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Degenerative disk disease, surgery soon & ?

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Old 11-26-2009, 09:55 PM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2009
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busymomof7 HB User
Question Degenerative disk disease, surgery soon & ?


I have had back pain for over 7 years now but the last 7 months has been the worst. It usually would come and go but this time it never left. I saw a neuro on Monday who said I am a good candidate for spinal fushion surgery because I have no cushion left between two disks. I also have a herniated disk. The pain has been unbearable. For years Dr's have told me I just "pulled a muscle" and that was causing my pain.

Anyway the neuro wanted to do a couple of tests first before scheduling surgery. (I had already had a ct scan and MRI done.) One was a bone scan and they injected me with radioactive dye. The other was an x-ray to see mobility. I was wondering if the bone scan is a normal test for degenarative disk disease or could he be looking for another problem? I should be finding out the results next week.

I also have some ? about after surgery. How long will it be before I am able to take care of my kids (with help)? How long until I can drive? Will I be able to get out of bed to take care of myself at first or will I need somone here with me? If so how long will I need help?

Thanks for any help or advice! I had a major surgery a few years ago to remove my adrenal glands and that was really painful! I can only imagine that this will be much worse......

Last edited by busymomof7; 11-26-2009 at 10:12 PM.

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Old 11-27-2009, 11:27 AM   #2
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Re: Degenerative disk disease, surgery soon & ?

Hi Busymom, and welcome to the back board!

How old are your kids? Most of us had a 5 pound lifting restriction for a couple of months. If you don't have to lift them, you'll probably want some help for the first couple of weeks, but after that, you'll be able to do most of what they need, as long as you're careful. You won't be allowed to bend, lift, or twist, and you'll need to rest a lot, but you'll be able to make simple meals, help with homework (if they're school age), and do other things that don't require too much exertion.

I had a bone scan with the radioactive dye, too. I think it was just to make sure nothing else was going on. I picked up the results myself to take to the doctor. It was pretty weird. It was my own skeleton on the table! Kinda freaky! But it was really just one more test to clear the way for the surgery.

I was told no driving for 6 weeks, but even at 6 weeks, I wasn't comfortable driving and only did when I absolutely needed to, such as for doctor's appts.

Everyone is different in the amount of help they need after surgery. I didn't need help getting in and out of bed or in the bathroom, but some have posted that they needed help for everything. I took it slow and careful, and it did hurt, but I was fine doing things by myself. I had all three kids still living at home when I had my last fusion surgery (first was 30+ years ago), and I was homeschooling two of them. Both of them had part time jobs, so they were in and out. The oldest was in college and was also in and out. My husband took off only the day of my actual surgery, so I was often alone during my recovery. I asked my kids to make sure I had food and drink within reach when they were leaving me alone, and my boys were very sweet to make me breakfast in bed regularly for quite a while. I COULD have gone downstairs and gotten myself something to eat, but it was much easier to have help. I gave a house key to two different neighbor ladies and put them on speed dial in case I ever needed help when I was alone, but I never needed to call them. It was a comfort to know they were there, though.

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 what I paid for it 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.

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.

If you 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 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.

And finally, the part that no one talks about except on here, be prepared with prunes (they have cherry and orange essence ones now that really aren't bad), fiber bars, Colace capsules, etc., because pain meds tend to cause constipation. That's bad enough when you have no other issues going on, but when you're healing from major surgery, you really don't want to have to deal with that!

If you have other questions, please do post them. Nothing is too big or too small. If we can't answer it, we'll tell you. We won't make up answers, we won't sugar coat it, and if it's something we feel you need to take to your doctor, we'll tell you that, too.

Hang in there! It will all be worth it!


Old 11-27-2009, 09:52 PM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 6
busymomof7 HB User
Re: Degenerative disk disease, surgery soon & ?

Wow, thank you so much for all the info on what to exect! I appriciate it. I am a little scared though because it is such a major surgery. I had simmilar recovery after my bilateral adrenalectomy and wasnt able to move much or dress myself. The tool would have been nice to know about! The hospital never even mentioned there was such a thing. Fortunatly I had my husband to help and my home health care nurse.

My children are 15, 13, 12, 11, 9, 7, 6 so they should be able to survive without me helping for a while. The hard part is figuring out what to do with my son since he is in kindergarden. He may have to go to daycare after school for a while until I recover enough to be able to pick him up from school. Fortunatly he will be able to walk in the morning with his other 2 siblings. We only live a block away.

I think I am going to start taking colace before surgery so I can avoid the constipation. Nothing is worse that constipation after surgery! I had it so bad after my adrenalectomy that I ended up with a severe diverticulitis infection a few weeks after my surgery. It was the most painful thing I have ever gone through in my life.

I am glad you guys dont sugar coat things. I would rather know what I am facing to prepare. Thanks so much for welcoming me to the board!

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