surgery...so boredom is not a problem. I mostly slept, or dozed while watching TV. I thought I'd watch lots of movies and read a lot but I was not able to do either due to the pain medications. I didn't feel like going any where. By the time I took a shower and dressed, fixed my hair, I was exhausted and just about needed a nap! By the time I got some energy back, I was able to get out a bit...so I never found boredom a problem. Plus, as soon as you get home, you will be walking several times each day.

    You won't need a satin sheet if you wear something slippery...just pick one or the other! I started out with satin sheets on both the top and bottom and even that was too much. It was too slippery. I think a satin bottom sheet works best. With a cotton one, you feel like you are velcroed to the bed when you try to reposition yourself.

    I found that I liked to wear simple pull on pants with an elastic waist and a pullover top (like yoga pants and a T-shirt) rather than night clothes. This way I didn't have to keep changing clothes and yet I looked presentable if someone stopped by. Your brace will dictate what you wear. My surgeon does not use braces so I didn't have to contend with that.
  • I just read through the posts here and wish you the best of luck on your surgery! I had a fusion @ L-2/3,3/4 with other procedures at the same time and I agree with the others that you need to take extra time off. Be prepared to think of one thing only, your recovery! It is a long road that takes lots of time and patience but worth it in the end! I had my surgery 10/08 and I really just started to feel better and gain more strength at about 7-8 months out, now at 9 months I am much better but not yet where I should be or want to be. I am glad I was not working during this time. I'm glad you have support from your peers and staff.

    If you were worrying about working upfront you would concentrate on guilt, missing the kids, planning, and not being able to keep up with your responsiblities. I know because I was a librarian and helped as a K aide/sub at our elem. school. I love my job and the kids. I miss them tremendously but I need to get well so I can give them what they deserve. I could not have been in the K classroom with my little ones all morning then work afternoons as librarian. So much BLT involved,up/down helping the students find books, checking in/out, shelving the books high and low, dusting them, carding, boxes of new books/media things, etc. I decided not to go back for now but my circumstances are different. I keep in contact with the teachers/staff and plan to visit/read to the students this year for fun without commitment! LOL!

    Jan, I wish you good luck. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. The first few weeks are rough so have help at home and think only of healing....this too shall pass and you will feel so much better. I know you will feel better soon!

  • My long-term substitute was helped by my coworkers with writing lesson plans. I did have to communicate with her about classroom procedural stuff.

    Actually, I did write some lesson plans for my first long-term substitute (before my surgeries); however, I think you shouldn't have to worry about lesson plans while you are in recovery. You won't be able to sit long enough right after surgery to write lesson plans.

    Good luck!
  • I have not been on this site for awhile and just noticed your posts. You have gotten lots of good info from the members who have responded and it sounds like you are getting good support at school. As a former teacher and principal I know how much energy the classroom requires. I had L4/5 fusion a year ago this week and cannot imagine that I could have done a very good job before at least 6 months post-surgery.

    Gwennie is right that your family will need to understand how long and slow your recovery may be and how much they are going to have to do during that time. Last year Lakeside wrote one of the best descriptions of lumbar fusion recovery that I have seen. If she sees this post perhaps she will send it to you. I read it over and over during my recovery and it saved my sanity!

    I can tell you that I was totally unprepared and shocked at how much help I needed post-surgery. You will want someone around to help you for at least the first 2 weeks after you come home. For example, for the first few days I needed help to turn over in bed. I would get turned about halfway by myself and get "stuck" and have to call for my husband to come and help me. I had laughed at the idea of a walker - but I used it for at least 6 weeks, especially if I was walking outside. I also used a shower chair and a grabber though I could not imagine pre-surgery that I would need them. Because you will not be able to bend or reach you will need to have everything you need at about waist level. I THOUGHT I had moved the things I used every day to places where I could reach them but quickly realized post-surgery how many things were in drawers, shelves or cupboards below waist level. The first time I tried to get a roll of toilet paper off of the floor of the bathroom closet, using the grabber, it took me 15 minutes! The stupid thing was still in the 6-roll pack it came in - and though the pack was open and only had 4 rolls left in it, getting one roll out and off the floor was totally exhausting! And forget getting things off of the lower refrigerator shelves.

    Do read the Post-Op Must-Haves list - it is very very good. Prepare your family for doing the housework, meal preparation, laundry, etc for several weeks, at least.

    At one year post-fusion, I can very truthfully say that there are whole days when I do not even think about my back. At 3 or 6 months post-surgery, I could not have imagined that I would ever be able to say that. So - though the recovery is long, laborious and, after the first few weeks, dreadfully boring - it is worth it to take the time to do it "right".

    Good luck with your surgery - you will soon be on the road to recovery!

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