I thought I would finally try to put into words what happened with my surgeon, Dr. W., last week. Just as some background, I had a two level spinal fusion in March 2011. Immediately after the surgery it was considered a success because I could feel the nerve pathways that had been dead for several months, but I haven’t made much progress since. When you have a spinal fusion, at least in my case, , there are different ways to do it, they take out discs from between your vertebrae, fuse bone into the space left behind and set the spacing by putting three screws in each vertebrae and attaching them with titanium rods. Then you have to wait over a year to see if the fusion takes and if you grow bone to fill the spaces.
I am not growing that bone.
I also had a re-emergence of my nerve pain in the left sciatic a couple of months back, which is what prompted me to go see him and have a CT scan done. The scan showed that the screws are all in the proper spots but the hardware has settled causing, what my surgeon thinks is, irritation to my nerve. (Fingers crossed that it is just irritation and not more damage as that will cause a lot more problems for me.) The scan also showed that there is very little bone growth in the fused area. So… I have to wait another five months, at which point I will be eighteen months out of the surgery.
In five months time, and if I still have nerve pain, Dr. W. will operate on me again to remove the hardware. In one sense this is good news. as there is still something he can do to help with my nerve pain, but on the flip side it is more waiting, with no end in sight and no guarantee there is an end to my pain. Also, there needs to be more growth in the fusion by then as without the hardware I am in danger of my spine collapsing in the fused area. So…
I have to wait five months, get surgery to remove the hardware and if my spine isn’t solid enough to support itself (it will take about two weeks to make this determination) I will have to go in for surgery again and Dr. W. will fuse the broad part of the disc. Right now I have the back part of my spine fused, where all the knobbies stick out, and it is the square part of the vertebrae he will fuse if I need it.
In the meantime…. I just have to suffer. I am being scheduled for an EKG to test my nerves to ensure there is no damage and it is just pain. Ha! Just pain. Those two words don’t belong together! Dr. W. said that he doesn’t want me to work any more than I am and he stressed the importance of lying down every hour to promote more bone growth. My workman’s compensation case manager is on vacation for another week (must be nice to get eight weeks of paid vacation a year, no?!?) so I don’t know what is happening there. They have been giving me a really hard time, threatening to cut off my benefits and saying they won’t pay me for the hours I am supposed to work according to my return to work plan. (Which I had deep hesitations about signing but was assured it would be a flexible plan that always remained within my pain tolerance.) According to the return to work plan, I was supposed to be back at work full time four weeks ago. Needless to say that didn’t happen.
The main problem with Workman’s comp is that they have written in my file that I am diagnosed with mechanical back pain with radicular pain in both legs. But that isn’t really what is wrong with me. I am having post surgical complications, which is a far cry from routine mechanical back pain. So… I think I have to get a lawyer, although I have no idea how to go about doing that.
I am sure I will figure it all out. I am okay with the results of the appointment but I do feel like I am so trapped. I am looking at at least another eight months of this… and honestly, I just want to move on.
I want to move on to the next thing, I am totally done with this one!