In a few days, it will have been a year since a complex, life-changing spine surgery. It was not an easy decision--in fact, it took three visits to the surgeon over 18 months for me to give the green light. Here's where I was before the procedure: unable to stand up straight, hunched over the grocery cart, in pain emptying the dishwasher and could not stand for more than 20 minutes without my back screaming at me. I was always looking for a place to sit down and taking handfuls of Advil just to get through the day.
An x-ray showed a 27 degree curve in my lumbar spine, plus considerable arthritis, disk degeneration, misaligned vertebrae, and a pinched sciatic nerve. I was a good candidate for the procedure and waiting might have worsened my plight, so on September 18, I checked into the Medical City Brain and Spine Hospital. After nine hours in the OR, I emerged with incisions in my back, front and side ( a 360 degree operation), to remove arthritic bone, install cages and screws and fuse several vertebrae.
I remember nothing about the four-day hospital stay thanks to serious doses of happy medicine. My first memory was being taken to PowerBack, a rehab facility, for the next 19 days. PT and OT twice a day helped to build strength and taught me how to safely get into bed, shower, etc. The fatigue after such a major insult to my body was absolutely crushing. After coming home, a walker helped me ambulate, then a cane. Soon I was walking on my own, getting PT at home and then outpatient physical therapy. Andy took over dealing with the grandkids before and after school, grocery shopping, laundry and meals. The rest of the family pitched in, too. I couldn't have pulled it off without their help, as well as encouragement from friends. After about eight weeks, I was ready to resume taking care of grandchildren and doing most everything I used to do, although I still needed frequent rest.
Where am I today? Able to stand straight, shop for groceries, and prepare meals without pain. I won't lie. There have been a few downsides. Because of the fusions, I no longer have the flexibility to tie my shoes, so I've opted for clogs and sandals. Sometimes, I find myself searching for words (most likely a side effect of the anesthesia). But overall, I feel great. So, Happy Anniversary to me and thanks to Dr. Belanger for giving me a healthier future!
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.