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T11-T12 Fusion: A winding road

This forum has given so much to me during my own recovery I wanted to share my experience in the hopes it will help others. First, for those that contribute, thank you. 

- 50 YO active and fit male
- Sports injury
- Emergency surgery based numbness in groin, hips, legs as a result of spinal compression


Hospital Stay
- well pre op was quick, so I guess that's good
- day 1-3 in hospital was as I expected, uncomfortable as swells of pain came and went probably with the flow of pain medication
- unfortunately, things rapidly declined on day 4, with severe burning/stinging pain starting near my saddle and eventually progressing to every toe
- day 5 I literally could not move or eat as I was in so much pain
- the afternoon of day 5 I was transported a few floors down for an MRI. Moving on/off the MRI table was the most excruciating pain I've experienced in my life
- surgeon visits a few hours later and informs me drain fluid has formed around my spine
- I was rushed back into OR, the incision was re opened and fluid drained
- upon waking up a few hours later in recovery I was pain free
- after weaning off non oral pain meds I was discharged day 7
- I understand this was a rare experience but wanted to share in case anyone is having similar symptoms 

Week 1
- Rest and relax, moderate pain and zero back flexibility, mostly in bed or chair with brace 
- Pain meds (oral) every 4 hrs to start but my goal was to stretch the 4 hrs as much as possible day by day
- by week's end I was taking 1 to 2 pills a day, that's it
- looking back, it was not easy but it was an okay week
- on ST disability 

Week 2
- feeling better, more discomfort vs pain
- an occasional pain pill now and then (not even daily) 
- started to take walks toward the end of the week...beginning with 1/2 mile
- used a back brace (super cool one, looked like I was backpacking) which really helped a ton (faster recovery) 
- on ST disability 

Week 3
- an even better week
- walking 2-3 miles a day ... with my friendly back brace
- still on ST disability 

Week 4
- more positive progress
- no pain but still discomfort and not much flexibility 
- started with a personal trainer to focus on upper back muscles (no free weights), flutes, legs, abs (inner core muscles ... no bending) ... all dr approved 
- continued walking 
- still on ST disability

Week 6
- an even better week 5
- feeling very positive and was ecstatic with progress 
- still on ST disability 

Week 7
-  unfortunately for me, this is where I unfortunately took many steps backward and am still regretting this
-  6 months ago, I planned 10 days in Hawaii with my wonderful, caring family
-  living in CA my dr said your recovery is going well as long as I moved throughout the flight and focused on recovery I would be okay
- landed in Maui, feeling good (with discomfort) 
- 5 days of lounging, beach walks, touring but let me kids surf, hike, scuba and all was fine 

what could go wrong? 
- I was sitting in perhaps 4 inches of water on a flat coral bed, watching my kids snorkel
- A sneaker wave (NOT large), blindsided me and washed me through a coral reef on my back 
- some pain and shock but I  to shook it off
- as the day progressed, my legs started to feel numb, then my feet
- by the next day I could not move my toes and feet and legs were tingling
- rushed to ER, sat for 5 hrs, took an MRI and was admitted immediately after
- bruising showed around my surgery and spine so I was held for monitoring and steroid treatment for 3 days
- slowly the pain subsided (still have some tingling now, however)

Week 8
- back in sunny, bueatiful but congested and over taxed northern CA
- met w my dr and he felt all will be well, "don't sweat it", prescribed a short term dose of nerve pain reliever 
- depressed, feeling a major setback
- not as much pain but as much discomfort as week 3 if not more 
- last week of ST disability 

This Week 
- first week at work, highly demanding global management role 
- still depressed with my decline (my own fault) and not much improvement in flexibility as well as not having much of any activity over past few weeks
- days 1-2 at work were not good, I could not keep up getting from meeting to meeting and call to call ... and realized at this moment I'm just not in the same physical shape as a few months ago
- I reset my schedule mid week, fewer meetings and more breaks to stretch, reposition myself, etc
- ended the week okay but still depressed (too hard on myself)

This Weekend and Next Week
- I'm committing to starting a more active lifestyle again, walking, physical therapy and changing my diet as I've gained so much weight in just the past few weeks alone 
- Will keep my schedule light next week and balance work with recovery (rest and exercise) 

...long winding road with setbacks, no doubt. Many self inflicted.  As I sit here tonight I'm blessed with a bueatiful family, this forum (to lurk until now), and that even though I'm terrible down mentally I have positive thoughts about tomorrow and next week. 

For me, in addition to the learnings from many on this forum, a key lesson is listening to your body and as tempting as it may be don't push beyond your means.  Reminds me of a quote from my father in law on golfing ... "go slow to go fast" 

Hopefully this experience may be of use to you. 

I have a ways to go and will be more active on the forum so please ping me if you have any q's.



  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,241
    hello tfenton02 !

    thank you for sharing!

    please click on link for helpful information!
    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Thank you for this post; I appreciated it and it gave me a glimpse into April.  I am set to have a five-level fusion (T10-L3) and I am scared to death of the recovery... What if it doesn't work?  What if my pain is the same?  What if there is something else wrong that a fusion can't fix?  These questions race through my mind and keep me up at night.  I want to do the right thing as living in pain (right now it is nothing short of constant) is no longer an option.  As your fusion area is included in mine, may I ask your symptoms prior to surgery?  I had a laminectomy from L3-T11 back in 2008 to remove benign tumors, but no fusion was performed at the time because he was worried about swelling and he said that I might be able to do just fine without a fusion.  The pain since the surgery has gotten worse over time, escalating about two years ago.  Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.  Thank you all.
    1) Schwannoma removal (1) @ L2-L3 (2001)
    2) Schwannoma removal (3) @ T11-L3 (2008)
    3) Failed laminectomy syndrome T11-L2, facet joint disease, ongoing schwannoma formation.  Fusion scheduled from T10-L3 (April 12th, 2017).  Chronic pain that never goes away
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