November 9, 2021
I’ve suffered from back pain since 2017. It started while I was walking with friends at work. Now I can’t cook or clean or do laundry without severe back pain. Multiple MRIs confirm spinal stenosis. I’ve searched for quite some time for the best back surgeon. I even drove up to Bellingham for a consultation!
After seeing a hernia repair surgeon earlier this year and chatting with him about how to prioritize what I need to improve my health, I shared my challenge with persistent and worsening back pain. I also mentioned my 2019 MRI that showed severe spinal stenosis and he immediately said “get your back fixed” and wrote down his own surgeon’s name – Richard Wohns, MD – on a notepad for me. He said he wouldn’t go to any other surgeon for spine issues.
Wow! I did my research and made an appointment. Because my MRI was over 3 years old, he wanted to get a recent one. We looked at it together and he said he could help me. I literally cried with joy!
So tomorrow’s the big day!
He’s doing L2-S1 laminectomy with foraminotomies.
I’ll be documenting my experience here.
November 10, 2021 – 8 AM
Today’s the day! I spent quite a few hours last night googling ‘pain after laminectomy’ – not the best thing to do before your own laminectomy!
I have to be at the outpatient surgical center at 11 AM. I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since last night around 7:30 pm and I feel pretty hungry right now. I have to take another shower and use the special washing sponge/brush they gave me before we go.
I will be so glad when this is over and I’m home. Anxious to let the healing begin!
November 10, 2021 – 5 PM
Checking in to the ASC (ambulatory surgical center) was easy and I met with the nurse and signed the forms. Then I met with the anesthesiologist (Dr. Gold) and he was so wonderful in reassuring me. He promised me three things; I would be totally asleep, I wouldn’t feel a thing, and he would wake me up. He said the breathing tube would be inserted *after* I was unconscious. He said that after I lay down on the operating table, he would immediately put a mask over my face and I’d be out in seconds.
I remember distinctly walking in to the operating room, looking around and noticing that all of the instruments were covered up (probably scary for people if they saw the things they used!). I remember laying down and then nothing.
Next thing I remember is someone touching my feet and asking me to move them. As I was coming out of the anesthesia, they were checking my legs to make sure I could move my feet etc. I also remember feeling not much pain at that time either.
Ryan arrived and they got me ready to go home. I needed some help going to the bathroom first before we left. I remember commenting to the two wonderful nurses who were helping me that I couldn’t imagine how I was going to manage at home as Ryan wasn’t comfortable helping me with personal hygiene things.
We left the hospital and Ryan stopped at the pharmacy to pick up some things for me. We got home around 4:30 PM and I changed to my nightgown and am laying in bed. The very “efficient” nurse who gave us our discharge instructions made it clear I needed to take all of my pain meds as directed; every four hours for the first 24 hours following surgery and then every six hours after that.
Dr. Wohns said the surgery went very well; he said my back was really bad, especially around the L1 level – he said he got it all “cleaned out”. My pain is about a 6 right now after pain meds. Ryan is helping me, and I will try to sleep now.
November 10, 2021 – 10 PM
Well, the pain meds work! I feel *very* …. drugged! I decided not to take the muscle relaxer at 10 PM as I’m honestly afraid it will make me sleep too deeply and I won’t wake up. I hope that wasn’t a bad decision.
November 11, 2021 – 2 AM
Ryan sat his alarm to help me keep on my med schedule! But he hates doing it. I was able to get myself up to the bathroom and I was definitely ready for the meds this time! So far this has been about what I expected and I know I’ll get through it.
November 11, 2021 – 7:45 AM
I had a pretty restful night, all things considered. I have a Jackson-Pratt wound drain with two tubes in my back; one tube on each side of the surgical incision. I didn’t realize I’d have something like this, but it’s not too bad honestly. It’s a spring device that creates a pumping action to make sure the fluids don’t accumulate in the wound and cause a problem. We are supposed to empty it and track how much it captures; but it hasn’t captured much at all so we’ve not emptied it; I should be able to get that out Friday. Here’s what it looks like:
November 11, 2021 – 9:30 AM
Is it really only 9:30 AM? Getting around is much more challenging than I had hoped. I was able to get dressed and come downstairs (yikes! – I had Ryan’s help), and I’m sitting in my recliner right now, trying to keep my eyes open (feel very sleepy). Ryan went to get me an egg mucmuffin (he offered to cook one for me but I said no – I have not eaten anything since Tuesday other than a few bites of dry toast late yesterday).
November 11, 2021 – 1:47 PM
I slept for quite a bit in my recliner; the medication I’m taking makes me *very* sleeply. I also had some yogurt which was great. But ever since my nap, I’ve had this weird thing with both ears; sounds like I’m in a tunnel. It’s the oddest thing. I sure hope it goes away! When I touch the back of my ears, it sounds like I’m touching some sort of device too.
November 12, 2021 – Noon
Kind of a rough night last night; my blood pressure is really low and I feel very weak. Knowing we had to go to the surgeon’s office today didn’t make it better as the pain is horrific. But we got ready and left to get the drains removed. We actually did have to empty it before we left as it had accumulated some fluid and the clip that holds it on to my clothing wasn’t strong enough with it filled.
They removed the two drains surrounding my surgical incision; feels good not to have to carry around that bag of blood/liquid.
The medical assistant also checked my blood pressure and had trouble getting it to register! I told her it was very low when I checked it before coming. The surgeon’s PA said the meds I’m taking can lower blood pressure and if I were an inpatient, they would stop my blood pressure medication until my blood pressure stabilized. He also said that the pain medications I’m taking can lower blood pressure as well. It is still hard to get up from sitting or laying down; the pain is horrific. I’ve got to remember to use my legs; not my back.
We picked up some organic chicken broth (for the sodium) as well as some gatorade. I’ve already had 12 ounces of the chicken broth and feel better. I’m also in communication with my primary care doctor and she recommended I stop my blood pressure medication for now.
Please say a prayer for my blood pressure.
November 12, 2021 – 7PM
The pain is unbearable, so I just took a pain pill and muscle relaxant. I didn’t take the afternoon dose due to my blood pressure being so low. But after drinking about 12 ounces of chicken broth, my blood pressure went up slightly so I decided that staying ahead of the pain is best. Ryan’s set his alarm for me tonight again so I don’t get behind on controlling the pain.
Honestly, this is why I probably should have stayed in the hospital a night or two. But with our health insurance situation here in this country, I simply couldn’t afford to have that choice. I had to choose the least expensive way possible.
November 13, 2021 – 9 AM
Putting myself back on a regular pain medication schedule (every six hours) was one the best decisions so far! The pain is so bad that I’m literally counting down the minutes until the six hours are up and I can get another dose! That being said, I can tell this morning that I’m on the mend. I slept pretty well and Ryan woke me up at 12:30 and 5:45 PM for pain meds.
November 13, 2021 – 11:30 AM
I made the mistake of asking Ryan if he could look at my surgical wound.
I should have hired a nurse I think.
November 13, 2021 – 8 PM
Blood pressure is back up to a more normal level. Thank goodness! Appetite has been OK today and all things considered, I feel better today than I did yesterday. No drainage from the surgical wound either. Temperature spiked a bit earlier this afternoon but I think that was because I had a neck rest wrapped tight around my neck while having the heating pad going as well; it’s back down to more normal temp as well.
November 14, 2021 – 10:20 AM
Blood pressure normal again this morning. I had a somewhat restful sleep but pain woke me up at 12:30 only to realize Ryan’s alarm was set for 12:30 PM, not AM. We got that sorted and back to sleep I went. I wish the sun would come out for a few hours; I’d love to try and walk for a bit. Walking laps around the house gets so boring.
UPDATE – 12:30 PM
Ryan and I walked down to the mailbox and back. It’s a long way given my house is on a flag pole lot. I feel good to have been able to make it successfully and without the familiar pain I had before surgery. Don’t get me wrong, the surgical pain was definitely there, but it’s different (and very hard to explain).
UPDATE – 2:03 PM
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet. I’ve had a total hip replacement (2011) and total shoulder replacement (2020), and this surgery has been without a doubt, *the* most painful. I’m deeply grateful for the excellent pain control I have been prescribed but I was always able to stop the pain meds within a day or two before. Now, I’m just trying to wean myself gradually down to Tylenol only. And I know it will be a slow process. But excess pain can actually deter the healing process so it’s about knowing your body and what is needed.
November 15, 2021 – 1:50 PM
Slept pretty well last night. Woke up to a text from my colleague at work who needed to chat about some things. Was a bit foggy brained from having taking my pain meds in the hour before that, but we got through it. Work has decided to terminate my computer access while on medical leave so it made it a bit more challenging.
I had to let my supervisor know I couldn’t come back today. I truly thought it would be possible, given my experience with total hip and shoulder replacement but this surgery is by far, much more challenging for me to recover from. The pain management alone is totally different. I cannot go more than 7 hours without taking my pain medications. I’m trying to wean myself off by extending the time between doses and 7 hours is the max so far. I’ll keep trying.
UPDATE – 7:55 PM
I finally got the courage to take a shower; I really needed one too. Feels good to be fresh and clean. Ryan took a photo of the incision; it is very painful looking with the iodine and bruising. The two little X’s are where the drain tubes were. I want to document the healing so here it is:
November 16, 2021 – 11:55 AM
Ryan had to go back to work today so I stayed in bed and slept for a bit. One of the medications I’m taking makes me sweat profusely. I’m going to do some research and see if I can figure out which one it is. My goal today is no pain meds until the evening. I took Tylenol a little while ago so I’m hoping I’ll be fine.
UPDATE – 3:38 PM
Today has been a good healing day so far. It’s the first day I haven’t count down the minutes until I can take more pain medication! That’s real healing progress in my view. I just made a cup of tea and am using the heating pad on my back for some comfort.
As for the sweating profusely, I researched all of the medications I was taking and can’t find anything about any of them with a side effect of sweating profusely. Tonight I plan to avoid the muscle relaxant and the itchiness relief medication and see how that goes.
I also took another inquiry from my work backup and helped her sort through a compliance question. Two days in a row I’ve technically worked, without pay and without access to my work computer information.
November 17, 2021 – 1:40 PM
This is the second day in a row that I’ve not needed pain medication. Before yesterday, I was literally counting down the minutes until I could take another dose. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m pain-free; it just means that the pain is manageable with Tylenol. I am progressing in my healing every day.
I did get the Return to Work letter from Dr. Wohns and sent that off to my HR department and supervisor. I can return to work on Monday, Nov 22, 2021 with a few restrictions (e.g. no lifting, not extended sitting, standing, or walking, etc). It will be nice to get back to work.
UPDATE – 3:45 PM
I went for a walk today. I made it passed the roundabout and back! Previously, I couldn’t make it to my mailbox and back without severe muscle pain. So this is indeed a good sign that the surgery was successful! My goal is to make it to the little park in my neighborhood and back before I go back to work on Monday. Baby steps; but progress for sure!
November 18, 2021 – 11:18 AM
I went for a walk this morning. I made it about 75 feet further (so 150 feet when you consider I had to walk back) than I did yesterday. I did notice a weakness in my body as I was walking back but I believe that is normal following major surgery. It will take some time to build my physical stamina back up after so many years being inactive combined with surgery and my age. I’ll get there. Persistence and consistency is needed, as well as patience with myself.
I also received confirmation from HR of my return to work on Monday. Good news indeed!
November 19, 2021 – 2:00 PM
Started to go for a walk today and didn’t make it very far. I need to give myself time to heal and not get so disappointed when it doesn’t go as fast as I might like.
The pain is mostly sporadic now; really no need for pain pills during the day anymore. The itching around the incision is driving me nuts though. I’ll be glad when these stitches comes out on the 24th.
I truly pray this surgery worked. I just want to be able to walk without pain and do household chores again.
November 20, 2021 – 9:10 PM
So I went for a walk today. I made it all the way to the little park but on the way back, I started having pain in my side muscles. I called Ryan who came to get me. I’m praying that this muscle pain I feel is just because I pushed myself too far, too early. Please God.
November 21, 2021 – 9:06 PM
Ryan and I went to see a movie today (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) and it was nice to get out for a bit. I don’t feel like I’m making much progress though. I was in quite a bit of pain by the time evening rolled out and I ended up going to bed around 7:45 or so and did some podcast listening for a bit. I’m still taking pain medication when I go to bed so I can sleep peacefully. Praying the healing continues.
November 22, 2021 – 8:32 PM
I have a pain in my right side that only goes away when I lay down. It got pretty bad today when I was trying to work (first day back today). I’m worried. I see the doctor’s PA Wednesday to get the stitches out and will talk to him about it then. It’s not getting better like I would have hoped.
November 23, 2021 – 7:30 PM
The pain hasn’t subsided today and Tylenol doesn’t do much to relieve it. I’m hoping this is normal recovery but I get my stitches out tomorrow and will talk to the surgeon’s PA about it. Ugh….. Truth is, I probably shouldn’t be back to work at all. But financially, that isn’t an option for me.
November 24, 2021 – 2:00 PM
I saw the PA today and the stitches were removed. I also feel *very* relieved to learn that the pain I’ve felt is not an indication of a failed procedure; it’s all part of the healing process. Whew! He prescribed some physical therapy and a different muscle relaxant so we’ll see how that goes.
Today *has* been the best day so far, from a pain perspective. I feel very hopeful now the surgery was a success. I haven’t had any of the hip tightness or lower back pain like before at all; just the darn muscle pain.
The PA said everybody heals differently and on their own timeline. He said healing isn’t a straight line; it’s more of a roller coaster for everyone. I can certainly attest to that.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I bought some lobsters to cook for Ryan and I. Hoping it is a relatively painless effort now that I have a new muscle relaxant to help with the muscle pain.
Thanksgiving, November 25, 2021 – 5 PM
15 days since surgery. Today was a challenge. I cooked some lobster tails for Ryan and I; they were wonderful. But I also prepared my turkey (Ryan isn’t a big turkey fan). My turkey is soaking in a wonderful brown sugar brine right now and I’ll cook it tomorrow. But all of this cooking has taken its toll on my healing; my pain is pretty high right now. I’m not going to take pain medication if I can help it. Coming from a family of addicts, I have to be very careful.
Today was a blessed Thanksgiving, yet again.
UPDATE – 6 PM
Here’s my incision today after the 16 stitches were removed yesterday.
November 26, 2021 – 6:35 PM
Ryan and I ran some errands today and I cooked the turkey I bought. Big mistake given how much pain I’m in right now. I’m not supposed to lift or bend and it’s very hard to cook and not do either. I am concerned the pain I feel is not related to the incision; rather it’s the same kind of pain I felt before surgery – only worse. It’s just so hard to tell.
I’m going to take it one day at a time and if I still feel this kind of pain by January, I’ll know the surgery was not successful in fixing the primary problem.
November 29, 2021 – 9:30 PM
Today was not a good day. The muscle spasms in my back for pretty constant if I wasn’t very, very careful. I’m not sure why either. I ended up taking the new muscle relaxant my surgeon’s office prescribed – which are much better than the original prescription. By “better” I mean they don’t make me as foggy brained or feel as dizzy.
I’m taking this one day at a time. But if I’m stilling dealing with these kinds of days come the 6 week post surgery mark, I’m going to consider this surgery an epic failure.
November 30, 2021 – 11 PM
Today was slightly better than yesterday as far as muscle spasms go. I’m convinced it is sitting to work that is causing the problem. I so wish I lived in a country that provided a robust paid leave for medical care. I just couldn’t afford to be on disability (66% of my salary) for more than a week).
Physical therapy starts Friday – maybe that will help me feel normal.
December 1, 2021 – 8:40 PM
It’s been exactly 3 weeks since surgery and my back is worse than it was before surgery. The spasms I get during the day when I’m trying to work are horrific. I know I’m not supposed to sit for long so I do try to stand and walk around frequently. As of today, I’m *very* disappointed.
Ryan and I are supposed to go to Emerald City Comic Con this coming Saturday and I’m renting a mobility scooter so I can participate as fully as possible. Ugh….. So disheartening. I was hoping to use this experience as a walking exercise but I have no confidence whatsoever in my ability to do it even somewhat painfree.
One day at a time.
December 3, 2021 – 11:50 PM
The Omicron variant is scary. I promised Ryan I would go to Emerald City Comic Con tomorrow and after much arguing, nothing I say or do will get me out of it. I rented a mobility scooter and will be wearing two masks and goggles. I’ll be praying all day that I don’t catch it and that Ryan doesn’t either. We’ve both been vaxxed and boosted but it doesn’t matter with the Omicron variant. If Ryan gets it, he’ll likely only have mild symptoms; if I get it I’m likely to end up in the ICU or dead. That doesn’t seem to matter to Ryan; he’s had his heart set on this for a long time.
Work is literally making my surgery recovery worse I think. I now have a terrible pain between my shoulder blades. I sent an inquiry to my surgeon’s office today but didn’t hear back. Can’t take the new muscle relaxant either; makes me puke.
One day at a time.
December 4, 2021 – 5:55 PM
We got through Emerald City Comic Con OK. The scooter was a life saver honestly. But I’m not supposed to be sitting too long so my butt hurts something awful. Ryan had a good time and got everything he wanted to get done. I’m praying neither of us come down with COVID19.
One day at a time.
December 6, 2021 – 7:40 PM
Today was a rough day – from a pain perspective. I am worried the pain I’m feeling is the same pain as before surgery. I called the surgeons office and we had a lengthy conversation. She then spoke to a nurse and called me back. She said “you’ve had a very big surgery” and you need to “give it some time”. She encouraged me to use a heating pad or ice; whatever makes me feel better. I’ve been using a heating pad in the evenings but I bought another one so I could have it in my home office chair too.
On another note, Ava was spayed today. She’s sitting on my lap recovering. I keep reminding her she had a very big surgery and she will feel better in no time.
We’re going to heal together!
One day at a time.
December 7, 2021 – 9:45 PM
Today was a bit better than yesterday. I found another heating pad and used that most of the day in my work chair.
Ava is recovering nicely. I wish I could say the same for my back pain.
One day at a time.
December 8, 2021 – 11:04 AM
Four weeks ago today I had surgery; my back is worse than it was before.
That’s the honest-to-god truth and I have to honest with myself.
I’m still hopeful that this is just part of the healing process. We shall see.
One day at a time.
December 9, 2021 – 6:45 PM
I had my first physical therapy appointment today. It was a telehealth appointment and to my surprise, it went very well! This first visit we focused primarily on my current health status. Then she gave me three specific exercises to strengthen my core while my surgical healing continues. The video is very good and I did them all right after work. That will be my plan; do them every day after work. I will be having a telehealth visit with her twice a week going forward.
The pain today was about the same. I’ve found if I tilt my work chair all the way back with the heating pad behind me it is tolerable.
One day at a time.
December 12, 2021 – 7:15 PM
I started PT last week and I can sure feel it in my stomach muscles. My lower back pain that I had before surgery is still there. I have to be honest.
On a happier note, we got our guest bedroom cleaned out and Isabella’s bed set up for them when they come for Christmas.
I see my surgeon’s office on the 23rd. Will be interesting to hear what they have to say if my lower back pain is still there.
One day at a time.
December 17, 2021 – 9:00 AM
It’s been a few days since I posted an update. I’ve been doing my PT (telehealth) religiously with the hope that eventually my back will feel OK. As of today, I’m unconvinced the surgery worked. That’s not to say the surgery wasn’t needed – I definitely had severe spinal stenosis – but I still have severe lower back pain after about 10 minutes of standing or walking. For example, bringing up my laundry this morning and putting the dishes in the dishwasher all resulted in the same lower back pain.
I will continue to do my PT and I will continue to pray for healing.
One day at a time.
December 19, 2021 – 6:30 PM
My recovery from surgery is going well. That being said, I can definitely say now that the surgery did *not* solve my lower back problem. I see the surgeon’s PA Thursday and will find out next steps. At least I’m not in a wheelchair or anything, yet.
One day at a time.
December 28, 2021 – 8:30 PM
So I saw the surgeon’s PA on December 23, 2021. After a lengthy conversation of the pain I’m continuing to feel, we agreed to give it 6 more weeks and if it is still there when I come back at that time, we’ll talk about next steps. Possibly another MRI and/or injections. He did say my back is filled with arthritis.
One day at a time.
UPDATE November 10, 2022
It’s been a year now. After seeing a specialist about my arthritis (I didn’t go back to the back surgeon), I was started Cymbalta and while I’m not at the full dose yet, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in a few years! I was actually able to blow leaves off both the back deck and my front until the blower battery ran out! Whether it is because of the surgery, or the Cymbalta, I don’t really care. All I know is I feel better than I have in a few years now.