Back pt. 2 Both rods break June 2017

On June 21, 2017 the second of the fusion rods broke. I had seen in X-rays over the last couple of years that the pedicle caps had come off. Every so often there was a clicking sound that I attributed to these, but it was more likely due to the left rod which had broken and stayed in place: certain motions caused the two ends to rub.

The day started out like every other Wednesday: I went swimming. When I got home I decided to stand. It wasn’t a good experience. After sitting down my back hurt so much that I had Jacob drive me to the hospital where they gave me morphing to reduce the pain. It worked. They had X-rays taken of my back. 

Close up of lumbar.

That’s when we saw that the right rod had broken and stayed in place but the other had slipped and was tenting my skin.

I contacted Dr. Terrence Kim who had been one of the three surgeons on the original team back in 2014. He wanted to see a CT, so I got one the next day. His opinion was to take out the broken hardware. He referred me to Dr. Ames, of UCSF as he specialized in complex cases like mine and he might have a different opinion.

The earliest appointment with him was September 18. After the break I stopped all exercise except for tai chi so as not to cause further issues.

On Thursday August 16, 2017, after coming home from taking Logan for a walk, my lower back hurt a lot. Nancy took a photo of the skin where the rod had been pushing and we saw that it had progressed to being able to see the outline of the rod.

In a panic, I called Dr. Kim’s office in the morning and was admitted to the hospital that day with a scheduled surgery for Monday. The fear is that it could break through the skin and it would be better to be at the hospital than at home just in case.

Starting midnight Sunday i was NPO, meaning nothing by mouth (from the Latin “nils per mobis”). The surgery didn’t start until 5 on Monday. I didn’t get back to my room until midnight, wiped out from the anesthesia. Didn’t sleep at all that night because the room I was in had the hospital’s pneumatic tube system running right through its walls. Clink-whoosh-bang-swoosh all night.


They call it sleep, but you are really unconscious, with zero brain activity. From zero to awake takes a toll. They gave me a muscle relaxant, which really paralyzed me so even opening my eyes was a difficult task.

The surgery went well though, a grand slam as the doctor put it. They put in new rods and bone grafts.

Here I am only two days post major back surgery and the only pain med I’m on is Tylenol! I am anemic so I am receiving two units of blood through my central line

When I was in surgery they installed a central or intra-jugular line, a tube that snakes down my aorta several inches. The four ports can be used interchangeably to give fluids, and draw or give blood. No needle sticks!

Perhaps because of the bad experience I had in the first room, I was transferred to a 500 sq ft suite


The first time I got up into a sitting position, they used a cardiac chair.

They pulled me over while lying flat, then sat me up as my legs went down. When it was time to get into bed, they lay me flat and the top surface of the chair rolled off-road dump me into bed.

The food was decent but they offered a Deluxe menu, which had restaurant quality meals. Here are a couple.


On Friday I started the process of transferring to Northridge Hospital. I got there by 9:00 that evening. Persistence pays.

At Cedars I was on an awesome air mattress, but at Northridge all they had the first night was an inflatable air raft with waffle indents. Cedars was luxury, Northridge is efficiency: I’m having three PT and OT sessions my first day here.


© Marc Richards 2014