Hi Mckinney, and welcome to the board! Sorry you needed us, but glad you found us!
I have had this surgery, although mine was done all at once. They went in through the front first, stapled me up, flipped me over, and went in through the back. It's a harder surgery to recover from than just going in from one direction or the other, but it has a higher success rate. The failure rate is around 3-5%, so you've definitely got the statistics on your side! Listen to your doctor, follow his instructions to the T, and you should be fine!
Now that you’ve made the big step of deciding to move ahead with this surgery, it’s time to prepare. The more you prepare ahead of time, the easier and more comfortable your recovery will be. Be sure to read the thread at the top called “Post Surgery Tips.” It’s got lots of very helpful suggestions that will make a big difference for you.
Out of all the suggestions people gave me, the best one was to get a grabber tool. My grabber was worth a pot of gold the first day home from the hospital. Do spend the money to get a good one. Mine was $30 at my local pharmacy. I tried one called “The Gopher,” too, because it was a third of the price, but in my opinion it wasn’t worth a nickel. It was really flimsy. I ended up returning it and got a good one instead. But that’s just my opinion. Others here have used that one and had no problem with it.
Also, get yourself a little notebook to keep track of your meds. You’ll be groggy and in pain, so it will be easy to lose track of what you took and when. Write down everything you take! You’ll need to stay on top of your pain by taking your meds exactly as ordered. Don’t try to wean off them too quickly. You’ll heal better if your pain is under control. I kept a running list of questions for my doctor in the same little notebook, as well as notes to myself so I wouldn’t forget things in my fog during those first weeks.
I got a set of satin sheets (well, a cheap imitation) for my bed and some slippery pj’s. It was SO much less painful to be able to slide to turn instead of fighting the friction of cotton. This really was one of the best things I did for myself! I did end up taking off the satin top sheet and put the cotton one back on. The satin one slid out from being tucked in too easily, and it was way too hard for me to re-tuck it myself.
For the same reason, that is to make it easier to move, put a plastic garbage bag in your car for the ride home from the hospital. You can slide on the seat getting in and out and it will be much easier. Also, put a ziplock bag in the car in case you feel nauseous on the way home. If you need to throw up, you can just zip in the mess and no one will have to clean anything up. Whoever is driving you will be most appreciative!
Check with your insurance company to see what equipment they’ll provide. A toilet riser is very helpful. My insurance company provided a portable bedside commode, which can be placed right over a regular toilet. You just take out the bucket and don’t use it. No one has to clean anything out, but you have a higher seat and arm rests to help you get up and down. Flushable wet wipes are also very handy. You’ll be weak and it may be hard to reach, so you’ll feel a bit cleaner if you use those. The hospital or insurance company may give you other little goodies, too, like dressing tools and stuff. I found my grabber much easier to use than the dressing tool, but try it and see what works for you.
Since you'll have a front incision, keep a small, firm throw pillow handy all the time. You can also use a folded up blanket or towel. Place it directly over your front incision. (Well, over your clothes, of course). When you need to turn, cough, sneeze, or laugh, press down gently but firmly on the pillow to “splint” the incision. It really helps to lessen the pain!
You can expect to be mostly lying down for the first weeks, maybe even 2-3 months, depending on your particular case. Most of our healing takes place during sleep, so you really need to get enough rest. (That’s one reason why little kids heal so fast and old people heal much more slowly.) You need to walk, though, to get a good fusion going. Walking increases blood flow to the spine, which is essential for bone growth. Getting up and down from bed will be hard at first, so take advantage of already being up anytime you need to use the bathroom and walk, walk, walk. Even if you just do laps around your bedroom, walk for as long as you can tolerate. At first, that might only be 10 minutes. That’s fine! Then lie back down and rest.
I had my surgery in Sept 2006. I had a bone growth stimulator, a TLSO brace (long plastic body brace, armpits to hips), tried to eat good well balanced meals, walked as much as I could tolerate, was not a smoker, and had a lot of people praying for me for a good, fast, solid fusion. At only 6 weeks post op, I was already showing bone growth on x-rays. That's very unusual, especially with an extremely long fusion like mine. It usually doesn't even start being able to be seen until at least 3 months. At 6 months, I was fully fused. For having 8 levels fused (this time) and having early onset osteoporosis, I consider that a miracle! And I was at higher risk of nonfusion, too. I'm not bragging. I'm just letting you know that there are good success stories on this board. Actually, there are a lot of them, but most of the success stories are back at work full time, going to their kids' soccer games, enjoying the movie theaters, and all that stuff. They pretty much don't hang around here. There are some of us here, though, and we're happy to answer whatever questions you have from our own experiences. No question is too big or too little. We won't sugarcoat anything, and we won't make up answers if we don't know. We may even urge you to not ask us on some things, but to call your doctor. So however we can help you, please post and ask. This board was such a wonderful help to me as I approached my surgery and went through my recovery; I hope it will be for you, too.
I wish you the best!
Been there, done that,