Sunday, October 24, 2010

The nuts and bolts of Thoracic back surgery (at least mine)

Well, as you The Rebels know, I have been having back issues for years now.  But if you are new to the story, let me give you a quick rundown of the story.  Almost three years ago now, I started having hip pain, yes hip pain.  I am a very active rancher, hiker, kid chaser, etc., so I let it go for a while, then the doctors let it go for a while, until finally late last year it was diagnosed as a herniated/ruptured thoracic disc.

I have said it before, and I'll probably say it again, this is very unusual.  Your thoracic (middle) region of your spine is the least mobile part of your body, so it very rarely gets injured.  Leave it to me to come up with a stumper!  So the first doctors assume it will resolve itself like herniated discs normally do, and since it is so near the spinal cord do not want to mess with it; I agree.

I go through the summer cleaning fire pits, and running my ranch thinking I am being a pansy since this stupid back thing is still bothering me.  I finally get bad enough to go back to the damn doctor, taking my husband in hopes that the doctor will finally tell him how very tough his wife actually is, and do you know what happened?  That doctor told me that my back was perfectly fine, he even bet my husband a nickel that the MRI would show that my disc was back to normal size and that this was all just a "little flare-up".

Well, he was very, very wrong.  Actually, my disc herniation was worse, my spinal cord was pushed so far out of the way, that it actually changed the way they were able to do the surgery on me!  So, in that instance it was good, I guess.  Normally, thoracic surgeries are done through the chest to avoid damage to the all important spinal cord, blessedly, as you can see from the pic they went in through the back on me.

The following is an excerpt from WebMD about the type of surgery that they did on me: 

Discectomy (also called open discectomy) is the surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord. Before the disc material is removed, a small piece of bone (the lamina) from the affected vertebra may be removed. This is called a laminotomy or laminectomy and allows the surgeon to better see and access the area of disc herniation.

The only problem was that they were hoping to do only the discecotomy with very little laminectomy, and it turned out to be the other way around.  They had to take quite a bit of bone, and some of the disc had calcified, so they left it, but it sounded like he thought it was a great success, so I am quite thankful for that.  I often wonder if they would really tell you that a surgery like this was not a great success, but that is just me being a total cynic, because I do already feel differently than when there was all that pressure on my spinal cord.

So, now it is just a matter of waiting and resting and letting the swelling go down.  And hoping and praying that my spinal cord goes back into its proper position when all the dust settles, so to speak!  I get my staples (actually, now that a few more days have gone by, I think I might only have stitches!) removed at two weeks, with a doctor follow-up at four weeks; that's about all I know for now! (This must have been on Wed., now it is Sunday and my daughter is one year older, boo hoo!  Her 11th birthday was yesterday.)

Well, as you all have probably guessed, this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while so I will give you some more to chew on before I publish.  I kept trying to figure out why I was being so slow in hitting the publish button when I realized the scar is ugly.  Well, of course it's ugly, I've been through some nasty stuff...even the skin that just had to be bandaged for two days is crying out for my friend Tiffany's cream.  I can't wait until I get the all clear to use it!

But what has really been bothering me I guess is that the Dr. told me that I have degenerative disc disease and that is what caused this problem, not my car accident when I was a teen.  First and foremost, it is not another disease I have to deal with like my epilepsy.  It just means that I have a really crappy spine I guess and I'm just going to have to be careful.  But can you imagine how sick I am of having to be careful of stuff?

So, with that, and the fact that I almost just cried, I would like to leave you all with some things that I know have gotten a lot better since my surgery.  And you know what is really funny?  These are things that the doctors kept telling me couldn't be related to my spinal injury, I think their story is a little different now that they got in there and saw the damage though.  Anywho, back to my improvements...I no longer have a "fog" around my vision, the heaviness and weird stuff going on in my arms is practically gone, my headaches are finito; okay 95%.  So far so good with the bladder issues, but that was with activity, so I am reserving judgment on that til I get back on my feet a little better; this will be the biggy and the one the doctors will tell if they call it a success or not.

The main point I have to keep reminding myself of, and a call from my Aunt who is a nurse was a great reminder, is that it will take six weeks minimum for all of the swelling to go down and that cord to go back into place.  I will learn more in the meantime about degenerative disc disease (notice I won't even capitalize it!), which I really have got to come up with a better name for, and then I'll be ready to hit it head on like I always do.  I've always taken good care of my spine with my Yoga and stuff, now I will just have to be even more vigilant!


lfhpueblo said...

I am glad they were able to go through the back on you, or you'd have more stuff to heal if they'd gone in through the front and had to move everything around to get where they needed to get.
I'm glad your brain fog is better.
Sorry about the degenerative disc disease. That's all they said I had, but they just said that with a regular x-ray. I wish they'd do an MRI on me.
I need to get my nerve up to try and find another Dr. allowed on our insurance since it's Military and the primary Doctor's aren't very cooperative.
My back pain is up much higher than yours though.
I'm glad you are feeling pressure off your spine though. That has to be good in and of itself. The other issues will most likely get better with time.
The bladder issues, like you said you'll have to wait and see when you're able to be active again.
Take care and God bless.

Daisy said...

Take care! Rest and heal as much as you need.