The Never-Ending Back Story

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!

xo- S.


3 thoughts on “The Never-Ending Back Story

  1. Caroline says:

    you really are having a rough time. Here’s to success in the coming months. Keep focused on your future. I know it’s tough but you’ve come such a long way.


  2. Robyn Lee says:

    Sooooo understand your plight. And feel for you with all my heart. Am still on a merry-go-round of pain and post-op complications. Like you had a fusion (360 degree L5S1) after 10 years of debilitating pain. 6 years later removed my hardware to no avail. As it turned out, I had a congenital hip issue – likely keeping my spine in agony and ultimately causing hip/si issues too. I am still working on healing and doing all in my power to stay positive in the face of pure adversity. You aren’t alone – and I’m sending you healing prayers and lots of love and light today…. Best always, RL

    • S. says:

      Dear Robyn,
      Thank you so very much for this comment and your encouragement. It is always comforting to meet people who can understand and empathize with my situation.
      I try to make the best of things, but I don’t always succeed. Unfrotunately I have fallen into a pit of depression and while I am managing with meds and such I find it difficult to accept this as my lot in life. I know it could be much much worse and I am in awe of your strength.
      I checked out your blog and look forward to reading more from you. I honestly don’t know how you have made it through the last twelve years. Well, I guess I do because realistically speaking you either deal or, well the other option is no option at all.
      I am looking at getting the hardware removed in August if my spine has fused, which to date there has been no growth and in the last week I have had an alarming re-emergence of nerve pain on my right side on top of the sciatic pain in my left. My butt/hip hurts so much right now I sit on one cheek but that makes my back ache so I have to stand.. Bah anyway, I am sure you know what I am talking about! It is so disheartening to take steps back after taking so few steps forward to begin with. If my bone doesn’t solidify in the next three months I have to get the broad part of my discs fused. Right now I had a posterior fusion and the next one will be a anterior? I think I have those words in the right order… I have the scar on my back right now.
      Anyway this is getting long. I just wanted to thank you so much for the comment. It made me tear up.
      I wish you the best and truly hope you will find some relief!
      xo – S.

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