My story actually started about 20 years when I herniated a disc (L5-S1) playing volleyball in college. I had severe pain down both legs, but it went away after two weeks. I had little flair-ups off and on for about seven years. It slowly started to get worse until I couldn't sit for more than about 20 min.

There was a new surgical technique that was being done at the time. It didn't sound as invasive or scary as a laminectomy, so I thought it was the best thing to do. I had a percutaneous lumbar discectomy in March 1988. I felt great for about 8 to 8 1/2 years, then I started getting sharp pains in the L5-S1 area that would go away usually in a few minutes. Then I started having right sided sciatica in the last week of December 1996. It progressed quickly and by the end of the first week of January I was bed-bound with pain.

Over the period of two weeks I saw the doctor about 5 times. Each time I went to the doctor I was sent home with painkillers, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. All the while getting more pain and starting to get numbness in my right foot. I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon to schedule surgery on my shoulder which was bothering me for a long time. When the nurse saw me "walking" to the treatment room, she told the doctor "forget the shoulder, look at the back." After the exam, she hit the ceiling. I had no rectal sphincter tone. I thought I was just very constipated from the painkillers. The bladder still worked, but I had to assist with my abdominal muscles. I guess I was in denial. She had me put in the hospital the next morning, as the MRI couldn't be arranged that late in the day.

The MRI showed a disc bulge of 1.2cm. I had a laminectomy that afternoon (1-21-97). When I awoke in recovery, I felt no pain. It was wonderful. The next day, much to the surprise of the surgeon, the bladder and bowels were working. The weakness in my right leg got stronger, and after almost five months off , I returned to work as a physical therapist. Everything went well for about six months, then I started having spasms in my right calf, hamstrings and foot.

Then about nine months post-op I started getting back pain. My back surgeon recommended a fusion, but I wanted to wait. I wasn't ready to give in to the pain. By September 24, 1998 I couldn't take it anymore and stopped working. It took until December 28, 1998 to get the fusion done. At first I felt worse, thinking "what did I do to myself?" Slowly I got better, but not enough to return to work.

Currently, I have mild numbness in my right foot, and moderate pain about 80% of the time which becomes severe if I over-do. Which I just did writing this history.

Shelley