A Belated Three Month Update

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I really wanted to write a post when it was my three month post-op anniversary, which was over a couple of weeks ago now. That obviously didn’t happen, but I still feel I should do a short update of sorts, so that’s why this post is going up!

I really feel pretty much back to normal again. Not completely, as I still get the occasional twinge or ache, and I also still get tired a lot more quickly than before surgery, but in general I feel great. Pretty much everything I need or want to do I am able to do…. apart from putting on any lace-up shoes in a graceful manner. 😛

In terms of pain, I get a lot less now than I was getting before surgery. The only pain I experience now is occasionally a ‘tired’ kind of ache in my shoulders if I’ve had a really long day. In the last few days I’ve been feeling a slight ‘needle’ kind of pain (I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s sort of stabbing, but very mild – like someone’s pricked me slightly with a needle.) in my back. It only happens very occasionally, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the nerves beginning to regrow.

Speaking of nerves, my back is still very numb in a couple of places. It’s weird, and it bugs me a lot, to be quite honest. It’s definitely a lot less numb than it was straight after surgery, but there is still a patch on one side, from my shoulder-blade down to my hip, that is completely numb. By that, I mean that if Mum touches it while she’s changing the tape on my scar, the only reason I know she’s touching it is because I can feel that the skin is being pulled slightly on either side of the numb patch. Like I said, it’s weird. I should get most of the feeling back, but it’s quite likely that I’ll have a couple of numb patches for the rest of my life. It’s a bit hard to say whether that’s the case yet or not, as nerves take a very long time to grow back when they’ve been cut through.

Like I’ve said in the last couple of posts, I really want to put up a photo of my scar. It’s looking really good, and I’m very proud of it. We have taken a few photos of it when the tape is being changed, but I’m not going to post them, as they’re not that great. The tape that we were given is super sticky, and leaves a really tacky residue on my back that is pretty much impossible to get off. It doesn’t look particularly nice in photos, and so I’m going to wait until the tape is off for good (only three weeks to go) and we’ve managed to somehow get all the stickiness off my back. So far we’ve tried soapy water, nail-polish remover, rubbing it (not the actual scar, though) with a facewasher, and even methylated spirits, all to no avail. 😛 Ideas? Abby has suggested steel wool….

There are two questions that I’ve been asked a lot since surgery. First, “Will you ever be able to bend your back?”, and second, “Will you get the rods removed?”. They’re both kind of answered in the same way.

Will I ever be able to bend my back? Short answer: no. But I’ll try and explain why. During surgery I had two titanium rods attached to my spine with screws and hooks. The rods serve two purposes: they were used to crank, straighten and de-rotate my spine as much as possible, and they are holding my spine in place until it is solidly fused together. The rods are not flexible, and so at the moment they are stopping me from bending my back. I can still bend from my hips, but I can’t ‘curl’ my back up or down at all. Even if, when the fusion is solid, the rods are taken out, I still won’t be able to bend. Once all the vertebrae are fused together, that section of my spine will be as solid and stiff as any of the other long bones in my body. So no, I will never be able to bend my back. I know that sounds kind of terrible, but I actually haven’t found it to be that inconvenient at all. All it means is that I have to do some things a little differently than before.

And will the rods ever be removed? I sincerely hope not! Even though they’re not really necessary once the fusion is solid, they’re not going to do any harm just staying there. Like I said, I wouldn’t be any more flexible if they were taken out, so unless they were causing problems for some reason, there’s no point in removing them. Very occasionally a rod can break, but that means that a part of the spine hasn’t fused properly, which puts so much stress on the rod that it will break. Given my age and the type of scoliosis that I have, this is very unlikely to happen. Having the rods removed would require another whole operation, and I mean it when I say that I never want to do this again!

I’ve been meaning to post this video for a long time. It’s an animation of a spinal fusion. As it’s completely animated,  there is no blood or nasty stuff involved, and the most squeamish person should be fine watching it! It basically just shows how the screws and rods are attached to the spine, and then how the spine is straightened. Since it doesn’t show any bone chips being packed onto onto the spine, I suppose it’s not technically an animation of a fusion. But it still gives the general idea of how the operation is performed.

Pretty amazing, I think. Whenever I watch it I’m reminded of why this recovery is kind of long, and how well I feel for only a few months post-op!

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17 responses »

  1. Ruth, you are a star! You have coped with it all in such an adult and un-dramatic way, as well as educating us with your very informative blog! Hope all the residual symptoms go away. Every blessing. Meryl

  2. Thanks for the update. You answered my two questions! We are enjoying San Francisco at the moment. Please say hi to your family and to the choir. All the best for next week’s performance.

    Love,
    Mrs. Smith

  3. Idea for the tape residue- it might be a fat based glue (some tapes are, so they don’t lift so easily if they get wet or sweaty) – if so, try rubbing it with cooking oil. You man need to leave the oil the for a couple of minutes to soften the glue before you start rubbing.

  4. Probably because i am older (51) My recovery is slower. My first 2 months were really hard. My surgery was Jan. 20. I am still on round the clock pain killers which I am now suppose to try and wean off of, but I still have quite a bit of pain. I have gone a few places and I walk around daily and try to do all the dr. ordered. My back is very numb as well. that part doesn’t bother me much. I just don’t feel like doing anything, even though I do try to do stuff there is no motivation. Glad you are healing at a quicker pace!

  5. im glad that to hear that you are doing well my back is better to. also to your question about the Sticky tape try Desoveit its a sticky tape remover. hope it works for you.

  6. I am going through exactly what you have described in your post…achy shoulder, stabbing pain at the shoulder blade, gets tired more easily than before surgery. My surgery was on 3 Feb. So I am about 2.5 months post surgery. Keep us updated on your progress. Good to know what others are going through too.

  7. Hiya I had just had this operation 2 weeks ago aand I’m recovering realy well !!! So will I NEVER b able 2 bend at all ?? I’m 12 yrs old and I realy wanted 2 b a vet but do u think this will effect it ?

    • Hi Katie, glad to hear you’re recovering well! 🙂 So the part of your spine that is fused will never be able to bend, but any unfused part will. Do you know where you are fused from and to? If your lumbar spine isn’t fused then you probably won’t notice much difference in bending, but if (like me) a lot of your lumbar spine is fused then it will mean that you can only bend from your hips. I’m not sure about being a vet – I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t become one, but it’s probably best to talk to your surgeon and also a vet/person at the place where you’d be studying about that. I hope that helps a little! 🙂

  8. Congratulations on a successful surgery! You’re an excellent writer also! By having surgery at a young age I hope you were able to avoid most of the pain that scoliosis can cause. I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 10, but didn’t have surgery until June 4, 2012 at the age of 32. I endured 13 years of moderate to severe pain before finally having surgery. If you’d like, you can check out my blog at http://www.bentoutofshape.blogspot.com. I don’t know you, but I’m very happy for you!

    • Wow! I love your blog. I too had severe scoliosis as a teenager with a double curve (62 degrees and 74 degrees). Because my curve progressed do quickly my spine developed a stress fracture at L4 which complicated surgery so it was put off. I ended up having surgery at 18 but found at 23 that both if my rods had broken so I had to have surgery all over again. Unfortunately 3 years later, I just snapped a rod AGAIN last week so I’m waiting to find out if it’s more surgery or not.
      The pews at church really bother me too (I’m LDS) and it makes church very uncomfortable.
      Well done on your wonderful recovery 🙂

  9. Hi Ruth, I would love to hear how you are doing now that it is over a year after post op. How is your mobility/flexibility? Is the scar noticeable? Would you consider posting a picture of the scar? I hope you are doing wonderful!

  10. Just a few things to help you a little bit coming from me- I have had four major surgeries since I was 15 years old. I am now 45 years old and since my first surgery was when I was 15- a lot of great knowledge has been gained with our doctors in the field of Scoliosis, which has for sure benefited children like you with Scoliosis. I unfortunately had to have all of my hardware pulled out on my last surgery because of a spinal defect that they told me I would eventually have to have surgery on- and now as you can see from my X-rays I still have severe scoliosis with lots of turning still present. My surgery was unfortunately not a corrective surgery but a preventative and stabilizing surgery so my back wouldn’t continue to get worse which of course damages to nerves and my organs which is extremely painful everyday. Which quite frankly sucks! Anyway a couple of things you asked about I can help you with (; rubbing alcohol will take off any tape glue that is sticking to your skin. And, as far as you maybe taking the rods out after complete fusion is completed this is a big NO NO!! New studies have shown that the spin even after full fusion can and will turn back to your scoliosis! Please don’t endure another surgery when this is not a sure thing! I know it sounds crazy and the doctors didn’t realize this for a while when people would complain about pain from the rods and screws (which isn’t really a source of pain at all) and them they were shocked to see how the spines strength how it moved even after fusion!!! I almost had my rods taken out at one point and then my same doctor two years later came and told me he was so glad he didn’t take the rods out because over he course of those two years they had this new information! Anyway, since you are a young girl and a family is probably in your future with having children- my two girls had to be scheduled C-Sections and I had to have them a few weeks early since the doctors didn’t want me to go into labor and have to push- they said the risk was too high for possible paralysis trying to push the baby out of my body and compromise the scoliosis surgery. And very important both of my girls they tried to give me an epidural which did not work either time! Which was such a bummer, but tell them to just knock you out with a general- not sure if this happens to everyone- but it happened to me- and when they tried over the years to do spinal cortisone shots! Horrible experience which left me in bed for months with spinal headaches because the procedure didn’t work and caused the spinal leak or something weird. I must say that from your pictures your surgery looks like it not only helped you by correcting but cosmetically your ribs look great and so do your shoulder blades and your hips!!! You should hold your head high knowing that you are beautiful and strong maybe even what I call myself as well as my family; the Bionic Woman!!! You had a great doctor and your spine looks so good!!!! I so jealous of your spine!!! Also, my scar from when I was younger faded so much that it wasn’t that noticeable at all! Even after four surgeries my scar is nice as it can be! My problems come more from the huge lump on my right side of my back and my shoulder bones extremely uneven and because mine is still so bad my left ribcage almost touches my hip/pelvic bone!! So, none of those you have and I’m so happy for you!!! Go and live your life and have fun and know that this will not stop you from all that is due you in life-love and happiness!!! Please let me know if you ever need to talk or if you ever want more information!

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