View Full Version : Traveling for Surgery

04-27-2010, 02:19 PM
In 6 weeks I will travel from Houston to St. Louis for Dr. Lenke to perform a T4-S1 fusion. I was wanting some feedback from some of you who traveled for surgery.

04-27-2010, 09:12 PM
Dr Lenke did my surgery at the end of January ('10). I am from Salt Lake City, UT. What specific questions do you have?

Fused from T3-L3 Double Major Scoliosis with Kyphosis

04-27-2010, 09:38 PM
I had a 7 hour drive after 2 weeks in the hospital & rehab. We made it a two day trip. I definitely used tons of pillows and had car seat back and took my meds consistently. It started out bad--had two stops to try and get comfortable before we ever left St. Louis--until I fell asleep. Then we made sure I got out and walked at least every 2 hours. That distance wasn't fun but dooable. I'm not sure how far Houston would be by car but a lot farther I'm sure. Welcome to the forum and hope this helps a little. Janet

04-27-2010, 10:24 PM
I will have to fly. The trip by car to Houston from St. Louis would take 15 hours without factoring in post surgical needs. Driving is definitely out. I have read a lot about how much it hurts at first and the thought of driving to the airport, waiting for the plane, sitting on the plane for two hours and then driving an hour home seems daunting.

I guess I am looking for practical advise on traveling. How many pillows do I need? Should I arrange for a wheel chair at the airport? Should I buy an extra plane ticket so I don't have to share the row with a stranger? How difficult was it going through security?

I will have to stay in a hotel for 4 days to a week after release from the hospital before I go home. That seems like it has its own challenges. So if anyone has done this do you have any suggestions on how to make it more comfortable for both myself and my caregiver?

As you can tell, I am a planner. LOL


04-27-2010, 11:56 PM
I also traveled for surgery. I stayed in the hospital in Los Angeles, which is about four hours away. I ended up staying in the hospital for six days before going home. I used a lot of pillows and percocet for the ride. We stopped every hour because of possible blood clots. It wasn't bad at all.


04-28-2010, 12:47 AM
I flew from St. Louis to Salt Lake but I had my mother to help me. I don't know if I could have done it myself. I just went for my post-op check-up last week and my mom showed me where I was lying on the benches in the airport while waiting for the plane and I can't remember any of it! The narcotics seem to have quite an amnesic effect on me.

For sure: have a wheelchair waiting for you at the airport--call ahead & the airline should have this done for you.

Call ahead and get the bulkhead seats if you can't afford 1st class (I couldn't). Tell them you are a spinal fusion patient--the only people that get the seats ahead of you (on Delta) are travelers with broken legs or seeing-eye dogs. I don't know about other airlines.

Take a taxi to the airport. The shuttle/metro is fine before surgery--not after surgery.

If someone travels with you--they can figure out your meds before you get on the plane--I don't remember much and I'm so glad! My mom figured out a narcotic and a muscle relaxant combo that really helped (oxycontin & Valium).

Security has been upped since the Christmas day incident in '09. Flying out of St. Louis I was taken to a special room where they had to wand me completely over and feel everywhere. Last week for my post-op check the wand and feeling was in the glass area where everyone can see--it was quite the show, especially when the girl wanted to know how "fresh" my scar was. I lifted the back of my shirt and showed her--she was so grossed out she was very gentle!

Yes, pillows help. But, they are more useful for the car ride--it was hard to get them positioned right on the plane.


04-28-2010, 07:21 AM
Just a point of curiosity. How does one PAY for these doctors that they travel out of state to see? Do the docs offer discount plans or payment plans? I've heard so much good stuff about Lenke, he is on my mind, since St. Louis isn't actually THAT far from WI. Sorry if too personal, but we are very poor financially.

04-28-2010, 07:46 AM
First thanks for all the great advice on traveling. That is exactly what I needed!

As to your question about doctors far away from home... Dr. Lenke accepts my insurance (Blue Cross). For the surgery itself, it won't cost me any more to have the surgery with him than with a doctor in my home town. I did have to change my insurance from an HMO to a PPO before that was true. My first appointment with Dr. Lenke was totally out of pocket because I was still HMO and only had local doctors. The extra cost comes in the form of plane tickets and hotel rooms. But when you are talking about getting the best surgeon and the quality of your life hangs in the balance, a couple extra thousand dollars for plane tickets and hotel rooms is money well spent. Of course if you can't get insurance to cover a doctor out of state it would be impossible. The cost of the surgery itself is astronomical!

04-28-2010, 08:26 AM
Sounds like meds are the key to traveling!

04-28-2010, 11:32 AM
I flew from Los Angeles to St.Louis and back. I had new instrumentation from t-1 to L-4. Took a town car (kiosk at baggage dept. at airport) when returning to airport. Had a wheel chair waiting. We had informed the airline that I was going to have spine surgery. The security check took a little extra time; I also travel with a bi-pap machine and that had to be checked, but there was no real problem. Sat in the first row of economy section. Had pain meds before flight. We live about 1l/2 hours from Los Angeles airport. Everything went well. I was amazed as to how smooth the whole process went in travelling to St.Louis for surgery.