Hello Fellow Members-
I am 1 week post op from a discectomy, laminectomy, & foraminotomy on L5-S1. I was part of the August Surgery Buddies group, but felt that a new thread in Surgery Recovery would be appropriate, since it is now September. I found it very helpful, before and after surgery, to read about other's experiences. That is why I'm sharing mine; in hopes that it will help somebody else.
A brief history (I'll try to make this short): I'm a 43 year old female. I hurt my back over a year and a half ago. The first MRI showed a bulge at L4-L5, a 3mm herniation at L5-S1 with an annular tear, and DDD. From that time up until August of this year, I tried every conservative tx available, from chiro (made it hurt worse) & PT to ESIs (x5) & Rhizotomies (x2). In July/Aug, I also did a tx package of acupuncture, homeopathic injections, moxibustion, & cupping. Since my ins did not cover this kind of tx, it was not cheap, but I had to know that I had tried everything. Last Aug/Sept, I had a surgical consult with a NS before my first rhizotomy. At that time, I was told to exhaust all conservative measures because if he took me to the OR, it would be for a fusion, as he found that I have instability in my L5 vertebrae. The word "fusion" scared me to death, so I avoided surgery like the plague! Around June, of this year, my pain seemed to increase significantly & continued to worsen, it seemed, with each passing day. The pain was from lower left back, thru hip & buttock, and down length of leg into my foot eventually. The last ESI was around mid June. All ESIs were done under local anesthetic & were just a little uncomfortable. Until the last one, which was excruciating. Just the needle placement caused me to yell. When he pushed the med, it felt like someone had stabbed me in the lower back and then tore the knife all the way down to my ankle! The Dr & nurse had to help me down off the table afterward. So, each day, my pain got worse and worse. I started to need help going from sitting to standing bc the sciatic pain in my left leg was so bad. I ended up becoming dependent on a cane & sometimes had to use a walker. My lowest level of pain, the last couple of months, was an 8 & frequently throughout the day & night, I would have pain that was off the charts. There were some episodes of pain, when I went to stand, that were so bad that it would take me several minutes to move 20-25 feet with a walker. During the episodes of off the chart pain, I could only move by using the cane or walker (or holding on to someone) & slide my left foot slowly across the floor. Those of you, who know this kind of pain, know there are no words to adequately describe it.
I finally asked for & got a new MRI bc I knew something was wrong. A temporary flare up should not have lasted this long, with pain only worsening. The new MRI showed that my herniation had tripled in size, was crushing my left s1 nerve root, causing moderate to severe spinal stenosis & narrowing of the neural foramin. It was time for a new surgical consult. My Dr & I knew I couldn't avoid this any longer. Truthfully, I would have let someone cut me open that day, just to have a chance at some relief. I had my consult on 8/19 & surgery was scheduled for 8/28. It was changed once to 8/29 (I cried), but on 8/27 I got a call, saying it was changed back to 8/28. This NS felt that a fusion was not necessary at this point, but warned that the disc will likely give me px in the future. I had also had a friend, who is a NS out of state, look at my images & he had 4 of his colleagues (2 NS, 2 OS) look at them as well. They all agreed that I needed a microdiscectomy, not a fusion yet. Surgery was supposed to be outpatient, but they could not get my pain under control in recovery, so I was admitted. The surgeon told my mom & boyfriend that it was much worse than he expected or the MRIs had shown. I took myself off the morphine the next day (I was also being given Percocet, muscle relaxers, & anti-inflammatories) bc I just wanted to go home. The hospital bed was so uncomfortable & I couldn't get any sleep with nurses coming in all the time for blood work, checking vitals, and changing IV bags. That's not to say all my nurses weren't great; they were all very nice and very compassionate!
So here I am, 1 week post op. I am going for my post op appt on 9/9/14 & I am hoping I get to talk to the NS, as it was his PA who came to see me & discharge me the following evening. I have to say, the post on Post Op Must Haves was very helpful, especially the idea of having a little Tupperware container that you can keep some essentials in on your bed, in arms reach. In mine, I've got the tv remote, a phone handset, little package of tissues, life-savers, Chapstick, a back scratcher, a mini flashlight, a pen & small pad of paper. How am I feeling? Well, I have good times & not so good times. I say "times" bc I can't say "days" yet, as far as "good days." The first couple of days were tough. There was improvement right away in the sciatic pain in my hip/buttock & upper thigh (back of thigh), but the Charlie horse feeling behind my knee & in my calf & the pain in my feet (both heals) persisted. I did order and have been wearing compression socks & those seem to be helping. There have been a couple of days, where if felt ok in the morning (after taking meds-pain, anti-inflammatory, & muscle relaxer), but then felt bad the second part of the day. I have also gotten up from a chair wrong or made a wrong movement, without even thinking & paid the price for it. Today, my legs are feeling better, but my back still hurts. It's a combination of disc pain & incision pain (oh, & the incision itches like crazy). I have had continued battles with constipation. Just when I think I have conquered it, it is back the next day. I am taking stool softeners every night, but also have to watch what I eat & take a laxative every couple of days. I am fearful that I will reherniate from straining, but I am trying to be careful. I am trying to find the right balance between walking & resting. I definitely feel it, if I over do it! I had hoped I would be like one of those, who wake up from surgery pain-free, but that has not been the case for me. While I still struggle with some pain & still use a cane, I definitely think my surgery has been a success so far, as the pain I have now, I can deal with. If this was the pain I was having over the last few months, I wouldn't have had the surgery. I'm hopeful that I will continue to improve & I will keep you updated on my progress.
I hope that my story has helped somebody. I am very thankful for other's sharing their stories & I continue to read about how others are doing. Also, the support that I have gotten from this community (& there are a couple that have really been there for me--you know who you are) has been so great! I am very grateful for that support & I hope that you will find the same. Best wishes to any of you who are suffering or on your road to recovery!
8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE