It’s been a busy few days – I’ve been to town a couple of times. My parents, Uncle, and 2 Nephews all stopped for an overnight camping visit – and I had my post op follow up with my doc.
So let’s back track – Day 16 I ventured into town (25ish miles) for x-rays and groceries. My mother-in-law came and picked me up with all my “stuff”. Pillows, cooler bag with ice packs, bag of medications, water bottle, cane, back brace, wallet, and the discharge note from the doc saying get x-rays please before your followup. Well, turns out I was early and the docs office hadn’t sent the “order” down to the hospital yet, so the nice lady called up to the docs office and took my phone number and said hopefully they’ll get that to us soon.
So, back to the car, and we decided to go do our grocery shopping trip while we waited for the call back. I hadn’t been shopping in probably 3 weeks, so the fridge was pretty empty. I managed to get through the shopping experience without too much difficulty. But remember, I’m not supposed to lift anything over 5 pounds. I did pretty good I think – but by the end of it…I was tired…ready for a pain pill…and some lunch. Mom in law had a bunch of stuff too, so we got it all out to the car and loaded in the back. As we were finishing up the hospital called and said I could come get my x-rays.
Back to the hospital, checked in, and got called back for my x-rays. It was the same tech as before my surgery, and so I sweet talked him into letting me take pictures of the x-rays too – he laughed at my nerdy-ness but let me. I wasn’t really surprised by them, I mean I’d googled plenty of pictures of spinal fusion x-rays – so I knew pretty much what to expect, but it was kinda cool to see it with my own eyes. But…I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing, and wanted to confirm with my doctor before I shared them.
We finished out our trip to town with A&W root beer and burgers, and headed home. Unloaded groceries and I then blissfully sat down with some ice and just relaxed – probably dosed off for a bit – for the next couple of hours. Fixed some french dip sandwiches for dinner and went to bed – exhausted.
Going to town is more tiring than I expected. Not sure why exactly, but it is.
When I got up Wednesday morning, while making coffee, I got a text from my mom. They were leaving Anaconda, MT and headed our way. Whoops…I thought they were coming on Thursday….oh well – they would be here in 8ish hours. I did some light housework that didn’t require me lifting anything over 5 pounds…and tried to rest and ice throughout the day. We had a great visit, mom and dad made us a simple but yummy dinner, they were impressed with my mobility 17 or so days after spinal fusion, and the boys…whew….well behaved…but go, go, go….always doing something. Bella enjoyed the distraction and people to play ball with her!! Silly dog! We all headed to bed about 10…and yep….I was TIRED. This healing thing apparently takes a LOT of energy.
Got up and made coffee, walked the driveway to get the blood flowing, and visited with everyone for a bit on a crisp Idaho morning. Uncle Steve got started on breakfast (BACON!!!) and visited with an eye on the clock. Had a quick breakfast with them, and then it was off to the shower for me so I would be ready with mom-in-law showed up to chauffeur me to town for my doc appointment. Got me packed up with ice, pills, pillows, back brace, cane, wallet, etc. Gave hugs and kisses all the way around – and off we went to town.
Doc was pleased with my progress. He pulled the mesh off my incision, and proclaimed it looked perfect. I can’t see it without a mirror, so I’ll take his word for it until I can examine it nekkid in the bathroom mirror – or convince someone to take a picture. Ever tried to take a selfie of your lumbar spine??? Yeah…I wouldn’t recommend it…LOL
I am supposed to continue to rest – healing takes energy. I’m supposed to walk lots – I’m doing about 5000 steps a day, but am supposed to listen to my back and DON’T OVER DO IT. It’s time to wean off the back brace – so that my muscles can get stronger. Continue to ice every hour if possible, again, listen to my back – don’t over do it. Continue to wean off the pain meds too – but be smart about it – no points for being a hero in pain. I’m not at risk for worrying about liver damage or becoming addicted – healing takes time, and pain slows down progress. I asked about transitioning to tylenol and he strongly encouraged it, but to pay attention to the 4000mg per day dose – as I taper back on the pain meds, I can take more of Tylenol – but he again assured me – I’m young and healthy – stay ahead of the pain, be smart, and listen to your back. Rest. Also, stay on top of the muscle relaxers – they will be the biggest help through this transition. What I’m feeling nerve wise is totally normal, and should continue to diminish each day.
We talked about my returning to work….he would really like me to rest as much as possible, but understands that most folks need to get back to work. He has asked me to take an additional week off. He also issued me a handicap permit so that I can park closer to my office on campus for the next few months. Bottom line, I need to be on light duty, very limited lifting, bending, twisting in the work place for at at least another month. Thankfully I know I can continue to tele-commute some, my boss is being great about that.
My final conversation with him was the nerdy part – what did he actually do, what am I seeing on the x-rays? He started out sarcastically (making me laugh), telling me about positioning and draping in the OR – but finally got down to the actual surgery part. He cleaned out the damaged disc tissues and cleaned up the arthritic bone changes between L4-5 and L5-S1, and used “cages” as spacers and then filled in with bone material. You can kind of see the cages a bit on the x-ray but I wasn’t for sure. He also placed 6 screws, 3 on each side, plus 3 rods – 2 vertical and one horizontal as a cross brace. Bone material was placed all around the area too – kind of like packing it around all the hardware like putty – and it will ultimately fuse to the bone in the vertebrae to create a solid mass of bone in that area.
In 2 more weeks I am to start the exercises he gave me in the “Back owner’s Manual” – some simple stretches in preparation for actual physical therapy. For now…just walk, control pain and muscle spasms, REST and heal. I’ll follow up with him again on September 25th.
So here are the post-op x-rays of my back….
It is expected with this new stability in my spine that I will continue to have diminished nerve pain, diminished arthritic pain, and be able to physically do more. Walk more, stand more, exercise more, and just generally just be back to my normal self. It will happen, I just have to be patient and let the healing take place.