Back Surgery that placed me on Disability

So here I am, lying in a hospital bed the day after surgery, and I can barely move a muscle in any direction. It's not an easy feeling to have. I just woke up after having surgery on my lower back, and I'm in a world of pain.

Been having back problems for some time now, and it only got worse in the last five years, with the previous six months being the hardest to handle.

After complaining about it for some time to my doctor, I was finally referred to a spine specialist who looked at my x-rays and determined I had spinal stenosis, where there was pressure to the nerves in my lower back. Spinal decompression was necessary in a surgical procedure called a LAMINECTOMY.

What is a Laminectomy?

A Laminectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the Lamina part of the spine to address affected areas, such as the L3, L4, and L5 spinal disks in the lower back. The surgically removed bones look like those in the animated GIF clip to the right.

So, why was this procedure necessary? It was to alleviate spinal compression on the internal nerves resulting from the narrowing of the spinal canal. This caused chronic episodes of lower back pain, a condition known as spinal stenosis.

My Spinal Stenosis

The spinal stenosis primarily affected the sciatica nerves, causing a numbing-tingling feeling down my left leg before the surgery. However, the MRI showed calcium buildup on the right side, which didn't affect my right leg, but I didn't notice due to the pain in my left leg.

During the surgery, the surgeon discovered an internal cyst and calcium buildup on the inside of the Lamina. They removed these bone fragments and cleaned up the nerves around the nerve opening, as per my understanding of what the surgeon told me.

During the rehabilitation process, I noticed that my right leg felt looser, which caused it to protrude outward while walking. Additionally, the right side of my hip felt more tender than the left.

When I asked the home care physical therapist about this, he said that the inflammation around the sciatica nerve where the surgery was performed could be causing the inflammation that made me walk with my foot pushing outward. He recommended getting an x-ray and consulting with my surgeon during a post-op appointment.

To help control the inflammation pain, he suggested taking Essential Fatty Acids and using medical marijuana pain relief cream, which I found interesting.

What I remember about the surgery, Nothing!

But I do remember prepping for the surgery and the Filipina nurse taking my vitals and adding the intravenous and other gadgets to me. My wife Emily was with me in the room all the time.

This air-heated blanket was added on top to warm my body. That was getting uncomfortably hot, but the nurse insisted I had to have it on. You can see it on top of me in the picture. At this point, I was beginning to feel sedated.

The primary surgeon whom I have been consulting with came in and chatted with me to see if I was okay, then left to get prepared. Then, a couple of other guys dressed up like surgeons came in; they must be intern surgeons helping with the prep. One asked me if I needed to use the bathroom, and I said yes. Then the other guy said we needed to insert a catheter, and that was the last thing I remembered before knocking out.

The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital room and opening my eyes to see my wife. Then I gave the shaka sign. Couldn't move my back at all.

The Day After; The Hospital Stay

I could barely move. The look on my face in the picture is an excruciating pain. Had to take this selfie to remember what I looked like, experiencing so much pain for the first time in my life. I never want to feel like this again.

The pain was straightening my legs and trying to move from side to side. I was worried about how it would feel to get up and use the bathroom, but I didn't know I still had the catheter in me, draining out the urine naturally. I must have filled a couple bags.

It also wasn't an easy feeling for me at first to always have the intravenous line sticking in my hand all the time, but that's how they injected the pain meds and morphine. Had that line on for the whole duration of my hospital stay.

All I could think of was how long I must endure this.

Hospital Food

My very first meal and my last meal are pictured to the right. You always hear about how bad hospital food was but these meals weren't too bad; better then what I had anticipated. Of course they were bland but very low cal and healthy.

The most fun I had at meal time was playing with the hospital bed bumping it up and down to reach my meal table comfortably. I imagine myself in a low rider with hydraulics bumping the bed up and down LOL!

The Surgical Wound

I told my wife to take a picture of the bandaged wound so I could see what it looked like. She used my iPhone.

The incision was so small I wondered how they took the Lamina bone matter out after the bone was laser cut. I'm emailing the doctor as i'm writing this to find out. I'm wondering if the bone was cut up into small chunks or dissolved somehow with the laser.

The other thing I thought that was interesting is that the doctor didn't even use sutures to stitch the wound back up. He just applied tape to hold the wound together. There was some spinal fluid leakage at first according to the doctor but after the first day the wound bandages were dry so I guess the tape worked just fine.

The pictures to the left are the wounds the day after surgery and 11 days after when the bandages started to fall off leaving just the scabs. Above is 13 days after the surgery.

Do you know what a Catheter is? Watch the video clip

The Catheter is the one thing I'll never forget!

I cringe every time I think about the nurse inserting that thing into my urinary tract. I was already knocked out when she did this but the second night after surgery I was wide awake as the nurse removed it and felt every single twist and turn of that thing pulling out of my urinary tract, YEOW! Not an easy feeling to experience.

I was thinking to myself to please take it easy and not pull it out too fast. Just the retracting feeling of the tube coming out was making me cringe. Once it was out I felt soo relieved, a little sore though but relieved, pheeewwww!
Finally Home

The very first day home was the worse. I was in soo much pain it wasn't funny. Couldn't even lay down on my bed that night so I sat up leaning on my walker trying to sleep on it with a pillow. I think I only got about an hours sleep that night.

My wife had to help me with everything, I'd be lost without her. She had to bath me, feed me, give me meds, help me in the bathroom; don't see how I could have made it on my own.

Urinating The first 4 days were the most difficult. I had to stand and use this Pee Container.

(SIDE NOTE: This would be a good container to have in the car when going on long trips.)

Muscles in my body were still adjusting, mind to muscle sensory was still inundated by the excruciating pain. The two spinster valves in my bladder were not in sync with each other and caused a lot of bladder pressure which made it difficult to pee. The muscles were tight and couldn't relax enough to pee regularly because the pain was soo overwhelming.
Pooping was another story. Apparently the pain killers I am taking causes constipation; that and the fact that the excruciating pain shutting down my muscles from relaxing made it a very difficult experience to just poop!

seven days beginning from the day before surgery building up food inside my intestines, packing it in tight at the end of the colon. It was soo uncomfortable sometimes I had a problem just sitting down. The one thing I worried about that the PT (Physical Therapist) warned me about is that if I can't poop after seven days then I'll have to go to the emergency room to have it relieved by a doctor at the hospital. I'm not sure what you call it and how they do it but all I remember the PT saying is that they'll have to dig it out. No way! I'm going to do my damndest to relax and poop naturally.

Finally on the 7th morning with a little bit of effort and patience it finally all came out and boy did it come out! It felt like I lost two pants sizes after unloading! But you talk about relief! Pheeeeww, double pheeeew! The selfie I took here was the face of total relief! How do you spell relief? POOPING!

I went a total of five times that day finally emptying my system out completely. Wow that felt soo good.

So now that the worst of it is over I'm still dealing with the muscle soreness from the surgery. The surgeon said he found a cyst on the inside of the Lamina affecting the sciatica nerve protruding out. So glad it was caught before it got any bigger because I think I remember my mom had a cyst that was cancerous and I believe that's what led to the spread of cancer throughout her body. Just hope I don't have any others hidden around inside somewhere.

Well i was told by the doctor and the PT that 14 days after the surgery I should be back to a tolerable level dealing and managing the pain effective enough. I do believe because they found a cyst inside the Lamina affecting the right side sciatica nerve running down my leg that I need physical therapy to make sure I rehab the leg without having problems walking. For some reason my foot points outward-right when I'm walking and it feels like the muscles need to learn how to point the foot back in. I may need the walker for another couple weeks while I'm rehabbing this but it might takes months maybe more then six months suggested by the PT.

I was able to get a temporary Disabled Persons Parking Placard good for six months. This will be my first one. Haven't had to use it yet but this will be a pleasure finally being able to park up front and at parking meter spaces without having to pay. I know I'm probably going to get spoiled with it.

Went to the grocery store for the first time with my wife and she told me to use the electric grocery cart. How fun! I was a little pre cautious though going real slow, just a little concerned about hitting someone while I'm getting use to the controls. I kept passing people telling them to "watch out I don't have a license to drive this thing" getting a few chuckles out of some folks.

Well if I'm going to recover then I might as well find ways to make it fun! It's not that often I'll be able to take advantage of the benefits so use em up while i can. Gotta keep reminding myself that the ultimate goal is to heal correctly and get better, that's the main objective.

Spinal Decompression

So it's been twelve days after the surgery and so far the benefit I feel from spinal decompression is my internal organs are operating A-Okay! My bowel movements and urination are functioning and flowing really well. I feel like a whole new person on the inside. The pressure taken off my nerves affected the nerves that help my internals function effectively. The Lamina bone was removed from the L3, L4, and L5 disks, that's a lot of spinal decompression, so i'm expecting a lot of relief in my motor skills while working out. Legs, knees, abdomen, and internal organs should feel the best benefits and get stronger. This is what i am expecting because the whole purpose I agreed to have this surgery was to improve my game working out at the gym.

I understand that this surgery may not fully get rid of the back pain but I want to believe that I can buildup everything else around that to build a stronger core that will eliminate the back pain altogether. That is yet to be seen but I'm hoping.

But first thing is first, i need to rehab my back correctly before I get excited about working out again. Take it one day at a time and make sure I don't over do it. Don't want to end up back on the operating bed by a foolish injury.

I'm also relieved that an internal cyst was removed along with the bone spurs that were applying the pressure to the nerves. I have to be careful about cancer because cancer runs in my family. That's how my mother died and I want to make sure I do as much preventive health check ups and procedures as possible to catch anything that may be developing in the early stages.

Before the surgery I had three colonoscopys that removed a total of 14 polyp growths inside my colon and big intestine. All were begnine and in the early stages of development but I was fortunate to catch them at this stage.

Thank good ness for Kaiser Permanente's preventive maintenance programs for helping me. I have nothing but high regards for the whole Kaiser Permanente staff that helped me through my successful first surgery. Nothing but praise for the doctors, the surgeons, the nurses including the CNAs, and the physical therapists. So glad we have Kaiser as our HMO. I've been with Kaiser ever since the mid eighties with my first family. Don't think I'd want any other HMO ever..... One satisfied patient. 

So here I am on my way to rehab and all I want to say is good health to you all. Stay positive in mind, in body, in spirit, in health, in attitude, and all that other good stuff... ;-)

Progress 7-23-2014

Sixteen days after surgery and I'm beginning to walk around without the walker. Still don't feel safe going to far but everyday I'll go a little bit more. I'm think I'm ready to use a cane now. Also trying to wean myself down on the pain killer meds. Went from 2 pills to one, morning, noon, and night.

Progress 7-24-2014

Not good, practicing walking without walker and fell two times. Experiencing weakening in the right hip.The walker is pretty light. I used to workout a lot at the gym and I can at least lift the walker over my head but walking is another story.

Progress 7-26-2014

Spoke too soon. The more I walk around the more I'm subject to pain emanating from my hip. Back to 2 pills morning and night. My right foot has a tendency to stick outwards when walking. Still favoring my right leg. I still have to put more weight on my left leg when standing and using the bathroom.

Progress 7-31-2014

It's been about 3-1/2 weeks since the surgery and physically recovering well but still managing the pain from the hip with meds. The meds are throwing me off my day time clock. A take periodic naps throughout the day in sync with taking the meds. The Percocet makes me drowsy and a little dizzy at times throughout the day. The Nortriptyline at night for some reason keeps me awake when it should be the opposite. I'm thinking that the narcotic effect makes me ultra sensitive to the feeling of the CPAP mask I wear at night for sleep apnea. There are times when I don't fall asleep until 5am and wake around 10-11am. When I do wake I am a bit unfocused and spaced out. Then I have to take the Percocet for pain again and in a matter of an hour get drowsy and nap again.

Progress 8-7-2014

It's been exactly one month since the surgery and I had my follow up doctor's appointment with the surgeon who performed the laminectomy. All is well according to his diagnostic responsibility but I did mention to him that I need my cane because there were a few times I fell while walking not taking the medication because I'm trying to wean myself off of the Percocet pain relieving medicine. I also told him my foot has a tendency to stick out to the right so he's setting me up for physical therapy after the 6 week mark. This should be my last entry.