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January 30, 2013

Week 2 post-L5-S1 slice and dice: good news, not so good news

Posted in: Blogging,healthcare

This is an edited, short version of a post from my personal blog updating peeps on my progress. Click over for the rest.


I had a bilateral discectomy on January 18, and yesterday I had my first follow-up visit with my surgeon. I received immediate relief from the searing electrical shock-type pain down my left leg right after surgery, thankfully, but the recovery so far has been difficult and with a few setbacks due to the severity of the disc herniation and what the doc found once in there.

The riskiest part of it is the first two weeks post-surgery, when the chance of re-herniation is at its peak (10%-15%), in my case it’s riskier because of how much had to be removed and how it was removed (the “chiseling). No twisting, bending or lifting more than 5 lbs for at least 6 weeks is the rule. Sitting at length and staying in bed are strongly discouraged.

The best PT is to be able to walk as soon as possible, working up to 15 minutes a couple of times a day. I was able to walk about 10 minutes the day after I got home. I was dead tired and sore, but it was walking free from the pain that was disabling pre-surgery. It was amazing.

Problems began that evening though– I started running a fever that jacked up to 102.5. We called the 24-hour line and was told to just take Tylenol every few hours to bring it down, max total dose of 2 grams (8 pills) in 24 hours. It did in fact, bring it down, but I was wiped out, drained, and up all night trying to get fluids in as well.

Getting sick, fever returns

It was great to see my brother Tim (he’s five years younger); he came in on Friday to stay with me for a week to help out — and so Kate could return to work. He has been cooking and cleaning and watching L&O (all flavors) with me.

Then the fever and chills returned. It didn’t pop as high as 102, but hovered between 100-101. Again, it was only during the night. Since the incision looked fine, we were puzzled about what was causing it. However, I was starting to feel bad, as in a sore throat, and I was also developing nasal and chest congestion.

I was getting a cold. Nice. I had a flu shot, so my hope is that I can fight this off. It’s kind of hard to do the walking I need to do for my PT when I feel like crap. The walking was actually wearing me down, and thus the cold was taking hold and running me down some more. Vicious cycle.

I really don’t have the energy to blog on PHB. It took a lot of time to get this composed because my ability to concentrate is almost nil between the surgical pain and the cold/flu. Good thing I went to the surgeon for the follow up yesterday.

The surgeon’s recommendations at this point

1. The incision looks great, no need to be concerned about progress there, other than to continue to ice it if it’s uncomfortable.

2. Fever: his concern is that I do have a cold or flu, and to watch that; but post-surgery inflammation could also be the cause. Continue treating with Tylenol as I have. And to watch for chest congestion. Coughing hard is obviously bad for the back — it could cause reherniation.

3. Return of numbness and pins-and-needles in my left leg and intermittent twitching: the big concern. Since my case is a bit more severe than the norm, he’s quite concerned about re-herniation because of the return of pre-surgery symptoms. He said that I definitely needed to recover using the full six weeks that I’ve taken off from work. The nerves are still settling.

The key recommendation was to be very conservative over the next 2 weeks. If I don’t see any improvement in the numbness in my left leg, or symptoms worsen (as in pain), he wants me to call in and he’s going to schedule an MRI to see if there has been any re-herniation. If there is, he has to go back in there and operate.

We agreed that I need to watch and wait over these next 2 weeks, monitoring the fever, since he suspects the inflammation from the rough surgery is the more likely reason for this issue than re-herniation, but my recovery is definitely going to be longer than anticipated.

At this point I have no paid time off, so a long recovery will be a big problem at some point not far down the road.


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