It’s been 3 months since I’ve had my microdiscectomy. I had initially planned to document my entire journey post spine surgery, but I’ve been busy doing everything I couldn’t do for nearly a year! Just for reference, exactly a year ago I took my family to Disney World and had to be on steroids and pain meds just to get through the trip. I remember crying to my husband as we exited Magic Kingdom for the last time on our trip. I felt it would be the last time I would ever take a trip with my 3 young kids and not need a wheelchair or to be treated like I was going to break. I felt like I was holding my family back from living, exploring, adventuring. As dramatic as it sounds, I was at my lowest point and don’t think I could be any more depressed than I was last year. It was daunting- I couldn’t pick up my 2 year old. I couldn’t walk too far or sit too long. I had a short fuse because the pain meds didn’t help and made my brain foggy. Even writing this up is getting me pretty emotional, I never thought I would get my life back. I had a spine specialist at North Shore/LIJ tell me I had to suck it up and deal with it. Suck it up and deal with it- his words punched me in the gut. I had no use of my left leg and I was losing control over my bladder and bowels, but I should suck it up and deal with it. I wonder how many other patients he said this to. What a dick.
A friend told me about a wonderful doctor here in NYC at Hospital for Special Surgery who performed her microdiscectomy and she went on to have two more kids (in addition to the two she had) after surgery. I felt like she was the epitome of a successful spine surgery and followed her advice. I called the doctor that Tuesday and was told after I filled out the questionnaire and submitted all my imaging scans, he would see me within 3-6 weeks. I wasn’t even done compiling my test results when his secretary called me the very next day, stating that the doctor looked over my results and wanted to see me ASAP. He felt he could help, with one caveat: they didn’t take my insurance. My husband new the urgency of the situation. My body was failing me. We would make this work.
My husband took off from work and came to the Hospital for Special Surgery to see this doctor, who explained my situation. It was black and white- I had a disc protrusion in my spine that was sitting on my left nerves. He would perform a minimally invasive microdiscectomy and I would walk out of surgery the same day and go on to living my best life 6 weeks later. One door after another was opening for me. At my lowest point where I had abandoned all hope, I found a rainbow and chased it down. For my kids. For my husband. For myself. I was more scared of each c section than of this. This was my only hope to finding myself again.
They ran their tests and scheduled surgery for a few weeks later. I prepared the kids, the meals, and everything fell into place as it should have. Except I didn’t walk out of surgery. The pain I went in with was completely gone and replaced with wicked surgery pain. I spent two nights in the hospital but was able to walk out after one nurse realized one dose of steroid should clear up all the post-surgery inflammation I was experiencing. Within 30 minutes of that dose, I was able to take my first steps and was home that afternoon. (Everyone at HSS is wonderful! I can’t say enough good things about them!)
Week 1 & 2
The first two weeks were rough. I don’t do well-having things done for me, so I was antsy and impatient. You can’t be impatient with your spine. You need to heal. I was wondering how I would board a plane four weeks later to go to Greece. Oh, did I mention that trip? Yes, in February, in the middle of my complete emotional and physical brokenness, my husband decided it was time to take the family to Greece. I didn’t want to let my family down, which added to the stress of everything else. Week 1 and 2 were harder than I thought they would be. I stayed in the guest area of our home, which is equipped with everything I needed and is handicap ready. When we moved to this house, I always imagined having the ability to help our parents when they were older and they would have a place to stay where they wouldn’t need to climb stairs and would have a kitchen and bathroom to themselves. I even built the kitchen to accomodate a wheelchair. Little did I know I would need it before anyone else would. My doctor encouraged me to walk frequently, so we took walks at night. I had to wear a back brace to protect my movements and needed a cane for the first few weeks. I should mention that I came home with a walker, but only needed it for two days, which was 4-5 days post op.
By week 3 I was able to move around the house unassisted, and I even started going upstairs to sleep at night. I started making dinner again with the help of my husband since I wasn’t allowed to bend or twist. I should mention my amazing support system. Family, friends, neighbors- everyone took shifts caring for me and my kids, although by week 3 I didn’t need too much help outside of my husband. I cannot stress the importance of having that village enough, regardless of whether or not you are able-bodied. I didn’t have a village until we moved to this neighborhood. I live close to my parents, my in-laws, my brother and an amazing sister in law. We made friends for our kids and in turn made friends for ourselves. I’m so fortunate to have friends who love my kids as if they were their own, and it’s these people who helped me through 2017, half of 2018, and through surgery. It’s the friends who stocked my fridge, helped me put on my socks, and didn’t let me kids felt they were stuck in a house while mommy was a mess.
By week 6, my surgeon cleared me for everything. I was allowed to travel, to resume my normal activities, and even pick up my 3 year old 30 pounder, but to take care to not overdo it and listen to my body. At exactly 6 weeks to the day, I was on a 10 hour plane trip to Greece. I felt ok and didn’t have much pain, only minor discomfort, but I wasn’t ready for sitting that long and the minimal walking in the plane didn’t help. We got to Greece and then had to sit in an hour long car ride. Sitting is not good when you have spinal issues, and I was in pain by that evening. I slept it off and by the next morning I was a new person. I went swimming in the ocean. I felt like a million bucks. The remainder of our trip was full of adventure. We climbed MANY steps to the Acropolis, saw the Parthenon, and I cried. The previous year I wasn’t able to walk, let alone accomplish as much as we had in just 3 weeks.
By week 9 it was time to take that trip back home, which again wasn’t comfortable, but I managed. I’m now on week 12 and our routine is back to a new normal. I don’t curse each morning I wake up in pain. I don’t cry alone while my husband is at work and the kids are in school because I’m unsure how I will feel the rest of the day. I met my surgeon 3 times, but this stranger doesn’t know that he gave me my life back. My energy levels are back to normal. I’m no longer on any meds, except for the occasional stiffness and pain when I overdo it, and I feel that I have a new outlook on life. We are back to our weekend travels and car rides. People tell me even my face changed, how stressed and “older” I looked last year, and how rejuvenated I appear. It’s all true. I feel it.
I’m no longer watching from the sidelines. I’m active in all my kid’s activities. I take better care of my body. I won’t take this for granted, I promise Dr. H.