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Thread: Hi, I'm Paula

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Hi, I'm Paula

    I posted a bit in the forum for parents of adolescents, but now I'm getting around to introducing myself. I'm 52, live in Southern California, and have surgery scheduled for June 7th and 9th with Dr. Yu-po Lee at UC San Diego. The first day will be to go in through the side and do some preparatory work on my discs, then the fusion will be on the second day. I am not quite as expert as all of you at the vertebral numbers and types of curves (partly out of denial), but I do know that I have a 58 degree curve that has progressed markedly in the last few years. Seven years ago, it was about 45 degrees. They'll be fusing 8 vertebrae. I have a hump too-- although people still tell me they don't notice, I'm quite aware of it. I've also got a lot of pain which started about 7 or 8 years ago.
    I've been to three surgeons. One of the first two recommended that I go to Dr. Lee, and I've been very pleased with his practice so far. He's in the same practice as Dr. Garfin, who operated on Bill Walton. I'm kind of dealing with the nervousness about the surgery by being hyper prepared. (As part of the hyper-preparedness I also went to a psychologist for some cognitive behavioral therapy about anxiety, and it was very helpful.) I am just finishing up a Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology and will graduate on May 20th. (Yippee!) I decided that this was probably a good time to do the surgery so that I can settle into my new career after I've recovered, rather than interrupting things.
    I do have a couple of questions:
    1. My mother wants to come to help out after the surgery. She's 77 and lives in another state, so will be flying here. That means that I've got to figure out how to time the plane tickets after the surgery. Dr. Lee says that maybe I'll need to go to a rehab hospital for awhile (which seems like a good idea), but then last time I was in, he said that I was "young and healthy" so that maybe I'd just go straight home from the surgery, possibly as early as 6 days after the second surgery. So, if you folks were taking a guess-- what would be a good time to have her come. I'm thinking two weeks out. I will have my husband and my college age son here, but of course, they'll be at work part of the time. And my mom won't be able to help with anything like helping keep me steady on my feet or driving.
    2. I want to be at my high school reunion on August 6th. I'll have to fly up to Utah for it. Any hints for making that easier? Dr. Lee's thinks I might feel too tired to go, but I've been on the planning committee and really really want to go.
    3. Bras-- I bought a couple with front closure, but I'm wondering how long it is before it's not painful to wear one. I'm really not at an age where bra-lessness is attractive.

    Thanks all for the conversation here. It's been helpful to me to read through it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Central NJ
    Hi Paula,

    it sounds like you are well prepared! I had my late-70's parents come to stay with me after my surgery for about a month. THey took care of the house, kids and cooking so all I had to do was recover. I came home on day 6 and was just fine. Everyone is different though.

    As far as bras, I could not tollerate them for quite some time after surgery. AT ALL!! Instead, I worse camisole tops with a built in bra. I'm not that large on top, so that did the trick. The tightness around the back with a regular bra gave me pain and discomfort.

    I have to run to work, but wanted to welcome you.
    Debbe - 50 yrs old

    Milwalkee Brace 1976 - 79
    Told by Dr. my curve would never progress

    Surgery 10/15/08 in NYC by Dr. Michael Neuwirth
    Pre-Surgury Thorasic: 66 degrees
    Pre-Surgery Lumbar: 66 degrees

    Post-Surgery Thorasic: 34 degrees
    Post-Surgery Lumbar: 22 degrees

  3. #3
    JamieAnn Guest
    Hi Paula,

    I know everyone heals differently but I personally think you should be ok for an August trip. At 8 weeks or so, you really start to turn the corner. You won't be able to swing from the chandeliers but as long as the flight is not too long (?) you should really be ok. I traveled at 8 weeks post-op without any issues at all. My flight was about 2 hours. I had others carry bags for me, over course.

    As for help immediately post-op, as Debbie said you will need all the help you can get with cooking and cleaning. I wasn't personally prepared with all of the help I was going to need, even with my husband and lots of family/friends. The every-day stuff is really what you need most - someone to help you get up, to help you pick stuff up from the floor - lots of laundry, keeping the house clean etc. So the sooner the better, in my opinion.

    Please keep us posted and best of luck!! It sounds like you're prepared and will do just fine.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Northern California
    Hi Paula...

    I had revision surgery in January. I was released from the hospital 5 days postop. Since i live alone, I went to stay with a friend. I was actually really uncomfortable there (he doesn't have any comfortable chairs in which to sit), so I came home 3 days later. (After 30+ years of back pain, my house is filled with chairs, and even a sofa, that are back friendly.) Anyway, I was able to take care of myself for the most part. The only thing I needed help with was a driver for trips to the doctor, drugstore, etc.

    If your mother is OK by herself, I would have her arrive right after surgery. That way, if you don't get to go to rehab, she'll be available. Then, I would have her return home about 3-4 weeks later. By that time, unless you have a lot of complications, you should be able to do almost everything yourself.

    I would have been uncomfortable flying out of town and participating in all day events at two months postop. One of the things that take the longest in recovery is sitting, and you'll be surprised to find out how much sitting occurs when you're socializing. Is it possible to reschedule your surgery until after the reunion? Otherwise, I fear that you'll find yourself flying to Utah, and being unable to participate much.

    Since we don't know which levels are being fused, the bra issue is an unknown. It's entirely possible that the incision won't cross the bra line. Even if it does, you may find that your incision won't be sensitive. You might want to find a sports bra that slips on over your head (or up from the bottom), as having no seams in the back might be more comfortable.

    Best of luck with your surgery and recovery.

    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    NJ across from NYC
    I had revision surgery this past December 7th. I had an uneventful recovery, thankfully, and returned to work February 28th fulltime BUT I would not have been able to get on a plane at two months post-op. Did your surgeon mention wearing a brace after surgery? I wore a brace to mid-April and commuting by bus with the brace was uncomfortable. I brought a pillow to put behind my back. I would imagine if you are going to fly, you should do that as well - with or without a brace. The back of the plane seats are like the bus, very straight and with the lose of flexibility, it can be quite uncomfortable. Also at two months post op, the pain was tolerable, it was the exhaustion that got to me. Everyone is different with recovery. I wish you well.
    1981 Surgery with Harrington Rod; fused from T2 to L3 - Dr.Keim (at 26 years old)
    2000 Partial Rod Removal
    2001 Right Scapular Resection
    12/07/2010 Surgical stabilization L3 through sacrum with revision harrington rod instrumentation, interbody fusion and pre-sacral fusion L5-S1 - Dr. Boachie (at 56 years old)
    06/11/14 - Posterior cervical fusion C3 - T3 (Mountaineer System) due to severely arthritic joints - Dr. Patrick O'Leary (at age 59)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Thank you from Paula

    Thanks everyone. I should have mentioned that the flight is just over an hour. But the drive to my mom's is about 2 hours after that. We are thinking we should get a hotel near the airport and stay there overnight, then do the drive. I could delay the surgery, but I really don't want to. As for the reunion itself, I will probably skip events in the daytime, and just go to dinner. Someone else on the committee suggested that she'll see about getting me a comfortable chair. The suggestions, like taking a pillow, etc. are exactly the ideas that I need. I'm thinking that I'll get travel insurance even though it's just a short flight, so if I'm not well enough, I can be reimbursed. I wonder if I can work out an upgrade -- that might help the uncomfortable seat issues. I will be wearing a brace, ironically enough, after spending my first year of high school in a brace. (I really don't think about wearing the brace that often anymore, but I've been surprised by how many people do remember it, and have told me how brave I was, etc. I didn't feel brave, just angry.)

    I think that my curve is being fused from C4 down to L1 or L2. I know where they've been poking me in the back to show me where it will be, but am not sure I'm remembering the numbers right. I do have a couple of camisoles with the bra top, so I'll get those where they'll be handy too. What a shallow thing to worry about. I'm sleeping well, but I wake up in the mornings with new questions on my mind, and the bra issue was one that popped into my head the other day. I was worrying about my very dark leg hair with my very white skin if I couldn't shave for months, but then there was a groupon back in January for three sessions of laser treatment for a large area for $129. That included lower legs as one area, so I took advantage of that. I really don't think of myself as vain. But maybe I am. But getting rid of the shaggy legs would be worth $129 even without the surgery.

  7. #7
    JamieAnn Guest

    I don't mean to make the surgery or recovery sound easy by any means, but I do want to just mention that some things you worry about now, are actually easier than expected, and vice versa. I thought shaving would be a huge issue and I am also fused down to L1 and had no issues at all. I used a shower chair for the first 5 weeks post-op (I probably only needed it for 3 weeks but it was a comfort to have it), and I was able to just prop up my leg and shave sitting down.

    The bra wasn't a problem either - I didn't wear one for 4 weeks or so but when I finally did, it was just very numb back there and felt weird but wasn't too terrible.

    You will really find that some things you over-worry about, then others totally take you by surprise. One thing that surprised me was how nauseous I was, both in the hospital and afterward. I also wasn't prepared for just how bad the stomach situation would be - my advice is really start taking those softeners and everything you can very early on. The stomach discomfort was worse than the back pain in some cases - and others have also said this.

    You are very well prepared and you'll have to leave the rest to figure out once you're there. You will do just fine!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    I'm 38 and quite fit, and there is no way I would have attempted a flight at 8 weeks. I was still in pain riding in a *car* at 8 weeks - and I only had 1 surgery, not two.

    I think everyone is different. My experience is that it's nearly 3 months out and I am still sleeping 2 hrs in the afternoon every day. That is down from what was ~4-5 hrs for the first 2 months. The pain is mostly gone but by 3 pm, my neck and upper back feel heavy and the only remedy is to lay down.

    For surgery, I was in the hospital for 4 days, and truly do not remember much of anything from the morning of surgery (Feb 23) until mid-March. Pain mgmt the first week home was hopelessly poor (percocet only), and it was very hard on my husband and parents to watch me in so much pain. Mom and Dad said it was the worst week of their lives, and Mom told me at one point she walked into the bedroom to check on me and my husband was sitting in a chair, just staring into space. My husband is a doctor so this isn't foreign ground for him. 9 days post-op, I finally got oxycontin with oxycodone for break-through pain.

    At this point, I am doing great, but I don't return to work until July (desk job) as there is no way I would be able to handle my commute (2 hrs on a train, walking, etc.), I have some word salad going on (I can't find the right words, I lose my train of thought, say words incorrectly which is soooo not me), and my job requires that I'm 100% on my game. My focus right now is PT 3 days a week, eating well (I tend to under-eat), driving safely, and this week's surprise gift is Restless Arm Syndrome (I stopped Tramadol cold turkey and this is a withdrawal symptom...well, hello again Tramadol! ). Recovery is always interesting, I'll give you that!

    I would suggest you assume for/plan on the rehab facility for the first week post-op, and ask your mom to come when you are 3 or 4 weeks post-op. Maybe we are overly cautious in this household, but there was no way my husband was willing to leave me unattended the first 2 weeks post-op. Then, we also have steep stairs and I was not permitted to go up or down them without him being here to assist me.

    Best of luck to you!
    Female, age 38
    4 years of bracing, concluded at 42*upper/38*lower
    currently 64*upper/40*lower
    Fused T3-L4 on Feb 23 2011
    now 32*upper/18* lower

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    I guess I differ from what most have said about flying at 2 mos post-op. . .but, like we all have learned, everyone's post op experience is different. My 1st surgery was Aug 25 (09) and I had a complication (hemothorax) that left me pretty wiped out, and necessitated a couple hospital admissions in Sept. By Oct, I was improving, and I did fine w/the 5 hr drive to and from St. Louis on Oct 20 and 21 (I went for my mother's funeral), and did fine w/the hard pews at her funeral Mass. . .I took an oxycodone here and there, but was pleasantly surprised at how I fared. I would suggest, should you decide to go to the reunion, to have assistance at both airports. . .skycaps can make all the difference in your travel experience.

    Welcome to the forum!!
    Fused T-3 to L-3, Aug 25
    Hardware removal surgery, Nov 2, 2010
    Fused T-10 to L-2, osteotomy, Feb 22, 2011

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Waterloo, IL
    Welcome to the forum! My main issue following surgery was abdominal pain, however, once that was better I was ready to socialize at about 6 weeks for short periods of time. I didn't travel far from home and that reduced any anxiety I had for bathroom issues. I was battling how much or how little laxative to use to be comfortable while eating high fiber foods as well. I know you will not want to miss your reunion, but it's a tough call, especially since you can't predict exactly how you'll feel at 8 weeks.
    I found a Maidenform bra at Macy's that fastens in the front. There are no seams at all and it's extremely comfortable.
    Good luck with your surgery!

    Surgery-Jan. 5, 2011-Dr. Lenke
    Fusion T-4-sacrum-2 cages/5 osteotomies
    70 degree thoracolumbar corrected to 25
    Rib Hump-GONE!
    Age-60 at the time of surgery
    Now 66
    Avid Golfer & Tap Dancer
    Retired Kdgn. Teacher

    See photobucket link for:
    Video of my 1st Day of Golf Post-Op-3/02/12-Bradenton, FL
    Before and After Picture of back 1/7/11
    tap dancing picture at 10 mos. post op 11/11/11-I'm the one on the right.

  11. #11
    backissues Guest
    I wore a Jewitt brace and no bra for 4 months. I'm not sure anyone could tell because the brace kind of comes out in front. It was more comfortable for me to go without. I haven't gone without since I started wearing one in my pre-teens. Over the winter, I wore a longsleeve colored t-shirt with a vest or fleece over it. When it got a bit warmer, I wore two t-shirts so I could have the brace in-between. Somehow, I didn't want to wear the brace out in the open. Vanity???

    I'm done with the brace and on with the bra.

    Good luck!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
    For three months after surgery I rarely wore a bra. I didn't like the feeling across my scar. Over 2 years out, I can still feel it and though it mostly doesn't bother me, I go without a bra whenever I can.
    Surgery March 3, 2009 at almost 58, now 63.
    Dr. Askin, Brisbane, Australia
    T4-Pelvis, Posterior only
    Osteotomies and Laminectomies
    Was 68 degrees, now 22 and pain free

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2011

    THank you again

    Thanks again to everyone. It's so helpful to hear from people who have already done this. In the last few weeks, it seems like everyone who hears about it has some idea of what I really ought to do instead of surgery. The thing is, I've already heard of most of that, and tried it. They just don't really get what's going on.

    And, I'll just try to get myself used to the idea of no bra for awhile.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by paula View Post
    Thanks again to everyone. It's so helpful to hear from people who have already done this. In the last few weeks, it seems like everyone who hears about it has some idea of what I really ought to do instead of surgery. The thing is, I've already heard of most of that, and tried it. They just don't really get what's going on.

    And, I'll just try to get myself used to the idea of no bra for awhile.

    I think that many of us listened to an avalanche of "Don't Do It!"s and well meaning advice, once we made up our minds and started telling people.

    I guess I found an unforseen blessing in being in the itty bitty titty committee.
    Fused T-3 to L-3, Aug 25
    Hardware removal surgery, Nov 2, 2010
    Fused T-10 to L-2, osteotomy, Feb 22, 2011

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