Back Surgery

My Back

(I was paralyzed in 1998)

2001: Some minor lordosis and scoliosis is apparent.



2008: Lordosis got crazy while scoliosis remained about the same.



2012: I’ve made some significant improvements. Among these are the following

1.An absence of a “gooseneck”

2.A marked decrease in “winged scapulae”

3.Increased posterior muscularity

4.Increased Total Body Weight by 20lbs

5.A marked decrease in the appearance of bony landmarks, for example the Spinous Processes of each Vertebrae.


2014: After surgery, my back looks much like it did in 2001. I had rods inserted and secured from T9 to my pelvis. 


Have you ever had a good omen? 

On Tuesday September 30, 2014 I got a call from Dr. Pashman at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, whom I’d talked to about fixing my back. He said there was a cancellation on Thursday for surgery; would I like to proceed with the fusion of my back? I hadn’t thought about when I was going to do the surgery, but I knew I wanted to do it so I said yes.

They fast-tracked everything. Two days later I was under general anesthesia. The surgery was a marvelous success. If you've never been under general anesthesia before let me describe it for you. First you get an IV put in. Then once you're in the operating room, they start the medicine that renders you unconscious. You lose time. You don't remember falling asleep and many people dream, but under general anesthesia, you don't. One minute I was in the operating room and a second later I'm in the ICU waking up, slowly trying to orient myself. It is a scary feeling. The surgery was 7 hours long, but I have no recollection of the passage of time. It's a blank spot in my memory.

During the surgery, he had to clamp off the catheter of the Baclofen pump, which goes into my spine, to prevent infection. As they didn't want me to go through Baclofen withdrawals, on Friday they put me back under so they could make sure the pump was still working. Friday evening I hallucinated. It wasn't until early Saturday that a smart nurse begged the doctors to give me a PCA or Patient Controlled Analgesic. I was able to give myself regular doses of Fentanyl, which marked a turning point in how I felt. Within hours I was lucid, back to my normal chatty and aware self.

On Saturday and Sunday the anesthetic completely wore off. I still wasn't feeling pain in my back. However, my legs started spasming violently. I tried having them stretched and ranged, but to no avail. 

Monday I get moved to the main hospital. A PT (Physical Therapist) visits and helps me sit on edge of bed. The food is horrible. 

Tuesday PT gets me into wheelchair. In the afternoon I have intense abdominal pain because I haven’t had a bowel movement in four days. I usually go every day, so I was really backed up. They give me two types of enemas, but the only thing that helps is when I manually stimulate my bowels just like I've been doing every day for the last 16 years. But there is still a blockage. I don't eat lunch or dinner that day, and can only get down yogurt Wednesday morning. Lunch is put aside as I'm still hurting. Finally I have a healthy food delivery from Real Food Daily: a salad and flatbread, and a green drink. 

It was noticed on Monday that I'd developed a rash under my arms, which they started treating with a medicated cream.

Tuesday PT got me into my chair for fifteen minutes. Wednesday both PT and OT got me up to the side of the bed.

I have a central line in my neck that was put in during the first surgery. It is also called an IJ or inter-jugular line. They wanted to remove it and put in a regular one so two IV nurses came in; my veins are shot after 16 years of being poked and neither could find a good vein. They got a special machine called a Vein Finder that illuminates veins. Finally they were able to place a new IV in the back of my left hand, the place I consider to be the most painful place to put an IV, but at least it was done.

Thursday, a week after surgery I was approved to go to Acute Rehab. I got up in my chair and rolled around the floor for 15 minutes. My back feels so straight it's weird.

Now that I'm in Rehab, they took out the IVs. I'll be working on developing skills to make me independent again.

On Friday I was in my chair for four hours. I was able to transfer without a sliding board, like I've always done. It felt good to be vertical. They got me onto a commode chair like I use to go to the bathroom. The only problem was that I couldn't reach because my back no longer bends to the side. This got me very anxious. How am I going to use the bathroom? Because I'm no longer doing my normal bowel program, I had to get an enema that afternoon.

On Saturday they brought me to the Gym. I got into the standing frame, which is the same one I have at home. I stood up and got very faint because I've been lying down for 10 days. My blood pressure dropped from 140/? To 108/?. After a few minutes of rest I stood back up but only went halfway up. This time I was able to stay in that position for several minutes before I had to go down. This time my blood pressure didn't drop as much. I went up a third time, but still only lasted a few minutes. Just like when I stand at home my legs started spasming, which is one of the main reasons I can't stand for a long time. 

Sunday, October 12: I am not going to have any therapy today, but I am going to go out on a four hour pass with Nancy and Logan. Once again I had to try to use the bathroom in bed, but it didn't work, so I got another enema. This is really getting frustrating. 

Monday October 13: I was able to figure out how to use the bathroom. That is a major hurdle, overcome.

Tuesday October 14: my wheelchair back was modified to fit my new back. 

Normally, my right leg has done most of the spasming. This is evident If you look at the larger diameter of the leg, but during the past ten days, my left leg has done most of the spasming. It really hurts. The effect is most noticeable when I'm lying down. I was in my wheelchair for about eight hours, so my endurance is returning.

Wednesday October 15: Started having intense neck cramping first thing and during the day. A hot pack and Tylenol help. Watching a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime to pass the time. I bought a book, but the type is too small, so I'm going to get magnifying lenses. I went to sleep at 10. 90 minutes later a nurse came in and started typing on the computer. I got angry and anxious. My legs started spasming, the neuropathy in my chest went crazy and I started shaking. It took 90 more minutes, an Ambien and a Baclofen to get to sleep, but I was still in pain. It was the worst night here.

Thursday October 16: I was in pain all day. My neck hurt for hours and my chest felt like there was a knife digging into it. After I laid down, they gave me a shot of morphine. Morphine is the only strong pain reliever I can tolerate. However it backed me up. My temperature was a little high in the evening.

Friday October 17: I woke up very hot with a 102.9 fever. They did an ultrasound of my legs, took a chest x-ray, drew blood and Dr. Pashman drew some fluid from the wound. I don't know about the last one, but the first three were clear. I am now on an IV antibiotic and my discharge date changed from tomorrow to next week when the infection is gone. This morning I took a shower. Yeah! That's the first time in two weeks.

Saturday October 18: I still had a 102 fever, so I went back into surgery where the doctor cleaned out my wound. 

Sunday, October 19: I was in recovery in the ICU until midday where they transferred me back to the regular hospital, which is where I started two weeks ago. My brother Scott and his wife Lisa visited, which was very nice

Monday, October 20: I just spent the day dealing with the misery of still being in the hospital. I had a small session with the physical therapist that works on the floor and a visit from Nancy.

Tuesday October 21: I had a PICC line (Peripherally Installed Central Catheter) installed in my upper left arm during a 30 minute procedure  It will enable me to get IV antibiotics at home and blood draws without being stuck. I hope this means I will be going home soon.

Thursday October 23: I was discharged and spent the first night in my own bed in a long time. I'm still suffering from the effects of the antibiotic Cefapime I found out I am allergic to, namely I am itching all over my torso.

The itching reduces over the next few days with the help of showers and Aveeno lotion.

Saturday October 25: I start IV antibiotics at home. It is a six-week course of treatment, twice a day. It takes about 105 minutes each time. I start eating yogurt each day, take Megadophilus and bought some raw sauerkraut, which has a huge amount of beneficial bacteria. 

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© Marc Richards 2014