These pics above are of my lumbar spinal fusion from L4-S1. One view is on my left side and the other I a lying on my back.
Well, many of you knew I traveled back up to Birmingham on the 17th with Holly for my 6 week check up. She and my Aunt Peggy went to my appointment with me which taught me a lot about being patient and what having a spinal fusion really means. This was my 19th surgery. Every surgery, including my 20th which was getting my screws out of my tibia was painful, but i usually managed to rehab and get off my pain meds within a week or two at the most. This surgery has knocked me for a loop. Because I fell the 5th day out it kind of set me back a bit but the last month and a half has been a roller coaster of emotions, good and bad, tons of nausea, a low grade fever since the surgery and the feeling that I would really lose my mind if I didn’t get off the meds. I saw 4 different doctors in Mobile who agreed I was on a lot, but wanted Dr. Okor to handle the med issue since he did the surgery. i get that but it was still one more frustrating piece of the puzzle. Well,Dr. Okor sat us down today and basically explained that my surgery was like breaking my back. You can’t detox someone who has been on morphein, valium, lortab 10, fentora, and phenergan in a week. I had completely missed the fact that my back was literally screwed up, as you can see, and the process of coming off all those strong meds would be possible, but not pleasant. So…. why tell you all these details? For those of you out there getting ready for this surgery or facing it and have been on strong opiods for a while you need to understand what you getting into. My surgery whas a great success, the bone had already started to fuse and although it was my 5th sugery I am nerve pain free and my foot drop has almost completely reversed. Dr.Okor, my surgeon at UAB, is simply the best neurosurgeon for me. On the reality of life after surgery this is what you might experience. Pain. of course, extreme mood swings in both directions, the lack of ability to drive, you will lose your memory and forget who you talk to and what you say. The post med drugs will basically keep you stoned but please don’t try and detox on your own like I did. Trust your doctor to slowly get you off your meds is a safe way. I tried and went from a pain level of 2 to a 9 within 6 hours, shaking, headache, puking, it was horrible. I was just crazy insane in wanting to be lucid, to fix coffee for my husband, to be normal, and almost made myself dangerously sick. This surgery is a huge blow to the body, not to mention the anesthesia, so all those drugs are necessary but takes months, yes months, to slowly get off of. I had this surgery for many reasonse but one was so that I didn’t have to live on morphein for the rest of my life considering I am only 40. Please realize keeping your expectations in check after surgery is key, trust your doctor, ask family to be patient ande show them your x-rays so they visually get the fact that your are actually screwed and major pain comes with that. The great news to look forward to is if your surgery is successful, you rehab correctly and safely, you will get a huge amount of quality of life back that you may have thought you would never get. I am forever optimistic but this had been hard. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of frustration, and a lot of second guessing but 6 weeks out i know for me I did the right things and things are lookings up. And a word to the caregivers of those who support, love, and take care of us. Please be patient. My husband who I love and thank dearly has had a difficult time adjusting from the shear loss of mobility I had. He has been a trooper through over 16 surgeries when most people would have run for the hills so Bill, thank you for not throwing the towel in. But realize this surgery takes a lot out on those familiy members who live with the surgery patient and it can get hard. Be patient, take breaks often, ask for help if you need to and can, and most of all don’t take the melt down personally from your loved one recovering from all these meds. I hope my experience can help at least one family transition through a major surgery in a positive way. I can’t wait to take long walks again and maybe ride a 3 wheel bicycle, but the baby steps I take now build the foundation for a successful recovery and you can do it as well! Hope you find the pics interesting, I think medicine today is a miracle and am greatful I found such a gifted surgeon. I would also caution any spinal fusion patient to find a neurosurgeon rather than an ortho surgeon. Ask back patients why I say that and you’ll get it. No hard feelings to Ortho doctors, I’ve just never had a good surgery on my back from anyone but my Neurosugeon, Dr. Okor at UAB. Good Luck and Peace with your surgeries or healing. I’ll keep you posted on how I do.