April 23rd was four months since I had my fifth spinal fusion. I have to have fusions due to having Degenerative Disc Disease that is constantly crawling up my spine and causing it to give me great amounts of pain. How am I doing and is there any changes since the surgery? Was this fifth surgery worth it and will there be more?
I can’t believe that it has been four months since I had surgery. In a way, it feels like it was just yesterday but mostly it feels like it has been years since I was in the hospital, dealing with great amounts of pain. And then coming home to trying to move the best that I can without assistance from others or a medical device.
What is Spinal Fusion?
I had to have my fifth fusion on L3-L4 Discs. I am already fused from L4-S1, which is the lowest the spine goes. A spinal fusion is:
Lumbar spinal fusion is surgery to join, or fuse, two or more vertebrae in the low back. Spinal fusion is major surgery, usually lasting several hours. There are different methods of spinal fusion. … The bone is used to make a bridge between vertebrae that are next to each other. This bone graft helps new bone grow.
My surgery was 4 hours long and consist of my surgeon doing the fusion for the new location. Also, they found out that the area where it had been previous fused, L5 to S1, the screws that were holding the fusion in place, had broken into two pieces and needed to be removed and new screws need to be put in. This added a little more time to the operation, and normally, they don’t do anything with previous fusions, except maybe remove the old hardware.
Surgery is done, on to recovery!
After the surgery, you are in the recovery room for about an hour. Which isn’t too bad of time. You are usually pretty doped up and don’t know what is happening. They ask you to rate your pain and will give you more medicines as needed. Then it’s up to your room. I don’t remember this move at all. I do remember waking up in my room and asking for my husband over and over. All I wanted was to be out of pain. They doped me up some more and off to sleep I would go, waking occasionally to press the pain pump button or when the nurse would come in.
This is my room for the next two days. It is now 2 hours after surgery and I am fully awake. I am ready to go and get on with recovery. My husband tells me about the issue with the broken screws and I know that if I could survive that pain, I can get through this. It has been 2 1/2 hours since surgery and I call for my nurse. I’m ready and at hour 3 after surgery, I am up and walking the halls. Nurses and doctors are talking about me. Determined to make it out the hospital by Christmas Day. I will do it. All that matters is that I promised my kids I will be hope, so it will happen.
Days In The Hospital
Day one is almost done and I am exhausted. I feel like a train has hit me. From the top of my head to my toes hurt. I feel like every muscle is yelling at me to stop moving and just give into the pain. Being doped up more than ever and it barely took a bite out of the pain and knowing that this is how I was before but the pain seems to be in a small section. Now my whole back hurts.
Day 2. I know that I have to work hard to get out of here, but my drainage pump isn’t ready to come out yet. I need that to be out before I can go home. So I work hard at walking and getting my body to move. Pain level is still in the 8-9 range and I am taking three pain meds. My worries are there that the addiction will be hard to control but I have to do it. I know that I can do it. Day 2 is pretty much resting and walking. Getting up to go to the bathroom and doing as much for myself as I can.
Day 3 is here and I am going home. I did it and I kept my promise to the kids. I will be home before Christmas. I am very proud of myself but I am still in a lot of pain. Plus my oxygen levels are not where the doctor’s want it to be so it looks like it will be going home with me. I don’t care as long as I am going home. I can’t wait to be with my kids.
Fast Forward 4 Months
The last four months have been tough but I have managed to beat all expectations. I was home in 2 days from surgery and I got myself off oxygen within a month out of surgery. Another thing that I have done was I managed to get myself off all pain meds 2 months out from surgery and haven’t looked back. That was the hardest because they normally prescribe pain meds for up to 3 months, but I didn’t want to take any chances. Since I have addictions, I had to be careful.
Other things that I have accomplished since I have had surgery is:
- No longer need the help of a cane
- Started to exercise riding the stationary bike 3 times a week
- Can walk more than a few minutes at a time without having to sit down.
- Can do things around the house that I haven’t been able to in a long time.
Did The Surgery Help?
Being that I am only 4 months out from surgery, I still have pain and discomfort. Is it as great as it was prior to surgery, I would now say no! I feel my back is better than it has been in awhile. I may still have bad days but its not as many as I would have prior to surgery. I would say that this surgery has helped me about 50% from where I was before.
Would I do the surgery again? I would answer yes to that question. I would do all this over again. No matter what. Even though I am not 100% better, being somewhat better is better than nothing. It could have made everything worse but it has seemed to help.
Would I recommend surgery to others that have back issues?
I would have to say no on that question. I do not recommend surgery to anyone unless it is the last resort, period. Once you start back surgery, it’s hard to have it stop. My spine will always degenerate and I will now always need to have surgery every so many years. The goal is to keep me off the table for 5 years now. I really hope that happens. It has been between 2-3 years that I have had surgery. So to go every 5 years would be wonderful.
All in all, this surgery went really smooth and I am glad as to where I am at. I would like to be able to fo more but I can’t push myself too much. I know that I did a lot of things faster than expected and I am proud of myself for that. I hope that its another 5 years before surgery but we will see. Only time will tell.