I was 21 years old when I fell off of a horse and was dragged in the saddle. Supposedly, that was the beginning and I probably damaged my soft tissue. I was very bruised on the left side of my back and spent the night in the infirmary. When I was almost 28 years old, I had a daughter and went through back labor followed by a twin pregnancy 4 years later. Six months after our twins' birth I found myself hospitalized. My husband took me to the ER because I was in severe pain.

The ER doctor told me that I had sciatica and he was going to send me home. My husband told him to get another doctor in there. As it turned out, they admitted me and told me I had a 75% chance of recovery with surgery for an L5 disc. However, my husband asked about more conservative measures. We had a favorite pediatrician research cortisone and nursing which I learned was not recommended. My pain dissipated though my ankle would collapse when I stepped on it. I laid around for a month and recovered all together!! The surgeon told me that he wanted to use me as an example of someone who does not rush into surgery.

I survived another 9+ years and would simply bike when my back would bother me. Then 5 years ago we got a basketball hoop and after that I really had pain. I tried various things like PT, cortisone injections, TENS and magnets and lasted 6 months before I collapsed at work in dire pain. I had surgery 2 weeks later for the L5 ruptured disc. They left my bulging L4-5 disc in and it ruptured 3+ years later.

Precipitating incidents prior to my last surgery were that I had pain in my back while at the dog training class when my dog wouldn't crawl into the tunnel. After that for the next 2 and 1/2 weeks, my pain became much more severe. It got to the point that I had two nights in which I would sleep for 4 hours and awaken in excruciating pain. I went to work anyway but found myself limping around with feet that I was told looked blue. (I wore sandals then because I could not manage anything else).

When my day off came, I cancelled everything with plans to rest in bed. That morning when I got up to use the bathroom, I felt exactly as I had the first surgery. I knew I was in trouble. Later that day I had a grinding nerve sensation and couldn't even sit up in bed. I could not feel my bladder. My husband called my doctor who had done my first surgery and I was ambulanced to the hospital. That night the doctor on call prescribed some pain medication. The next morning I saw the neurosurgeon that had done my first surgery. He was referring to my complete foot drop and bladder problem and brought up surgery. I asked if it was an emergency. He said no, that "We will have to fit you in". Also, the entire time while I was in the hospital, every four hours I was told to use the bed pan, which was torture for me because of the pain.

The day of my surgery, the nurse took pity on me and asked if I could use the catheter because there were already orders for it for surgery. It was two days after I was ambulanced in that I had my surgery late in the day. I was in the hospital for a week and another week at a rehabilitation center. Besides the disc, my secondary diagnosis was "CES without Neurogenic Bladder". It was described as a "massive" disc fragment. I left there with a brace and a cane for my foot drop. Gradually, my bladder sensation returned. I was initially constipated but that got better too. I didn't know until later that I had sensory problems resulting in sexual dysfunction. I continue to wear a brace for my foot drop though no longer needed the cane at about 5 weeks post-op. My recovery was rapid at first. Then it slowed and I reached a plateau for several months. After that, I made gradual recovery again. Thanks for including me in this group. I have benefited from learning about others.


Sequel - 1/22/02

There is a sequel to my story in that I had to face a second CES scare. Before that, post-op from my 2nd surgery, I had had a series of annoyances like problems and adjustments with my brace, plantar fasciatis in my foot, ingrown toenail and fallen arches, problems with a knee and a stubborn cyst that refused to go away. In September, I had also been told by one doctor that my foot was "as good as it will get". I told him I was still going to prove him wrong. I also said to him that I was not going to throw away any of my shoes! I did manage to get out of my AFO brace and into an ankle brace thanks to my wonderful orthotist who has supported me throughout my ordeals; even when no one else did. Around that time, I had been having back pain but I assumed that was the reality of having had two surgeries. The pain had gotten very bad in September which was a year post-op of my second surgery. The pain was in the middle of my back which was very stiff and uncomfortable. I thought it had to do with discontinuing Celebrex because I was allergic and broke out in hives. The pain did actually dissipate for awhile so I did not contact my neurosurgeon.

In early December, I started having pain in my right hip (my good side where I had never had pain before). This was a flag for me that I needed to pay attention as it reminded me of how all of my back problems began 14+ years ago. I called my neurosurgeon a week before my next appointment. He set up x-rays and a MRI just to be on the safe side. Three days later at work, I continued to have pain whenever I sat. I didn't know what to do and finally went to our practice director. She sent me home. At home I sat down. But when I got up, I felt grinding pain in my hip similar to what I had before my first two surgeries. I immediately collapsed into bed and called the surgeons. I was told they were not there. I said "But I'm not sure that I can walk" and was told to go to the emergency room, which I did.

The odd part about all of this is that my symptoms would come and go. When I got to the ER, I was OK again. The ER doctor was very nice and he pulled all of my records to review and called my neurosurgeon. He told me to go right then to see my neurosurgeon who was back in the office. We discussed that I had a very large reherniation at L4-5, the level that I had just had surgery on 15 months prior. My neurosurgeon told me that I had four options--bed rest, cortisone shots, take out the disc fragment, or take out the disc fragment with fusion. I opted for the bed rest.

However, I didn't make it because two days after seeing him I woke up and realized I was losing bladder sensation again. I didn't want it to get like it was the last time when I couldn't feel my bladder at all. I called him early in the morning on that Saturday. He told me that if we were going to do something, then we had to do it then. He set up an emergency surgery for me. I was very grateful in that this time he acted emergently though I kept thinking I wasn't supposed to have a 3rd surgery! It brought back all of the painful memories of the last one. I was released from the hospital two days later. That night at home I went numb on my thigh and saddle area and felt that my leg was buzzing like it would fall off. My toes buzzed also but had been like that since the surgery.

Apparently, I was very swollen. This occurred three days in a row. I stayed in bed because I was scared. As it turned out, the reherniated disc had lodged into my prior scar and was pulling at it. That is why I felt it on the right side. My surgeon made a new scar. He said that the disc had compressed right where all of the nerves came together. I am now 5 weeks post-op. My neurologist had told me that I might see more recovery on my foot now that the nerve was no longer compressed. My neurosurgeon told me that the pain I was feeling may be a sign of recovery. However, my physical therapist told me that my foot drop has gotten worse since the compression. It was a minor decrease so I think about how much worse off I could have been. I also recall that I was worse after the 2nd surgery.

Though I have had a very traumatic time these last 16 months, the ways that I have coped with all of this (other than Vickie and this wonderful group) has been to collect in my mind all of the miracle stories that I hear. Also, I look for lessons that I learn from all of this about life. I still plan on being one of those miracles! That will be Part 3 of my story! Barbara

3 Month Post-Op Update:

I learned that my foot drop got worse with this last compression prior to this recent surgery. As a result, I am back in another AFO brace. The new physiatrist that I see told me that I have a slim chance of returning to normal. His goal for me is to get back to where I was prior to this surgery, when I was able to wear the ankle brace. This all just goes to show you how fast nerve damage can happen. Maybe others can learn from our experiences. I sure hope that to be true. Still, there is no harm in continuing to work at being the next miracle case. After all, how much does anyone really know about nerve damage recovery?