Lumbar spinal fusion and double discectomy: My latest health challenge

As many of you know, I've had some particularly difficult health challenges these past eight years and though it's finally been discovered what I have, there is no cure and some of the damages done (years prior to diagnosis) are irreversible. One of the things that suffered was my lower back where I had one disc that was herniated and bulging, another just bulging and one slipped. This caused me to have severe back and leg pain for many years. But through it all, God has taught me much about perseverance and what it really means to trust Him and to give thanks to Him, in and for all things (1 Thess 5:16-18).

After undergoing physical therapy and spinal decompression therapy for the past five years, I was told that I didn't have to have surgery yet, but one day I would. We thought this meant I'd need surgery in 10-15 years, not only a couple.

Clinging to God's word has sustained me through many challenges and trials my entire life, and I'm grateful for the power of Scripture and the Spirit of Christ that dwells within me, Who enables me to overcome the difficulties of my trials rather than be disabled and made ineffective by them (2 Cor 4:7-10, 16-18).

On Sunday, February 26, 2012 my back started hurting and I began to have a bit of sciatica...again. I didn't think much of it, as I've been suffering from severe, lower back problems for the past 5 years I took my Flexeril (muscle relaxer) and Meloxicam (anti-inflammatory) that were prescribed to me years ago to help when I have flare ups. Normally, after taking these medications for a one to three days, I'm fine. But not this time. Something was different. And I knew it.

I went to church that morning, but by the time I got home, I could hardly walk. I immediately took my medications, but this time, they didn't all. By the third day, I was in so much pain, I asked Jim to take me to the ER. They took a CT Scan of my back and decided to consult with the on-call neurosurgeon, Dr. Salinas. After the physical exam and the results from the CT Scan, Dr. Salinas had me admitted to the hospital and ordered an MRI of my back.

They discovered that I now had two herniated discs that were completely dry and the fluids that were in them had leaked out onto the nerves and muscles that surrounded that area which caused them to become irritated and inflamed. They also discovered that one of my vertebrae had slipped a bit and recommended that I have a double discectomy (complete removal and replacement of discs) as well as a lumbar fusion. Because of the location of my herniated discs and slipped vertebrae, they had to go in through the front and the back. This surgery was about three and a half hours long.

2 titanium rods and 8 screws view from the back
I have an approximately 4" incision in the front, from my navel down where they removed the dried out, herniated discs and replaced them with new, hollow ones that were infused with bone material. Then they went in the back, with two, approximately 7" incisions (parallel to one another) to place two titanium rods and eight screws in my back to hold everything together while it heals (this will take nine months).

Dr. Salinas was kind enough to be honest with me and tell me that I would be in a lot of pain after the surgery. I was thankful for that because when I woke up in excruciating pain, requesting for pain medication (which, for anyone who knows me, means I'm really hurting) repeatedly. I'd rather have another baby. Seriously, I've had two babies, with nearly dying giving birth to my oldest son, and I'll be honest, the pain from the back surgery was the worst pain I've ever experienced.

I have to wear a back brace that weighs about 2 pounds anytime I'm not sleeping. And I have to wear it for at least three to four months, or the entire nine months; my neurosurgeon will let me know how I'm progressing at my three month, six month and nine month check-ups where they take x-rays to see if my bones are fusing well.

2 titanium rods and 8 screws, side view
I am also currently walking with the help of a walker as I can't stand well on my own for an extended period of time yet. I'm hoping to graduate to a cane soon. My darling husband also purchased me a nice transporter chair so he can take me to church, go for walks, eat out, shopping, etc.

I'm not sure if I'll being doing rehab yet, but if I do, Dr. Salinas said we wouldn't start that until after eight weeks post-op.

Throughout all of this, my darling husband has been simply amazing! Although I wanted him to, he refused to leave my side after I had the surgery and  he slept at the hospital for three (sleepless) nights, caring for me, turning me every 30-90 minutes, helping me to the bathroom and with great love and patience, took care of anything I needed.

He also spent the next couple of days calling, visiting places and researching online to purchase me the best of everything I needed during my recovering: walker, bath chair, transport chair, already made foods and drinks, a sock buddy, a grabber, etc.

As if this weren't enough, the Lord chose to kindly bless us with an amazingly loving Sunday School class who not only offered us faithful prayers, but also three weeks of dinners which someone brings us every other day! And as if that were't enough God continued to lavish us with other brothers and sisters in Christ who have brought me lunch and stayed to fellowship, and sweet friends who also brought us dinner on the nights that were open. We have so much food in the house, I'm sure we won't go hungry any time soon.

I've been so touched by all the loving and encouraging prayers, cards, e-cards, emails, text messages, Facebook and Google+ posts and comments as well as the "get well"flowers and gifts I've received. Truly, when the Body functions as it ought to, everyone is blessed and everyone is moved to give much thanks, praise and glory to our Father in Heaven.

And yes, I'm in a lot of pain and I know I have a long recovery ahead of me, but I know that God will continue to show me what He plans on doing in, to and through me during this time. I'm very excited about whatever He has in store for I know that since He is sovereign, He is good and He loves me, everything He chooses will be for my eternal benefit as He patiently and lovingly conforms me more and more into the image of Christ my Lord.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers."
~Romans 8:28-29