Hi, I am new here and thought I would introduce myself.
I am 32 years old and suffered my first back injury at work when I was 18. I herniated my L5/S1 when lifting something heavy and twisting at the same time. My symptoms waxed and waned for about 3 years before the herniation eventually had my right leg so weak that I couldn't really stand on it anymore. I had another MRI and it just showed a worsened herniated disc. I was referred to a neurosurgeon on a Friday and on Monday I went in for my first discectomy. The sciatica I had been experiencing for years was immediately gone. I thought my surgeon was a miracle worker. I ended up graduating nursing school and starting my career 3 years later. I started dieting and exercising and I lost 85 pounds and led a very active lifestyle. My husband and I worked out 5 days a week, we backpacked all over the Pacific Northwest (where we live). Everything was going well. Then in 2011 I injured my back again while repositioning a patient in bed. I did some PT and things got better. Then I had these flare ups that would come on suddenly and plague me every night for months and then just disappear as suddenly as they came on. My issue was when waking up in the morning, I would be very stiff and I would have excruciating pain in my hip/butt when I rolled over in bed. Each time these episodes happened, I would seek treatment. The longest it lasted in one stretch was 6 months, and the shortest was 3 months. I saw PT, Chiropractor, massage therapist, neurologist, rheumatologist. I had been diagnosed with SI joint dysfunction, a hypermobile pelvis, and a form of spondoloarthopathy. There was never any medication or therapy that would help me, it was just living in misery until it decided to disappear. I never suspected my back because it didn't feel the same as it did with my first back injury. I did have another MRI in 2014 for my SI joints. And the report did show that I had degenerative disc disease and mild to moderate stenosis in my L4-S1.
I had 3 episodes from 2011-2013 and then I was pain free until September of 2016. I had my first pregnancy in there too. I had zero back pain or sciatica throughout my entire pregnancy. Everyone was amazed by that because I was told that there was a good chance that I could end up on bedrest due to my issues. My baby was born on March 30th, 2016 by c-section. He was 9 pounds 1 ounce and very healthy.
Then in September, we had been at the beach and I walked over 5 miles in the sand pushing the stroller off and on. When we got back to the beach house, I was having extreme back pain. That lasted a few weeks before the same old symptoms started again (sciatica, and pain when rolling over in bed). I was just going to suffer and wait for it to go away since I knew that so far, not one medical provider could offer me help or advice.
On October 20th, I was at a friend's house and when I went to leave, a cat jumped in my car. I just instinctively reached out to pull the cat out since it was all muddy. I felt something pop and then I just spun out of control with pain. It started in my left butt/leg and my husband (an anesthetist) gave me a nerve and steroid block and I got pain relief for about 3 days. Then the pain started in the right leg and it was more severe than the left side had been. All this time, I thought I had piriformis syndrome. I thought my sciatic nerve was being pinched by my piriformis muscle. As the days went by, I was to the point where I couldn't hold my baby to feed him. I had to lay him on a bed and I laid next to him to feed him.
On November 4th, I lost my ability to walk. My right leg was paralyzed. My father inlaw took me to the ER while my MIL stayed with my son. My husband was at work. I was there for 8 1/2 hours. I had been asking for an MRI but they were hesitant to do one. They wanted to give me a steroid pack and crutches and have me follow up outpatient. I ended up losing sensation of my entire leg and that is when they consulted with the neurosurgeon on call and she wanted an MRI of my back. It showed that I had a massive herniation of L4-5. She said it was urgent that I had surgery but not emergent, and since she was the one on call and primarily works on brains and necks, she wanted me to go home and see when I could get on this other surgeon's schedule.
I went home on crutches and experienced the most pain I have ever had in my life over the weekend. My husband finally in desperation called the female neurosurgeon on call at home on Sunday since I was suffering. She ended up calling the male surgeon at home and he agreed to get me on the schedule for the next day. I am super lucky that my husband works in this same hospital as an anesthesia provider and he pulled strings for me. I am mostly a stay at home mom now and my baby was 7 months old at the time of my surgery.
I was able to walk after surgery (laminectomy) but with a walker for about a week. My right foot and calf have a lot of numbness and weakness still. I am not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for 3 months so I have had friends, family and my neighbor helping daily with my son.
I went to my post op appt a few days ago and he said that my herniation was one of the worst he has ever seen. He said that I will need to really work on strengthening my core in about a month and that's about all I can do to prevent reherniation. As well as maintaining proper body mechanics and not lifting much weight. He said I may consider an artificial disc down the road if the degeneration leads to a lot of pain. He also said a fusion was a last resort. I would need 2 discs though and he said insurance companies never approve 2. He basically said it's a wait and see for the next year as to whether or not I get my strength back. He doesn't think I will get my sensation back though.
I am glad I had my baby because he doesn't think it would be a good idea for me to get pregnant again. He said it's up to me though if I want to take the risks.
He said no backpacking for at least a year. It just kills me to not be able to pick my baby up when he needs me. But currently I am pain free with only the occasional nerve zing or other nerve sensations (which I am hoping is a good thing).
My story is long and I left a lot out. But I just started getting depressed thinking about all the things I am not going to be able to do in order to preserve my back. I am glad I came across this site to help me remember that I am not alone.
Thanks for reading my novel