It was a year ago today that my wife drove us an hour east on a rainy, dreary morning to Parkview Hospital for my back surgery. It doesn’t seem possible it’s been that long. It seems like it was just a couple months ago I was waiting for that day to come, both anticipating and fearing it. Taking Norcos and muscle relaxers and sitting in the basement making mixtapes and listening to Flying Lotus, Madlib, and j dilla’s Donuts. I would sit wondering that cold March if I’d ever walk right again. The pressure on my spinal nerve had caused numbness that ran down my leg to the top of my right foot. It also gave me a “drop foot”, which basically means I walked like Igor in Young Frankenstein. Before the severe pain started, I assumed it was just a pinched nerve that would work its way out. I still tried working out(like an idiot.) I attempted to do all those normal things I was doing before the numbness began. I tried stretches, yoga poses, and willing my foot to WAKE UP! But on February 15th of 2016 the numbness turned to sharp, bitter pain that shot me out of bed in the middle of the night. After a day of that I went to a convenience clinic first thing in the morning and thanks to the quick action of the doctor on call, she got me into the hospital for a cat scan. That revealed a herniated disc in my lower back, between my L4 and L5. What that meant was physical therapy or a cortisone shot would be worthless in helping me. A visit to a spinal orthopedic surgeon a week later confirmed the herniated disc and got me a front row seat for the big show. A discectomy was in my future.
Surgery. That word scared the hell out of me. I spent the month of March numbing the pain, working with restrictions, getting my medical leave set up, and spinning records on the weekends. I was relieved I knew what the problem was and that there was a plan of action to fix the problem, but I hadn’t quite heard a bunch of positive stories regarding back surgery. In fact, I didn’t know anyone that had a great experience. Just terrible ones. I couldn’t go on the way I was, so I didn’t really have a choice.
So on March 31st, 2016, my wife drove me on a dreary Thursday morning to Fort Wayne, Indiana for this thing called a discectomy(They basically make an 8″ incision in my lower back, go in, and cut out the portion of my lumbar disc that was protruding from the spine and pinching the nerve. Sew the disc back up and close me up. Nothing was implanted. It was, by surgery standards, pretty cut and dry.) I waited in a room in a hospital gown with my wife and mom and dad while the TV played some terrible show while everyone nervously made small talk. Pretty soon, they came for me and wheeled me off. While en route to the operating room they started an IV and I quickly began to go out. Next thing I knew I was groggily waking up in recovery. The surgery was successful. No complications, though my disc was in worse shape than the doc first thought. I was carted to our car in a wheelchair and we were home bound.
Those first three days home were a bit rough, but I had a wife and three kids that took good care of me. It was spring break, so the kids were all home. We watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books, listened to a lot of records, and generally took it easy. I was also iced up for most of the week. The hospital gave me this contraption that looked like a back brace you wrap around your torso that had tubing inside of it, which was attached to a box you filled with ice and water. The icy water flowed up into the tubes and it was the most wonderful feeling ever. Really, it was fantastic.
Three weeks I was home healing. A month after surgery I was walking two miles a day. Six months after surgery I was running. Eight months after surgery I could stretch properly once again. A year later, it’s as if I never had a back problem. The only evidence is an 8″ scar on my lower back. I’ll occasionally feel the scar and I’m still amazed that I went through it all. Amazed I was taken care of as well as I was by the doctors, nurses, technicians, and pharmacists. I’m grateful for my family and friends that gave me support when I needed it. Hell, even my dog kept me company while I sat on the couch wondering if I’d ever heal up. You learn a lot about humility when you’re put into a vulnerable position like that. When your wife has to wake you up every couple of hours to ice you up or give you a pain pill. I’m usually the caregiver in the house. I’m the one cooking dinners, mowing the lawn, picking up the house, and buying the groceries. When all of a sudden you have to stop all of that it can be a jarring experience(really, it is.) Letting those responsibilities go is a hard thing. Of course, when you get ’em back you’re like “I missed this?”
So one year ago today I had back surgery. Happy to say things turned out pretty damn well. I now know at least one person who’s got a positive back surgery story: me. Now you do, too.