The Never-Ending Back Story

Hello Again,

It has been a while since I posted here… Mostly because nothing has really changed. This is the same post as is on my other blog, so if you follow both don’t waste your time reading it all again. Also, if you don’t know about my other blog and would like to, please feel free to contact me. I am leaving this one up to serve as a resource for others, and will still update it as I have new information but I have turned to a personal blog to express what is going on inside my head. 


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!

As always, thanks for reading!      xo- S.

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10 Comments to “The Never-Ending Back Story”

  1. I have just read your blog I am praying for you sarah prayers and
    Healing to you how are you going April 2014 bless jenn

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I was just reading your comments with others on this blog, I don’t know that I can give you much hope when you hear of my condition. But first I wanted to say that the neurosurgeon that did my first back surgery L3-L4 fusion, knowing that I am a smoker, advised me to take calcium & D-3. I have just gotten past my 1 year mark of my 3rd back surgery, I am 53 years old and am growing bone on schedule. I have progressive degenerative disc disease I can barely get healed from one surgery and I am going in for the next. I just found out today that I am headed into 4-6 more fusions because I have severe degeneration in my C-Spine. I can’t seem to win for loosing! I got on here to find out if anyone has gone through neck surgery so I could ask what to expect after surgery. I live alone and have nobody to help me so I need to prepare as good as I can. I have always heard that once you start having surgeries you will continue to have them because of the stress it causes to the other disc’s and/or vertebra, I would suggest that you get a second opinion on taking out the surgical hardware because if your not making bone and they take that out it will definitely make that vertebra weak and vulnerable and if it collapses you could end up wheelchair bound, so be careful with that decision. I have been doing this 10 years now and I’m not sure how many more are in front of me.
    I wish you well and hope you get good news with your next visit.

  3. Wow all this is terrible, I have horrible back pain. Travels down to my feet into my hip and my sciatic. Would you have gone through with the surgery knowing this would have been the outcome? I’m afraid to go under the knife. However, the pain can be suicidal at times. What to do.. Live on Advil and wine. I don’t work. I may apply for disability soon. I often feel like a lame horse that needs to be shot out of its misery. Ill look to God for strength I guess. I can’t believe there are dumb people that think back pain is from depression. I can only wish the pain on those people. The pain is the cause of depression. For sure. I wish you well and will pray for us both. There is nothing wrong with anger. That which does not kill us can only make us stronger.

    • Hi Marci,
      I hope I am not too late to offer some comfort, if not useful advice. You see, I had no choice when it came to surgery. Well I guess I did, but it was a no brainer. My left S1 was dying. I was loosing the ability to stand on my left leg. It would have meant a cane, if not a crutch.
      Would I go through the surgery if I had of known where I would be eighteen months later? No, I probably wouldn’t have but my quality of life would have been worse. And ask me again in eighteen months whne this fusion works (fingers crossed). My answer is predicated on the fact that I had a failed spinal fusion – a non-union – and had to do it all over again. Failure only happens twenty percent of the time, so there was a one in five chance I’d have a completely different answer.
      Yes, pain can be suicidal at times. I know. But you’ve got it right, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. If you have the time, i would love to hear how you have faired.
      All the best, and please know that while surgery is hard, very hard in fact, it may also give both of us a new lease on life. If you feel as hopeless as I felt/feel a new way of life seems like a miracle. It’s been three years and i am still fighting for that hope.
      You’ll be in my thoughts,
      – S.

  4. Hi Sarah, Hang in there. When My screws and rods came out it felt better. Not sure why they didn’t put a bone graft in, that would have helped. I have the same thing going on, but this time for me it’s in my neck. I was supposed to have both back and neck surgery this month, but the surgeon cancelled it till I am checked out for Neurological disease. My father passed way 7 months ago from ALS and that’s what they think I have. (It’s a death sentence longest survivor is 3 years) My appointment is on Monday the 14th. And I am keeping a positive attitude so that I can go back and have my surgeries. All because he knows these two surgeries will help me. We talked back in January and hoped you were staying on top of your situation. Please hang in there! P.S. don’t use an lawyer yet. Have your doctor write out your issue and resubmit it.

    • HI Bev,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it really means a lot to me when others share their experiences and motivation.
      To clarify, I do have a bone graft in place, but it was made from a coral-donor bone mix. As of a month ago when I was last at the surgeons, I had no bone growth and nerve pain all the way down my left leg. August will be eighteen months since my surgery and that is when my surgeon makes the decision to either remove the hardware to see if my spine is strong enough or I will need the fusion re done but it will be a 360′ fusion so I will have posterior and anterior scars.

      I do try to stay positive. It hasn’t worked yet but I am still trying. There are so many issues outside of the back thing resting on my shoulders and sometimes I just don’t want to be strong anymore. But if I give up what kind of life is left to me?
      On top of the probability of another surgery my boyfriend of five years is moving five hours away September 01 to complete his PhD. Everything in my life is in flux and I just can’t see where this path is leading. I’m just so frustrated and angry all the time. My psych says I need to let go of the anger and gain self-worth but how do you do that?? How can I not be angry that at 24 I hurt my back so badly that at 27 I am still struggling with it? You would have to be a saint to not get angry!
      Anyway, once again, than you so much for your comment. I am hanging in there, but I am sick of being ‘all-right’. I want to be good. I want to be happy. I want to live instead of survive.
      What happened with your surgeries?? Did you get the neck and back done this month? Also, I can’t find any comments from you and I sincerely hope you come back to get this reply. I would like to follow you if you have a blog, or perhaps we could email each other?
      I hope you are well and happy!
      xo – S.

  5. I can’t imagine what you are going through – the pain and uncertainty. Just know that there are many of us who are here for you.

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