Thursday, January 11, 2018

Life (and back surgery)

Back in November, when I wrote about turning 40, I felt pretty young and healthy.  Since that time, life's gotten a little interesting.  After weeks of sciatic pain and lower back pain, I woke up the Saturday before Thanksgiving pretty much disabled.  Three trips to physical therapists, a call to my O.B. and a visit to the E.R. didn't fix it.  I spent Thanksgiving weekend on the floor because I couldn't even get up and into a bed without horrible pain.  So after the events of the last few months, I think I'd describe myself as "mortal and healthy" instead of that young part.  :)

It's been two months full tough challenges, but also many blessings, not the least of which was a successful surgery that gave me my life back.  We also celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent a week in California. 

November:  Ruptured Lumbar Disc

Here's what went down, from my Facebook posts in November:

November 23rd:
On this Thanksgiving day, I offer my thanks up to God for the many beautiful little things that I often take for granted.

One of my favorite passages from the Book of Mormon: "I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another. I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants."

(This video makes me laugh, and I think is just as appropriate for Thanksgiving as for Christmas.)

November 27th:
Nothing makes you more grateful for the little things than being without some of the ones you take for granted. I have been having back pain and sciatic nerve pain ever since Gideon was born 7 weeks ago. Then the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I woke up unable to sit, stand, or walk without severe pain. The good part is that as long as I don't do any of those things, I am just fine and feel great. So I still got to enjoy the holiday, just from a little different vantage point: the floor. The bad part is that I really used to enjoy sitting, standing and walking. :)

MRI today showed what the doctor called a "really large" herniated disk. We have a follow up later this week and it might need surgery. But the good news is I should heal and eventually get back on my feet.

I am grateful for all the kind friends and family that have been so willing to help me out. I hate being the one needing help, but it is a blessing to be surrounded by such great people.

November 29th:
The cruciatus curse has been lifted!!!!

Prayers are answered and God is good! Lots of tender mercies led to me finding the right doctor on Monday and getting in to surgery Tuesday night. And I am without leg pain for the first time in 11 days! I can move without excruciating pain. I can sit! I can stand! I can walk! Thank you all for your prayers and kindness.

I still have to recover from back surgery. My back is a little sore and I have an incision to heal. No lifting, no housework, and only walking for exercise as the disc heals. And surprisingly to me, my muscles have atrophied after 11 days of disuse and the numbness and all that nerve action on the right side. They were strangely weak when I walked. But I am crying tears of joy and I am singing "Hallelujah!"

November 29th:
I have had some questions about my back surgery. I figured I would post an update for those who are interested in the details.

I have had sciatica pain ever since Gideon was born 7 weeks ago. It seemed to worsen at times and other times it would be just fine. Then on the morning of November 18th, I woke up unable to sit up, stand, or walk without excruciating nerve pain all down my right leg. The only thing that relieved it was to be absolutely flat. The week of Thanksgiving saw us trying 3 Physical Therapy appointments, several calls to my O.B., and an ER visit. A bulging disk between L4 and L5 on the lumbar was the conclusion reached, but with the holiday, we could only hope that the physical therapy and medications would begin to work. They didn't.

We were blessed to see an orthopedist on Monday despite his schedule being full. He pulled all the strings for me to get an MRI that same day, and got back with me with the results right away -- he even called me himself. MRI showed a very large herniation pressing up against my nerve. Essentially, the tough outer layer of my disc had burst, releasing a ton of gel-like substance from the inner layer into the nerve cavity. We had a follow up scheduled for Wednesday with the orthopedist and a surgeon, but overnight my symptoms got worse so we called the answering service, who called the on call doctor, who called my doctor, who not only called me back, he got us in to see the surgeon on Tuesday, and the surgeon scheduled us for 6 that night. I don't know if anyone has ever been more excited about having back surgery than I was!

The procedure was a microdiscectomy. The surgeon made a small incision in my back, drilled a small hole through a bone and then cleaned up all the gel stuff (there's probably a more technical term for it) and protrusions, relieving the pressure on the nerves.

I woke up from surgery with immediate relief from all my excruciating and restricting nerve pain. Prayers were answered and God was good to us.

The surgeon's NP saw me this morning before I was sent home. He was at the surgery and seemed very relieved that my nerve pain was gone. He said they had been very worried about me because there was so much stuff they had to remove. With the nerve being so compressed, they didn't know if it would recover so quickly or completely. The NP also told me that he had never seen more stuff pulled out in any of the similar operations he had been at! We Bartholomews like to be overachievers, I suppose.

We feel very blessed to have my functionality restored. However, the disc itself still has the rupture so I have to be extremely careful for the next 6 to 8 weeks as it heals. No bending over, no reaching, no twisting. No driving for 3 weeks. No housework for 5 weeks. No lifting anything over 10 lbs for 5 weeks, and even then, I have to be very careful how I lift. No sitting for extended periods of time. Standing and walking are good for short stretches, and I should plan on several short walks each day for the next few weeks.

On this MRI picture, the little ovals are my discs. The long white area going down are the nerves. The disc in the bottom corner was clearly misbehaving.

We are so grateful for all the kindness, love, and prayers that have been extended on our behalf. We thank you all and we thank our Heavenly Father for his many good gifts.

December:  Recovery, California, and "Fake Christmas"

Disc injuries like mine take a long time to heal.  The back is not a place that gets a lot of oxygen.  I spent most of the month working on recovery:  No bending, limited lifting (Doctor said holding Gideon was okay, Benji was not), no twisting, and limited sitting for the first six weeks.  Lots of walking.  

During Thanksgiving, when we managed to host 36 people for dinner while I stayed flat on the floor, I told the kids that when I recovered, we'd have a pie day to celebrate.  I was sad I wasn't able to make the pies I had planned to for the holiday.  With Harmony doing the bending and lifting part of the cooking for me, we made eight pies the Sunday after my surgery.  

My mother-in-law was here to help me the first week, and then the next two weeks, I had friends from my ward come in each school day morning to help me with the bending and lifting part of motherhood.  Then my kids were out of school and able to help.  

At my 10 day post-op appointment, the doctor told me that my disc problems were due to fractures in my back between the vertebrate.  He says the fractures have likely been there since I was a teenager, but are likely only giving me problems now because of my age.  He says he wished he had fused me and he might want to in the future!  Eek.  I go in again at 3 months for X-rays to see how my spine is holding up.

For most of the month, the top of my right foot, my toes, and part of my calf were pretty numb from the nerve damage.  Some people with my surgery never recover that feeling, so I was very happy on Christmas Eve, when I realized I could feel my toes again.  Since then, I'm slowly getting the feeling back.

Christmas week we spent in California.  The doctor okay'ed it, as long as we stopped a lot along the drive.

We had already simplified Christmas, putting out only the tree and stockings for decorations, and this simplified it even more.  We didn't bring a single present or stocking with us, but still honored the day by attending sacrament meeting Christmas Eve and reading the scriptural account Christmas morning.  And going to the beach. 

I managed to Photoshop my way into a family picture!

All 11!

We had a lovely week, visiting the beach, eating tacos by the pool, and playing card games.  We went on one dolphin and whale watching tour where we saw lots of dolphins but no whales.  Joey and the twins also spent one full day on a deep sea fishing expedition.

After we came home, we had most of our regular Christmas traditions on what came known as "real fake Christmas."  It was lovely and our "fake Christmas morning" was as crazy and chaotic and fun as ever.  Christmas morning with lots of kids is the best.

2017 was a year of great blessings and answered prayers.  We look forward to the joy and changes 2018 will bring.  

Merry (Real AND Fake) Christmas and Happy New Year!


Aflyonmyhomeschoolwall said...

We had a "fake" Christmas, too because my husband is a critical care nurse, and it was his turn to work Christmas Day. Real or fake, I agree that Christmas with a whole bunch of kids is the best!

I'm glad your back pain is sorted out and that you're getting the care you need. I consider your surgery to be a miracle!

I had back pain of my own last year (early in the year), and it was resolved with chiropractic care, but it was utterly debilitating while it lasted. I totally understand how you were out of commission!!

Kacey said...

I'm sorry to hear about the results of your MRI. It must have been hard to find out about a developing condition on your back. I can only imagine the pain you're going through because of that herniation. Let's just pray that the surgery succeeds. Thankfully, there's a chance for you to get back on your feet. That's quite a relief to say the least.


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