Since 2011 I’ve had a bit of a complicated medical history which has resulted in 3 backs operations for Spinal Fusion. I started getting numbness in my legs in 2009. This would happen if I was standing up in a queue for 5 or more minutes and the pain would go directly down the back of my legs and into the sole of my foot. It was often one leg at a time but as long as I kept moving around and didn’t stand still I could cope with it. As a busy mum of 2 boys under the age of 2 I didn’t really have time to dwell on it. After consulting my GP I was given some anti-inflammatories and took amitriptyline at night and eventually it went away.
In 2011 the same symptoms started to come back so again, I called the GP and started the same medications as I was on before, only this time it didn’t seem to help. I was referred to a pain management specialist and given a different course of treatment. From an X-ray it looked like there were some issues around the L4-S1 area. I had an epidural which unfortunately didn’t go so well and ended up with a blood patch and 6 weeks of really bad headaches, ouch! Then I went through 3 courses of facet joint injections. Although these helped the results only lasted for a few months and there didn’t seem to be a fix from this course of treatment.
2012 Spinal Fusion
In 2012 my back was getting a lot worse the numbness was more frequent and was now happening when I walked. This was making my life increasingly more difficult. I had an MRI scan and was diagnosed with Grade 3 Spondylolisthesis. I was referred to a spinal consultant and had a L4-S1 spinal fusion in September. Now I’m not the easiest of patients and the OP was not quite as straightforward as the surgeon may have hoped. He told me I made him work for his money! When I woke up I really knew what back pain was, until then I had only had numbness in my legs so this was a bit of a shock. However the OP solved the numbness in my legs and it was just a very slow process of recovering. Below is a picture of my X-ray post op.
Now as I said I’m not the easiest of patients, in May 2013 I went for a regular check up with the surgeon. I was still in a lot of pain at this point and on a lot of morphine but he was pleased with the progress I was making. I had started to feel a tiny little lump alone the incision site and asked him if it was scar tissue that had formed, the surgeons face dropped. It turns out that the screws holding the fusion together had come loose and were moving around, no wonder I was still in so much pain.
2013 Spinal Fusion
In June 2013 I had my fusion re-done. Waking up from this op was like a weight off my shoulders. Suddenly all the back pain that I’d been suffering for the last 9 months was disappearing. Within 3 months I was feeling like a new woman. By November I had weaned myself off the high level of morphine I’d taken for the last year. I was able to start doing exercise and pilates to improve the health of my spine long term. To be honest this is something I hadn’t really done since Ben’s birth in 2008 so it was well overdue.
As you can see from the picture below my new set of metal work was even more impressive! I felt like the bionic woman now.
2015 Metalwork Removal
In January 2015 I began to get a few twinges in my back and the metalwork under my skin was feeling more prominent than usual. On February 10th 2015 I had the metal work removed, 2 screws were loose and 1 had snapped! No idea how this managed to happen I must be really hard on my joints. They managed to take it all out apart from the snapped screw. I’m proud to say I now officially have a screw loose! I managed to get a photo of the metal work before it was sent back to manufacturers, it looks even more impressive than I thought and pretty colours as well.
The recovery this time was a lot quicker than the first 2 ops. I started doing pilates in 7 weeks and started getting my life back together again. It just felt nice not to feel the metalwork under my skin at the base of my back. Previously I found it hard to sit against hard surfaces or lie down as i could feel the screws. It’s much more comfortable now.
Pregnancy after spinal fusion
Duncan and I took the decision to try for baby number 3. We felt if we didn’t do it now we never would and I’d always be wondering what if. I don’t know what the future holds for my back. However I can’t put my life on hold thinking that it may well go again. The doctors can’t guarantee that my spine won’t slip but this could be 1,2,5,10 years down the line. Life is for living and although I’m not going to start running, bungee jumping or contact sports I’m considerate about the things I do.