Microdiscectomy, aka Bucket of Fun

I just had a L4/L5 microdiscectomy. Prior to my surgery, I researched this to death. The responses from patient experiences were so diverse that I thought I’d share mine.

I’m starting this the day after surgery. They did pre-op work a few days prior. That included blood work and instructions.

The day of surgery went well. My hospital teams were fantastic, supportive, and kind. Every one of them were lovely. I was kept comfortable and informed. I was set up with an IV on my left hand. Drugs to relax me, help with nausea and an antibiotic were added pre-surgery. I met with the anesthesiologist and his team. They were funny! Professional, of course, but each had a great sense of humor.

After that I don’t remember a thing until I woke up in recovery. Got to love that. And although I thought I was alert, looking back I was only half-awake 🙂 The surgeon came in and said everything went perfectly, but the herniation was much larger than they thought. He said it was good of us to do this now considering its size.

Went through some post-op instructions, not that I remember much, so I’m thankful they gave me paperwork. Then I went home. Got to the hospital at 530am, and left at 945am. Surgery was from about 730 to 9. The pain meds given via IV were still working. I didn’t begin to experience pain until mid-afternoon.

But once that pain hit, it hit hard. Good news, it was not the typical back pain I used to get. Bad news is that the incision site hurt, and hurt something fierce. The pain meds they gave me barely dulled it. I called in today to beg for something better… and they came to my rescue. Don’t misunderstand, I expect to feel pain… and am okay with it because it makes me remember to take it easy. But this pain is overwhelming, kills my appetite and limits my desire to move at all. Not good if you’re trying to recover.

Week One
My pre-planning helped out. I did the following things to make life post-surgery a little easier:
– Put everything I needed to use in the bathroom on the counter (things that may be in a cabinet, lower drawer, or under the sink)
– Put bottles of water and juice on the kitchen counters. I also included some fruit and snacks.
– Set up an area for me to work from downstairs (I usually work from a top floor office in the house). That included two side tables, phone, headsets, laptop, iPad, etc.
– Set up the meds (including throat lozenges; your throat will hurt from the intubation).
– Set up some on-call family (So much thanks to my amazingly perfect and wonderful husband, my exceptionally helpful son, and my uber supportive and helpful parents… I couldn’t have gotten through that first day without them).

Pre-planning couldn’t have helped me with everything. On Day Two we switched pain meds. The ones I had did little to relieve pain, so I was prescribed Dilaudid. Wrong choice. I experienced all of the severe side effects and, having zero desire to spend the night in the ER, I toughed it out. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So learn from me… read the darn side effect list and call your doctor if you experience the severe, life threatening ones. I wanted to avoid the drama. I didn’t want to be the needy ER patient. Don’t be as stupid as I was… if you’re experiencing a severe reaction do something about it immediately. It was scary there for a while.

The next few days are not the bucket of fun you thought they might be. Kidding here… but pain, aching, inconvenience, being house-bound… all takes its toll on you. By Friday (day four) I was dying to get out but too uncomfortable to do it.

Week Two

Not a good start. With the Dilaudid complication I may have reinjured the disc. A new MRI ordered. The leg pain has not gotten better and is actually worse than it was pre-surgery. The incision site is much better. Not without pain, but much, much better. It amazes me how quickly the body heals. God is grand 🙂 I can understand why week two is still a very limited activity week though, that pain at the disc site is still strong and shocking. Doc said there’s blood and inflammation that takes weeks to heal. He isn’t “worried” about that pain though.

MRI came back and the news was extraordinary… surgical site and disc look perfect! We see the nerves have unobstructed pathways and the disc itself (although still having a small bulge) looks practically normal. As I’ve said “practically perfect in every way” 🙂 Great news and a huge weight off my shoulders. Week two concludes with far less pain and all fears of another surgery nixed.

One thing to note: as I feel better the opportunity for me to do something stupid, something I’m not supposed to do for another four weeks, becomes much easier. Feeling better teases me to push the limits of the last two weeks. I want to do more, want to be me again. This is difficult. Even my husband sees me walking faster and doing more. He too becomes lulled into assuming I’m back to normal (pun intended). These next four weeks will be challenged not by pain, but by my ambition.

A couple of points if you’re looking to my experience to make some personal choices of your own:
– Day One you won’t be able to work at all, even from home. You’re too “out of it” from the surgery. Plan to take it uber easy that day regardless of your lifestyle.
– Week one can and should be okay for someone who works from home provided it does not require bending, lifting or twisting. Aside from complications, you will be alert and mentally active. Working helped me stay *active* even when my body couldn’t. Keep major decisions light this first week though. Pain does affect decisioning.
– Week two was much easier on my body and with the pain lessening daily, my need to be very active increased. Work is almost vital at this stage! I’m lucky to be able to work from home (when I’m not traveling). For those who will have to take time off from an office gig (or otherwise) do try to find something very productive and meaningful to do these next few weeks… otherwise you may go crazy. Not kidding here. You’ll want to be far more active than you can be. Work solved for that. If work is not an option for you, find something big. You’ll thank me later.
– The pain was absolutely the worst the first three days. It gets better every day after that. Not great, and sometimes quite annoying, but I managed without any pain meds after day two.
– Take the help. Heck, insist on it. You do need to rest and recuperate. This becomes harder to realize as the pain subsides… but don’t relent then.
– Be thankful of the miracles you just experienced; the removal of your injured disc and the amazing healing your body is doing afterwards. I pray and thank God daily.

I know this article is different than my foodies reviews and my IT Strategy efforts. We have full and complete lives. Sharing information so that we can all remain connected is important. Fear is the worst. I hope this post may alleviate the fear others looking into this type of surgery face. My prayers are with you.

1 comment

  1. Great post for those of us considering. Glad you’re feeling better!

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